01: There has been a recent spate of books and studies about evangelical women.
Godly Women (Rutgers University Press, $19) by Brenda Brasher is unique since it focuses on women in the burgeoning evangelical megachurches. Brasher, a religion professor at Mount Union College, participated in services and women’s cell groups and interviewed women in congregations affiliated with Calvary Chapel and Hope Chapel. These small groups and bible studies provide women (especially younger ones) with a subculture apart from the male-led congregation to meet specific needs and the networks in which to wield their own power in church, even if such influence is not officially approved, according to Brasher.
The book shows how involvement in these groups offers women the benefits of stability in family life and clearly defined gender roles.
02: Religious growth and change is increasingly being viewed by scholars from within an economic framework, particularly that of “rational choice theory.”
This theory holds that believers pay “costs” and get “benefits” in joining religious groups (which, proponents say, is why strict churches grow faster than lax ones). The new book Rational Choice Theory & Religion, edited by Lawrence A. Young (Routledge, $17.95) can make for difficult reading for the lay person, but some of its essays, particularly the more autobiographical ones, provide interesting accounts of the theory and its critics.