01: The Revealer is a new daily Web review on the press and religion issued by New York University’s Center on Religion and the Media. The website (or blog) covers a wide range of media — from conservative evangelical books and magazines to the Jewish press to daily newspapers, radio and magazines.
The site takes a postmodern “media studies” approach, seeking to interpret (and “deconstruct”) the meanings and symbols in such discourse. For instance, a recent article compares the depiction of the torture of Iraqi prisoners to images of the Inquisition.
Less esoteric articles include a review of PBS’ Frontline documentary on the faith and politics of George Bush, a look at the New York Review of Books’ tendency to dismiss religion, and an in-depth analysis on the religion coverage of National Public Radio. NPR’s recent coverage reflects a trend of the media to acknowledge the importance of religion.
“It is a broader, less disaster-oriented examination of religion that seems, despite its deliberately neutral, accepting and calming tone, like a new form of activist journalism: a good-faith effort to reintroduce faith to public discourse as something non-threatening, non-crusading, non-jihadist.”
The site’s address is: http://www.therevealer.org
02: The new book, Christianity Reborn: The Global Expansion of Evangelicalism in the Twentieth Century (Eerdmans, $40), edited by Donald M. Lewis, provides a much needed account of evangelical growth and diversity the world over. The first half of the book looks at the evangelical expansion throughout the world through missionary endeavors in the 18th through 20th centuries, while the second half focuses on how evangelicals have become both a global and indigenous religious force in specific regions and countries.
Echoing many other recent accounts, the contributors see evangelicalism as the main form of global Protestantism, but they are less optimistic about its impact in many contexts. A chapter on China finds a sleeping giant in the evangelical churches, although the conflict between various camps (official versus non-official churches) may weaken their overall influence. In India, the growing conflict between Hindus and evangelicals on the matter of conversion reveals tensions in the evangelical community between those working in the context of Hindu culture and those (often with ties to the U.S.) demonizing the religion.
In southern Africa, the indigenous African Independent Churches (AIC) are showing themselves to be distinct from much of the Pentecostal movement on the continent, developing unique community and ecological action programs. Sociologist David Martin concludes with an essay mapping global evangelical growth, suggesting that the movement (particularly in its Pentecostal/charismatic dimensions) will have its greatest impact in Asia, Latin America, Africa and parts of Eastern Europe, especially appealing to uprooted and marginalized populations and to minority ethnic groups in search of identity.