Questions of discipline are, today, no less ubiquitous than
when under Foucault’s renowned scrutiny, but what does ‘discipline’
in diverse religious systems actually entail? In this article, we take
‘lenience’ rather than discipline as a starting point and compare its
potential, both structural and ideological, in religious contexts where
disciplinary flexibility shores up greater encompassing projects of moral
perfectionism as opposed to those contexts in which disciplinary flexibility
is a defining feature in its own right. We argue that lenience
provides religious systems with a vital flexibility that is necessary to
their reproduction and adaptation to the world. By taking a ‘systems’
perspective on ethnographic discussions of religious worlds, we proffer
fresh observations on recent debates within the anthropology of religion
on ‘ethics’, ‘failure’, and the nature of religious subjects.
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