01: With the resurgence of far right parties in Europe, there is also renewed concern about the connection of the right to religion and particularly its opposition to Islam.
The current issue of the Journal for the Study of Radicalism (April) devotes most of its pages to a unique movement known as the New Right. The New Right, known as the Nouvelle Droit (ND) in its French birth place, has existed for close to 40 years, mostly as an intellectual and cultural movement more than a political one. A noteworthy aspect of the ND’s is many of its thinkers’ sympathy, if not support, for paganism and occult thought in their concern for recovering indigenous European traditions and cultures and opposition to universalistic liberal democracy, particularly as expressed by the U.S., and, in some cases, monotheism.
The issue features a lengthy article by Tamir Bar-On, who charges that New Right ideas are now reaching the political mainstream and inspiring much of the nativist, anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic new right parties growing in Europe and Russia, even including the far right violence of Anders Breivik in Norway in 2011. In a response, Alain de Benoist, one of the ND’s intellectual architects, argues that the ND is only a loosely-based cultural and intellectual movement that transcends the right and left and has little to do with the rightist political upsurge or anti-Islam sentiment, with its main thinkers actually opposing such currents.
Aside from these polemics, the issue carries a noteworthy article on the ND and traditionalism, which teaches that there is a common mystical core in the world’s religions that can serve as an alternative to the materialist philosophy of the modern world. Author Stephane Francois writes that there is no one approach of the ND to traditionalism, with some disavowing the philosophy altogether. While traditionalism has turned some in the ND toward the occult and pagan sources, for others, it has paradoxically meant a return to traditional forms of monotheism, such as sufi Islam, Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.
The issue concludes with an interview of John Morgan, a founder of Arktos, a publishing house and website based in India and Michigan that has been influential, along with the U.S.-based website Counter-Currents, in translating ND writings into English as well as promoting an agenda that includes decentralizing and reconnecting nature and spirituality in America. For more information on this issue, visit: http://msupress.org/journals/jsr/.
02: Naomi Schaeffer Riley’s book Got Religion (Templeton Press, $19.96) brings together reporting and analysis of recent research to answer the crucial question posed in the book’s subtitle: “How Churches, Mosques and Synagogues Can Bring Young People Back.”
The 165-page book consists of a series of well-drawn examples of what various congregations, movements and denominations are doing right in luring back the millennial generation to greater religious participation and involvement. In the introduction, Riley rightly notes the huge question mark this generation throws over the future of religious institutions in the U.S., even if they may not be in the vanguard of secularization, young adults’ high rate of non-affiliation has become a cause for concern and even pessimism across the religious spectrum. The author makes the case that American religious institutions have reinvented themselves in the past and show signs of doing so currently, even if such efforts are coming as much from the margins as the centers of American religion.
Riley’s case studies go beyond providing journalistic snapshots of such efforts as they discuss particular trends these congregations are addressing. Her profile of a conservative Presbyterian church in New Orleans highlights how the congregation’s emphasis on serving the local community is addressing young adults’ interest in creating and sustaining a sense of place.
The case study of Mormon wards for singles shows how they help young adults take up responsibilities in the church. An examination of cooperative ministry between evangelicals and mainline Protestants suggests young people’s affinity for collaboration; and Riley’s treatment of Next, a program for “alumni” of young Jews who have gone through the Birthright Israel movement, which sponsors young adults to go to the Holy Land, makes Judaism less intimidating by taking rituals out of the synagogue.
03: Stephen M. Cherry’s new book Faith, Family, and Filipino American Community Life (Rutgers University Press, $27.95) suggests Filipino-Americans are poised to play an important role in U.S. Catholicism—not least because they show unusually high levels of loyalty to the church—if they can overcome their many internal conflicts. The book focuses on the Filipino American community in Houston, Texas, but Cherry’s detailed examination shows the unique forms of association that provide transnational links between Filipinos around the world.
Filipino Americans have made the immigrant transition by retaining a strong degree of Catholic identity and support for church teachings. The parish often serves as the center of their social life, but Filipino community involvement also consists of vast arrays of overlapping religious, ethnic, political and family groups that crisscross the Philippines and immigrant communities. These include popular charismatic prayer and Marian devotional groups, Masonic clubs and extended family (“barangay”) associations run by godparents, who might not be biological relatives.
These groups show the high rate of voluntarism among Filipino Americans, more than native born Americans, but they also often experience interpersonal conflicts and split off from each. But Cherry writes that the rigid hierarchical structure of the church holds this diversity together as a single family. He adds that community involvement extends beyond the church and the ethnic group, particularly evident in Filipino pro-family as well as pro-immigrant activism.
With their population growth in the U.S.—through immigration and high birth rates—and healthy numbers of religious vocations, Filipino Americans (at least the first generation; Cherry does not address the second generation) will put a distinctive stamp on U.S. civic life and Catholicism—conservative on family issues, charismatic in spirituality yet also with a strong presence of women in lay leadership positions and high political involvement.