01: The emergence of new charismatic and evangelical networks of congregations and seeker-sensitive worship is given in-depth treatment in Donald E. Miller’s book Reinventing American Protestantism (University of California Press).
Through survey research and case studies, Miller profiles three movements which he sees as being in the vanguard of change in the shape of American Protestantism: the Vineyard churches, Hope Chapel (a movement within the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel), and Calvary Chapel.
These “new paradigm” churches are flexible in worship, decentralized, and experienced-based. Miller shows how many of the converts (many of whom were formerly Catholic) have been strongly influenced by the cultural changes of the 1960s and 1970s, even as they seek conservative alternatives to mainline churches.
02: Two recent books demonstrate how computer technology and communications has created a fertile field for spiritual seeking and theological speculation.
The Soul of Cyberspace (Harper SanFrancisco, $22) by Jeff Zaleski may be the most comprehensive book to date on the effect that computers, and especially the Internet, is having on organized religion, as well as pondering the spiritual nature and functions of this medium. The book is organized around interviews that Zaleski conducted with a wide range of specialists and religious leaders — from the head of the Catholic Information Center on the Internet to Jaron Lanier, one of the founders of virtual reality.
As might be expected, most religious leaders do not see the Internet replacing “real” religious communities in the future, but Zaleski suggests that institutional religion will be changed by the technology: He forecasts that hierarchical religions will have a difficult time in the anarchic and decentralized world of the Internet (although the more orthodox religions will be the most interested in using it for proselytism); he thinks religions with less emphasis on the sacredness of physical reality (such as Buddhism and Hinduism) will be especially adept in cyberspace.