01: An article by Toby Lester in The February issue of the Atlantic Monthly looks at new religions, but does so in a way that breaks the mold from most reportage of this phenomenon.
Lester does touch on the usual suspects — such as Unificationism, the Hare Krishnas, and Sokka Gakkai — and the cult and anti-cult controversies in his inquiry on which new religions are destined to become prominent in the future. But he quickly moves beyond the stereotypes to look at some new religions that are actually growing, such as the syncretistic Cao Dai of Vietnam, and then focuses on the more likely candidate of Christian hybrid movements thriving in — and now growing beyond — the Third World.
For more information: The Atlantic Monthly, 77 N. Washington, Boston, MA 02114
02: RW contributing editor Jean-Francois Mayer has recently founded Religioscope (http://www.religioscope.com), a Website that promises to be an informative resource in contemporary religion.
The site has already featured an interview with Prof. Abu-Rabi about Sayyid Qutb, thinker of the Islamic resurgence, an article on current expressions of the New Age, and a file with the full text of a militant Islamist edition of Bin Laden’s “Declaration of War” Religioscope, offered in both French and English, also allows visitors to monitor the daily news, as it selects and updates the 20 latest religion headlines in the media, with direct links to the articles.
03: The American Religion Data Archive (ARDA) compiles data on a wide range of religious trends and topics.
The archive, at: http://www.TheARDA.com, just completed a major software upgrade. Church membership data can now be mapped for the nation or individual states online, and summary membership reports for all participating denominations are available by county, state, metropolitan areas, and nation.
The software upgrade also allows users to browse all files in the ARDA and conduct improved searches.
04: Journalist Charles M. Sennott shines a penetrating light on the situation of Christianity in the Middle East, in his recent book The Body And The Blood, (Public Affairs, $30).
Sennott follows in the footsteps of Jesus as he journeys through the declining Christian communities of the Holy Land, including Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Egypt, and Lebanon, at the turn of the millennium. Sennott confirms reports of continuing emigration of Christians out of the region and notes that since the recent (or second) Intifada between Israelis and Palestinians, the Christian withdrawal has only intensified.
Unlike the first Intifada (where Christians played a role in protests), the intensification of Islamic militancy has squeezed out Christian participation (even though Christians are often hesitant to report such repression to Sennott in their fear of being coopted by Israel) The one growth area is the immigration of thousands of Russian Christians to Israel (though they came into the country claiming a Jewish identity). Sennott is convinced that however weakened, Christianity serves as a crucial buffer, if not always as a reconciler, between Muslim and Jewish agressions.