In This Issue
- On/File: April 2006
- Findings & Footnotes: April 2006
- Vatican eager to establish diplomatic relations with China
- Hinduism shaping India’s pragmatic use of biotechnology
- ‘Islamic Calvinism’ joins piety and productivity in Turkey
- Scholars turn to networks to study Islamic extremism
- Evangelicals changing the face of French Protestantism
- Current Research: April 2006
- Full seminaries, emptying pulpits for American Protestants
- African Pentecostal churches see US as new mission field
- Black evangelicals marching to Zionism?
- Russian orthodoxy — divided and democratizing?
01: Kazuko Hosaki has become Japan’s “lifestyle guru” who blends self-help advice with a spiritual system of divination with ancestor worship. Hosaki has become a well-known presence on Japanese TV and tabloids mainly through her fortune telling for celebrities, but lately has branched out to giving advice on Japanese mores and morals—from disrespect for elders to proper dress.
Her system draws on Chinese divination teachings claiming that people’s lives operate in 12-year cycles, while adding traditional Japanese ancestor worship concepts. Although criticized for selling amulets and other spiritual goods and having a luxuriant lifestyle, observers say that Hosaki’s approach is appealing to many after economic downturns and such disasters as the gas attacks by the new religion Aum (Religion in the News, Winter)
01: There has been much written on the loss of identity of religious colleges and strategies to revive their purpose and missions. In her new book From Piety to Professionalism–and Back? (Lexington Books, $27.95), sociologist Patricia Wittberg looks at the matter of the religious identity of colleges and other organizations from a different angle.
She finds that the secularization of hospitals, schools and social services has also had a momentous impact on the mission societies, religious orders and denominations that have sponsored such efforts. Wittberg focuses on Christian women’s service organizations, such as Catholic religious orders and Protestant deaconess societies, and notes how their charitable and educational activities had strongly served both their own organizations and their wider denominations.
Wittberg finds that as denominations loosened and often cut the ties between these orders and mission societies and their sponsored institutions (as, for instance, when religious hospitals became independent), there has emerged an overall weakening of identity, bringing in fewer recruits and lowering morale and a sense of purpose among the remaining members of these groups.
The loss of these institutions disables a denomination’s identity and influence, diminishing the institutional weight of churches to address social issues in the public square (particularly for the women who led and comprised most of these organizations). Wittberg makes an interesting link between this trend and growing societal secularization, and concludes with advice on how religious institutions may reverse this drift.
The fact that Hong Kong’s bishop Joseph Zen was chosen as one of the new cardinals made by Benedict XVI in March is widely seen as one more indication of the Pope’s desire to reach out to China. Choosing a bishop either from Taiwan or from mainland China as a new Chinese cardinal would have been considered by Beijing as a provocation according to Gerard O’Connell writing in Ucanews. Selecting the bishop of Hong Kong (the largest Chinese diocese in the world, with 240,000 faithful) allowed at the same time consideration for the significance of China and signaled goodwill, since the Vatican is anxious to open direct negotiations.
On March 25, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, said that Benedict had a deep desire to travel to China. Moreover, he repeated that the Holy See was willing to transfer immediately the Apostolic Nunciature (i.e. Vatican’s embassy) from Taipei to Beijing, something which would represent an unprecedented move, since the Holy See has never broken diplomatic relations by its own initiative. Interestingly, efforts are also being made to prepare Taiwanese Catholics for such a move. On March 30, the Taipei Times reported that the Vatican’s charge d’affaires had stated that the relations remained stable between the Vatican and Taiwan, but that the time was ripe for an official dialogue with mainland China. Provided the religious freedom of Catholics on the continent would be guaranteed, the Holy See would be willing to move its embassy to Beijing. “The opportunity for success is greater now,” Cardinal Zen declared to the Taipei Times (March 31).
He added that Taiwanese Catholics would understand the sacrifice they would be required to make. It remains to be seen if Beijing will be responsive. The stakes are high, as another new cardinal, the Archbishop of Seoul, Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, emphasized. By choosing three new cardinals from Asia (Hong Kong, Korea, Philippines), the Pope wanted to show that he shared John Paul II’s vision of the role of Asia for the third millennium: ” Ideally, the appointments could be seen as a wedge penetrating Asia”, the new cardinal commented in Asia News (March 24).
— By Jean-Francois Mayer
India is becoming a leader in biotechnology, not least because of its Hindu-based tolerance on such issues as stem cell research and cloning that has influenced even minority Christians, reports Science & Theology News (March). Along with its rising reputation in information technology, India’s biotechnology industry has also sprouted in the last few years Chhavi Sachdev writes that stem cell research in both the “public and private sectors has grown considerably in India….where politics or faith has not hindered its expansion.
As a result, India is home to not one but three national stem cell research facilities.” The Hindu-influenced worldview pervading “scientific progress and everyday discourse” in India makes less strictures about using stem cells from fetuses or cloning if no evil is intended, at least as compared to the Christian West. While there are guidelines on stem cell research from the Indian Council on Medical Research (prohibiting the termination of fetuses for stem cells, for instance), “most moral issues don’t come into the public discourse but remain private…People deal with issues like euthanasia in the context of their families,” says Arvind Sharma of McGill University.
The decentralized nature of Hinduism, with each group having its own guru, also encourages people to take a pragmatic approach to these issues. “Hinduism will not have any major conflicts with engineered life forms of any kind [such as cloning] because the tradition has always had multiple life forms and considers any and all of them as co-travelers on the Mobius strip,” Sharma says. Indian Christians are of a similar mindset, rarely talking publicly about biotechnology and “at the level of practice, pretty pragmatic in their use of technology,” says sociologist Rowena Robinson of the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay.
(Science & Theology News, http://www.stnews.org)
A new entrepreneurialism sweeping across parts of Turkey has been dubbed “Islamic Calvinism” for its combination of Islamic piety with pro-free market and business attitudes. BBC News (March 13) reports that this trend particularly applies to Kayseri and a handful of other cities in the region of Anatolia that are industrializing at a rapid rate.
Unlike the large urban centers of Ankara and Istanbul, the population of this region is made up of devout, conservative Muslims. One of the first to use this description was the former mayor of Kayseri, Sukru Karatepe, who noticed similarities between the changes in Kayseri and the famous thesis of Max Weber, who argued that the strong work ethic of the Protestant movement gave birth to modern capitalism.
Like the early Calvinists, “People in Kayseri also don’t spend money unnecessarily. They work hard, they pride themselves on saving money. Then they invest it and make more money. Karatepe adds that “In fact, in Kayseri, working hard is a form of worship. For them, religion is all about the here and now, not the next life. Making money is a sign of God’s approval, and this is also similar to what Weber said about the Calvinists.”
Gerald Knaus, director of the think-tank European Stability Initiative, which recently published a report on the Islamic Calvinist phenomenon in Anatolia, added that “Those doing business in Kayseri themselves argue that Islam encourages them to be entrepreneurial,” he says. “They quote passages from the Quran and from the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad which read like a business manual. They tell me, it’s important to create factories, to create jobs – it’s what our religion tells us to do.”
The label of Islamic Calvinism, however, has caused a furor in the Turkish press. Critics say it’s a Western conspiracy to Christianize Islam, but others argue in its favor, holding it up as a model for how Islam and modernity can co-exist, especially as Turkey attempts to join the European Union.
The New York Times Magazine (March 12) reports that counter-terrorism specialists, both in the government and academia, are using a theory known as network analysis to identify potential Islamic extremists.
Network or “link analysis” involves searching for associations and other connections between seemingly disparate individuals and groups. Terrorists may be located by identifying “network hubs” or centers where links between them are the most numerous, or by connecting individuals engaged in similar activities. While such analysis is still in its infancy, it may help outsiders understand Islamic jihadist or militant behavior and growth, according to sociologist Randall Collins.
In a recent lecture at the New School for Social Research in New York attended by RW, Collins noted that it was the convergence of different Islamic networks in Afghanistan in the 1980s that allowed militants to meet each other in large numbers. Like the Bay Area of the countercultural 1960s, Afghanistan became a “place where emotional enthusiasm built up….It led to the formation of super-networks initially in competition with each other…From this came Al-Queda, which means `the base’– a self-conscious hub for a loose network of far-flung militants in many places.”
Citing the research of colleague Marc Sageman, Collins adds that it is impossible to predict who will become an al-Queda member (or terrorist) by their personal or demographic backgrounds. “Many are intensely religious, but their religiosity appears to be more an effect than a cause; it grows over time, especially after they made contact with militant networks.” Collins theorizes that these self-propagating networks thrive through having ritual techniques which are “emotional attention attractors, which are stronger than those of rival ritual centers of attention.”
The recent admission of evangelical churches into France’s mainstream Protestant federation shows the new influence of evangelicalism in the country.
On March 11, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in France became a full member of the mainstream French Protestant Federation (FPF). At the same time, one Evangelical and three Pentecostal/Charismatic groups (including the Foursquare Gospel Church) were accepted as members as well. Adventist official Ulrich Frikart, President of the SDA Eurafrican Division, has welcomed the move, which he does not see as a way to give up SDA peculiarities, but rather to provide it with new possibilities for witnessing and added legitimacy in a country where suspicions against “cults” (and sometimes religions in general) remain strong.
President Frikart took care to note that SDA Churches in Spain and Italy have already been involved for years in similar arrangements “without negative consequences.” He added that the SDA Church continues to rule out any membership into the World Council of Churches, according to the Bulletin d’Information Adventiste (April 2).
Beside the meaning of the move for the SDA and other new members of the FPF, it is an indication of change in the French Protestant landscape, writes Henrik Lindell in the French progressive Catholic weeklyTemoignage Chretien (March 23). It is a not a matter of numbers, since the newly-accepted groups only gather some 20,000 members, out of a total of 900,000 Protestants represented in the FPF. But it is one more sign of the growing role of evangelicals and related currents within French Protestantism.
They bring fresh blood into a graying mainstream Protestantism. On the other hand, according to Lindell, mainstream Protestants see such groups as culturally and theologically removed far from them, but also feel it is better to attempt to integrate them rather than to exclude them. Apparently, positive experiences already with Gypsy and African churches have reinforced such feelings and helped French Protestants to gain new insights into contemporary society.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer
01: Eight out of 10 professors consider themselves spiritual, while 64 percent say they are religious, according to recent UCLA study. The study, the most recent in a series on religion and academia, did not ask professors specific religious preferences, and found that the term “spirituality” was often referred to in a generic way that involved making sense out of life.
The study found that women were more likely to describe themselves as spiritual (87 percent of women compared to 78 percent of men). The survey, including 40,670 faculty members, found that while more than half believe it is important to enhance the moral development of students, only 30 percent think colleges should concern themselves with students’ spiritual development. The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 10) reports that a related UCLA pilot study carried out among juniors found a gap between what professors believe and what they discuss in class.
The majority of juniors (62 percent) said their professors never encouraged discussion of religion or spirituality in class and 56 percent said their professors never provided opportunities to discuss the meaning of life The gap may mean professors are worried about being seen as proselytizing or having bias in the classroom, says Alexander Astin, who led the study.
02: Even when not shopping for traditional religious items, purchasers may be motivated by “spiritual” interests, according to new marketing research. The New York Times Magazine (March 19) reports that University of Nebraska marketing professors Dwayne Ball and Ronald Hampton find a difference between “doctrine centered” and “other-centered” or “spiritual” purchasing behaviors.
Doctrine-centered purchasing would include explicitly religious shopping, such as Orthodox Jews buying kosher foods. Other-centered purchasing is based more on “faith development” that involves moving beyond the self and seeking to “act in the world in a way that increases the total well-being of the rest of the world,“ according to Ball.
Exemplifying this kind of purchasing–and marketing–is the Mennonite retailer Ten Thousand Villages. The 100-store chain sells crafts to first-world consumers from artisans in impoverished Third World countries. In its own marketing research, Ten Thousand Villages has found that many of its customers are female, ages 30 to 50, well educated and interested in international issues and culture. They may not speak of spirituality per se, but repeat customers tend to operate on an “other-directed” basis, believing they are helping others by their purchases.
03: Although the children of divorce are far less religious than their peers who grew up with married parents, they are more likely to view God as a parent figure and tend to embrace evangelical Christianity to a greater extent, according to a recent study.
The study, conducted by Elizabeth Marquardt and Norval Glenn and found in their book Between Two Worlds, surveyed 1,500 young adults who were among the first generation to grow up with widespread divorce. In an interview with Christianity Today (March), Marquardt said that children of divorces are 14 percent less likely to be a member of a congregation and also about 14 percent less likely to say they are fairly or very religious. Yet they valued spirituality just as much as their peers from intact families.
Thirty eight percent of the grown children of divorce agreed that God became the “father or parent” they never had in real life, compared with 22 percent of grown children of non-divorced parents. Grown children of divorce are five percent more likely than the others (42 compared to 37 percent) to identify as evangelical Protestant. Marquardt thinks this is due to the evangelical emphasis on the role of a personal relationship with Christ and God as father, as well as the evangelical tendency to reach out to divorced children.
(Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen Dr., Carol Stream, IL 60145)
04: British Christian attitudes toward Muslims did not change substantially after the London bombings of 2005, according to a recent survey.
Survey research since 9/11 has shown a gradual growth in negative attitudes toward Islam in the U.S., especially among conservative Christians Quadrant (March), the newsletter of the Christian Research Association, cites a BBC Faith Survey showing that 73 percent of Christians and 74 percent of Muslims in England said the London bombings had made no difference in their attitude towards Islam. Christians were four to one in saying it made them more negative toward Islam while Muslims were two to one. Thirty three percent of Christians said they felt positive overall about the Islamic faith, compared to 75 percent of Muslims.
(Quadrant, Vision Bldg., 4 Footscray Rd., Eltham, London SE9 2TZ UK)
05: Australian youth tend to view God as a “divine butler” that can be called on to solve personal problems — a view similar to their American counterparts.
The survey, conducted by the Christian Research Association (CRA) of Australia, found that while many teens were aware of the moral obligations of religion, the idea that God could be petitioned to fulfill wants fits in closely in with their consumerist mindset. CRA’s newsletter Pointers (March) reports that its findings are similar to those of Christian Smith (and associates) who studied American teens in his book Soul Searching.
In building on the Smith study, the CRA found that while most Australian teens believe in God they show a taken-for-granted largely indifferent attitude toward organized religion. Forty percent of U.S. teens attend church weekly compared to only 15 percent of Australians. Smith’s concept that American teens espouse a “moralistic therapeutic deism” that stresses a God that makes one feel good was also found in Australia, though those in church schools took more traditional views. But on the whole, Australian young people were more likely to accept religious alternatives, with nearly one-third accepting the idea of reincarnation.
(Pointers, P.O. Box 206, Nunawading LPO, Vic., 3131 Australia)
Enrollment at Protestant seminaries is increasing, but a shrinking proportion of graduates from these schools are moving into the pastorate, reports the New York Times (March 17). Those seminarians especially from mainline denominations are being drawn to a wide range of professions, from academia to social work to hospital chaplaincy. Evangelical Protestant seminarians often end up in parachurch ministries, such as evangelistic organizations operating outside of congregations.
Only about half of those graduating with a Master of Divinity degree now enter parish ministry, with the number declining by 10 to 15 percent in the last five years alone, according to the Association of Theological Schools. Reporter Neela Banerjee notes that the “idea of using the seminary as the jumping off point for other, seemingly unrelated pursuits, is not new; just the number of people doing it is.“ Mainline seminaries are now likely to be comprised of older second career students and those under 30, who are more likely to choose other professions. The shrinking interest in pastoral ministry has not yet affected churches to a great extent because denominations have adapted in various ways, such as the United Methodists licensing lay people for many liturgical functions.
Meanwhile, a Wesley Theological Seminary study finds that the decline in young clergy has been particularly sharp during the past 20 years. United Methodist Church clergy under age 35 were 15 percent of the total in 1985 but only 4.7 percent two decades later. The data on “elders” (including those commissioned but not fully ordained) also showed that those age 55 and above increased from 27 percent to 41 percent during the same two decades The study included these figures for under-35 clergy in other mainline Protestant denominations: American Baptist Churches (5.5 percent), Christian Church (5.5 percent), Episcopal Church (4.1 percent), Evangelical Lutheran Church (4.9 percent) and Presbyterian Church (7.1 percent). For Roman Catholic priests, the total as of 2001 was even lower, 3.1 percent. By contrast, the conservative Church of the Nazarene reported 12.7 percent of its clergy are under 35.
Although they still mainly attract those of African American descent, African-based churches have been making inroads in the US for the past decade, reports Rachel Zoll in the Associated Press (March 26).
This represents one unexpected aspect of the trend toward the “browning of Christian proselytism” evidenced last year by Paul Freston at an international conference in Tokyo [see RW, April 2005]. Founded in 1952 in Lagos, Nigeria, the Redeemed Christian Church of God (http://www.rccg.org), a Pentecostal group, inaugurated its first US congregation in 1992 and now claims more than 200 parishes in North America (http://www.rccgna.org).
The largest congregation is in Maryland with 2,000 members, and a national headquarters and conference complex are under construction in Floyd, Texas. Such churches don’t claim to bring Christ to Americans, but feel that the country has become post-Christian and that US Christianity misses a vibrancy which African Christians could restore.
The challenge for the RCCG and other African churches setting foot in America is to go beyond racial divisions, since “US churches remain largely segregated by race”, Zoll observes. Otherwise, she adds, what participants experience at some of the successful churches of African origins is not very different from mainstream American Christianity, due to the influence of American missionaries and authors among African pastors.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer, RW Contributing Editor and founder of the website Religioscope (http://www.religion.info).
Although black-Jewish relations are reported to have fallen on hard times, a segment of the black church is moving toward closer support of Israel, reports Moment magazine (April).
The numbers are small but there are signs that African-Americans are becoming more favorable to the “Christian Zionism” strong among white evangelicals, writes Evan Goldstein. A rising star in the new black Christian interest in Israel is Glenn Plummer, a pastor in Detroit who co-chairs the new Fellowship of Israel and Black America. The new group is an arm of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, whose leader Yechiel Eckstein has been in the forefront of encouraging evangelical support of Israel.
Other examples of nascent black Zionism include the 600-member African-American Gideon Christian Fellowship in New Orleans successfully lobbying the Louisiana state government to purchase $5 million in Israeli bonds Good News Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas, spearheads the Christian Aliyah Project, which provides funding for the immigration of Jews from Argentina, Uruguay, Ethiopia, France and Eastern Europe to Israel. According to a recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey, 51 percent of African Americans believe that the state of Israel is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
(Moment, 4115 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20016)
Although Russian Orthodox believers have been moving toward a greater acceptance of democracy, theirl church may be losing much of its independence under the administration of Vladimir Putin. Such contradictory and conflicting findings were commonplace in presentations at a late March conference in New York on the state of Orthodoxy in “post-atheist” Russia that RW attended. Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis often came in for criticism, as speakers questioned the claim that Orthodoxy is inherently anti-democratic and anti-Western.
In an analysis of World Values Survey data, political scientist Christopher Marsh of Baylor University found a tendency for “devout Orthodox”–those claiming an active faith–to be more pro-democratic than non-Orthodox and “cultural Orthodox“–non-practicing though claiming an Orthodox affiliation. Marsh found that the cultural Orthodox were more favorable toward communism and having a strong leader to rule the country than devout Orthodox and non Orthodox (nine percent compared to five and six percent, respectively). Often Orthodox religiosity was not a factor in levels of political activity, Marsh added.
In a paper on the political attitudes of Russian Orthodox elites, Irina Papkov of Georgetown University suggested that such categorizations as “devout” and “cultural” Orthodox may be too broad to capture the complex views of democracy in the Russian Orthodox Church. She surveyed students at four Orthodox universities and one secular one, finding a mix of pro- and anti-democratic views. Only 20 percent of students from the Orthodox schools supported free speech, compared to 32 percent from the non-Orthodox university. Fifty percent of students from the Orthodox schools were positive about the free market, compared to 70 percent from the non-Orthodox school. On the question of whether there should be an Orthodox state in Russia, 70 percent of the Orthodox university students responded favorably, compared to 30 percent from the non-Orthodox school.
Papkov cautioned against applying these findings to Orthodox students across the board (especially since 30 percent of the students at the non-Orthodox university were Orthodox). Those from the influential and “fundamentalist” St. Tikkon University were the most likely to hold anti-democratic views while St. Filaret University students were the most liberal and democratic. Those from the Moscow Spiritual Academy, which trains the elite clergy, were also democratic, showing the lowest level of support among any of the students for an Orthodox state. Papkov concluded that Russian Orthodoxy may be increasingly divided among “different brands” and that there could be a “disconnect between laity and clerical elites” in the church.
Meanwhile. Nicholas Gvosdev of The National Interest said that while the Russian Orthodox Church may have an important role in Russia, it is increasingly under the control of an increasingly powerful state. Although in recent documents, the church portrays itself as being an active partner with the state and its various agencies, such visibility may not mean more influence. In church conflicts with the state, such as on welfare and having property returned, it is interests of the latter that have prevailed. Unlike Boris Yeltsin, Putin as been willing to test the strength of the church in the political arena. Gvosdev said that the selection of successors, both for the presidency and for the Moscow Patriarchate in 2008, will likely set the tone of church-state relations in the future. The church’s choice of a new leader will be a decision “too important for the state not to interfere,” he concluded.