01: The Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life has done the public a service in publishing its latest book, Can Charitable Choice Work, edited by Andrew Walsh.
The book provides interesting background essays relating to faith-based social services and its government initiative Charitable Choice. Especially noteworthy are the essays dealing with how congregations adapt themselves to playing a role of welfare providers (including how the regional and ethnic factors may play out in faith-based initiatives). Other essays suggest that the concerns about abuses of faith-based government initiatives, such as corruption of congregations by politics, and church-state entanglements, have also been present in other periods of recent American history.
For copies of this book contact the center at firstname.lastname@example.org or: Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, Trinity College, 300 Summit Street, Hartford, CT 06106.
02: In his new book Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish (Blackwell, $24.95), sociologist David Martin expands and updates his study of Latin American Pentecostals (in “Tongues of Fire”) to include the many faces of the movement today.
Martin finds Pentecostalism expanding throughout the world (though the movement may have reached a growth ceiling in Guatemala and Korea) but provides the most in-depth material (citing a wide range of research) on his specialty of Latin America and Africa. As Martin has found in his past research, world Pentecostal and charismatic growth is driven by the dislocation and movement of people from their old communities and identities under modernity, helping them to recreate new ones, as well as in developing entrepreneurial skills.
Because such dynamics are less intense and more gradual in the West, Martin finds Pentecostalism growing slower there and appealing more to those on the margins of society, such as gypsies or those seeking a new life after communism (although he acknowledges that the growth of the Word of Life movement in Sweden is more of an anomaly).
Martin challenges those who see Pentecostalism as a U.S.-inspired movement reasserting conservative politics and patriarchy; he finds new indigenous expressions constantly emerging, while the politics are fairly diverse or ambiguous, and women are often the “movers and shakers” in these groups. Martin’s thesis is that Pentecostalism is as much a youth movement as was the sixties counterculture in the West, adding, “As in the Reformation itself, wineskins break when the young are so much in the majority.”
Although Martin’s writing can be difficult and complex at times, the book demonstrates his remarkable grasp of religious dynamics around the world.
03: The new Encyclopedia of Fundamentalism (Routledge, $125) edited by Brenda Brasher, throws a wide net over the fundamentalist phenomenon, including Protestant as well as Catholic, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Mormon, and other new religious expressions of this diffuse movement.
While some scholars may contest such a wide usage of the fundamentalist label, the 200 entries do a good job of balancing brevity with informative historical and contemporary descriptions of teachings, practices, movements, people and groups connected with conservative religion.
There is the tendency not to differentiate between evangelical and fundamentalist movements. Even if their histories are linked, a reader may question why predominantly evangelical institutions as Campus Crusade for Christ, World Vision and the phenomenon of megachurches are included while there is not much attention paid to current fundamentalist groups, such as Bob Jones University, the American Council of Churches, and the Baptist Bible Fellowship (or for that matter the widespread growth of fundamentalist colleges started by independent Baptist churches).
Particularly of interest to readers may be the in-depth entries on prophesy, creationism and the role of the Bible in fundamentalism. [RW’s editor contributed an entry on Sunday schools.]