01: Religious involvement in the environmental movement receives in-depth treatment in the current issue of Social Compass (September) an international journal of the sociology of religion.
Articles in this issue focus on interfaith environmental work, the emergence of environmental concern among evangelicals, the New Age center of Sedona, Arizona (said to be a “vortex” of spiritual energy) and environmental attitudes among Australian Christians. Particularly noteworthy is Mark Shibley’s and Jonathon Wiggins’ study on the loose coalition of churches and denominations involved in the interfaith National Religious Partnership for the Environment.
They find that clashing models of environmental activism and theology emerge among the different members of the coalition. The National Council of Churches espouses eco-justice themes (linking environmentalism with social justice concerns), while the Catholic, evangelical and Jewish groups in the NRPE take a “stewardship” approach that concentrates more strictly on an individual’s responsibility for the environment.
Despite charges of New Age, pantheistic influences in the new religious concern for the environment, there is little sympathy for the such “creation spirituality views among NRPE members.
For information on obtaining this issue, write: Social Compass, Sage Publications, 6 Bonhill St., London, EC2A 4PU, UK
02: God’s Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission (University of California Press, $24.95) by R. Marie Griffith. joins the burgeoning collection of studies of evangelical and fundamentalist Christian women, and it is a worthy addition.
Dr. Griffith explores the roles women play within Pentecostalism, using history and ethnography to trace the importance of the Women’s Aglow Fellowship within that movement. The author skillfully deconstructs the various meanings the doctrine of female submission has had for Pentecostal women, and shows how women are achieving power and liberation, both in their personal spiritual lives and in more visible leadership roles.
At the same time, Griffith is unafraid to explore the mixed feelings her subjects have regarding their status in relation to men. Her subjects seem to freely express their resentment at the doctrine of submission, while yet choosing to live with that doctrine.This is a candid, yet celebratory look at one of the most vital movements within modern Christianity. It will be of interest to anyone interested in American religious culture, women’s studies, or religion in general.
— By Lin Collette, a freelance writer and researcher based in Pauwtucket, R.I.
03: The new book Search for Common Ground (Our Sunday Visitor Books, $24.95) is one of the most comprehensive studies of American Catholics to be undertaken in recent years.
The book, by James Davidson, Andrea Williams, Richard Lamanna, Jan Stenftenagel, Kathleen Maas Wighert, William Whalen and Patricia Wittberg, finds that the most significant differences among American Catholics are based on their generations and their proximity to the Second Vatican Council. The study, based on surveys, case studies and focus groups, finds that those born after Vatican II (both baby boomers and busters) are more alienated from many church teachings than older generations (despite reports to the contrary, there are few signs of a rebound to more traditional faith among younger generations).
In translating their findings into practical advice in the concluding chapter, the co-authors argue that the pluralism in the church on many issues (such as involving sexuality and gender) does not mean that common ground can’t be reached among members. Their surveys show that there is a common belief in many Catholic basic teachings among all age groups.