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Violence and New Religious Movements$
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James R. Lewis

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199735631

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199735631.001.0001

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Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Violence, Charisma, and the Transformation of New Vrindaban

(p.275) 13 Knocking on Heaven’s Door
Violence and New Religious Movements

E. Burke Rochford Jr.

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the relationship between violence, charismatic authority, and the development of one of the more significant new religious communities that emerged during the 1960s in the United States: New Vrindaban. Located in West Virginia, New Vrindaban was founded and led by Kirtanananda Swami, one of the early members of the Hare Krishna movement. New Vrindaban represents an interesting case study precisely because Kirtanananda’s charisma was never institutionalized, a fact that ultimately had devastating consequences for the community in the face of violence. Rochford considers how two acts of violence in 1985 and 1986 directly and indirectly undermined Kirtanananda’s authority and resulted in mass defection, financial collapse, and the decline and subsequent transformation of New Vrindaban’s purpose.

Keywords:   New Vrindaban, Kirtanananda Swami, charisma, violence, religious culture, interfaith, decline, transformation

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