In This Issue
- Findings & Footnotes: December 2006
- Eastern Europe: Churches still seeking new role
- Counting France’s Catholic traditionalists
- Current Research: December 2006
- Mormon studies programs finding academic acceptance
- New consumer demands challenge scholarly religious publishing
- Early church fathers find new spiritual children
- Paganism growing — but what about the next generation?
- Christian right facing challenges from center and left?
01: The role of religions in global capitalism is the special focus of the November/December issue of the journal Society. The special symposium, based on a Boston University conference on the subject, looks at Islamic, Jewish, Pentecostal, Eastern Orthodox and Chinese religions’ relationships with the market.
A central question that all the contributors address is how these religions provide resources that deal with the promise and problems of the free market. Anthropologist Robert Hefner looks at the complexities of Islamic economics and argues that the distinctive Muslim practices of zakat (charity) and interest-free banking may have less effect (both for Muslims and non-Muslims) than the unfolding “culture war” between the Muslim efforts to impose ethical constraints and the new practices and lifestyles modern capitalism makes possible.
Robert Woodberry’s article on the economic consequences of Pentecostal belief finds a paucity of research on this topic, yet the work that has been done suggests that the faith may be more adept at helping move people out of poverty than helping them climb to the economic elite (partly due to these churches high financial demands on members). In his article on Russian Orthodoxy and the market, Christopher Marsh finds both a religious ethic of work hard, and support for a prominent role for the state in the economy (short of communism). Because the Russian church is highly trusted (in contrast to other institutions), its popular document, “Collection of Moral Principles and Rights of Business,” and the proliferation of parish-sponsored fairs selling a wide range of goods, may be “examples of how Orthodoxy can help provide a proper business environment.”
Chinese religions and philanthropies are highly market friendly. Robert Weller notes that the many new Buddhist and syncretistic groups in Taiwan– such as the Way of Unity– and, to a lesser extent in China, either serve to legitimize capitalism and wealth or function as alternatives to market values, most clearly seen in the recent growth of Chinese Buddhist philanthropies. For more information on this issue, write: Society, Rutgers, 35 Berrue Circle, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8042
02: David W. Miller’s new book God at Work (Oxford, $24) is an in-depth and impressive overview and study of the “faith at work” movement which attempts to integrate business with spirituality and religion.
The book, part history, part sociological analysis, and part theology, divides the faith at work movement into three waves or stages: the Social Gospel (1890s-1945, the Ministry of the Laity era (1946-1985), and the Faith at Work era (1985-present). The first two stages stressed worker rights but gave short shrift to lay involvement and leadership on work issues; the churches during this period tended to view the faith/business relationship through the lens of conflict (liberation theology) or compartmentalization (personal piety and conservatism).
Miller writes that the current stage unfolded during what economist Robert William Fogel termed the “Fourth Great Awakening,” a period of egalitarian reform where ethical and spiritual resources are as important as material resources. The emergence of the baby boom generation with its interest in experiential spirituality and personal growth intensified the quest to integrate work with faith. Today, Miller finds this “third wave” movement still burgeoning (the intersection of business with spirituality is the most published new topic in business school literature), whether in New Age, evangelical or generic religious expressions (as in the case of workplace chaplains).
Strangely, however, the faith in work movement has not gained much traction within religious institutions. Denominational leaders and pastors often do not connect the Gospel message to the issues and concerns of those operating in the business world for a variety of reasons (ranging from an ideological bias against business to a deficiency of education in a theology of work or vocation). Miller seems to find the most hope for churchly involvement in the faith at works movement among evangelical institutions, though new centers have started at Yale and Luther seminaries.
03: Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout’s new book, The Truth About Conservative Christians (University of Chicago Press, $22.50) manages to uncover novel and surprising findings on a much- published topic. The book, mainly an analysis of available survey data from the General Social Surveys, agrees that evangelical Protestants are a unique and influential group, though they are not as different from the rest of Americans as is generally assumed. A factor moderating at least the political difference of evangelicals from other Americans is the authors’ inclusion of black Protestants, known for their Democratic voting, in their analysis of conservative Christian behavior.
But the authors assert that even for white evangelicals “income and economic issues are far more significant than moral values for the trends in both voting and party identification.” They find that three out of five working-class conservative Christians tend to vote Democratic, more than working-class mainline Protestants. Other provocative chapters include Greeley’s and Hout’s thesis that demographics explain evangelical growth–evangelical Protestants have more children and no longer tend to switch to mainline churches when moving up the class ladder; an examination of the evangelical lifestyle (conservative Christians watch as much or even more Public Television as other Americans); and an account of how Pentecostals are “super conservative Christians,” stronger on most measures of belief and practice than other evangelicals.
04: The identities of the various Baptist denominations usually get lost under the amorphous “evangelical” label or are considered irrelevant in “post-denominational” America. But the new book, The Baptist River (Mercer University Press, $24) confirms that not all Baptists are undifferentiated evangelicals and that denominational practices and beliefs still drive congregations and congregants. Most of the contributors to the book, edited by W. Glenn Jonas, Jr., note that the historic patterns of dissent and divisions among Baptists continue to this day. While much has been written on the Southern Baptists, chapters on the less-studied smaller groups are especially valuable, providing both history and accounts of current trends.
A contribution on the fundamentalist independent Baptists–typified by Bob Jones University–suggests that their stress on separatism may be leading to defection and decline. Other groups with a strong rural character, such as the Free Will and Primitive Baptists (extreme Calvinists who are against evangelism and political involvement) are at loggerheads with the new South, yet their unique traditions seem to have more staying power.
The chapters focus on the older traditional groups, African-American National Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists, American Baptists, as well as newcomers, such as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Reformed and Sovereign Grace Baptists, and Full Gospel (charismatic) Baptists.
It is difficult to make many generalizations regarding secularization or religion in Eastern Europe. Local situations are quite different, but churches are still are in a period of adjustment to new environments, reported several papers delivered at a day-long meeting of Christians Associated for Relationship with Eastern Europe (CAREE), which took place in Washington on Nov. 17, before the AAR conference.
The focus of this year’s CAREE meeting, attended by RW, were inter-church and inter-religious tensions in Eastern Europe, as well as the possible role of Americans as reconcilers. In Georgia, explained Paul Crego (Library of Congress), the Orthodox Church does not always feel comfortable with a political Western orientation and efforts to build a European identity, especially since the current regime does not play the Orthodox card as much as the previous ones. Concerns about the West can also be observed in other Eastern European countries, such as Serbia, where Americans are often associated with the newer religious communities. Generally, relations with the Orthodox Church have become more difficult than during the communist period, observed a Mennonite participant, Walter Sawatsky.
Despite good intentions, missionary activities by Christian groups from the West have done nothing to reduce suspicions of proselytism, especially since they often showed little sensitivity to local circumstances, explained CAREE Executive Secretary, James Payton (Redeemer College, Ontario). Another participant, Angela Ilic, who reported on developments in Hungary, mentioned that many foreign missionaries in Budapest tended to live in an expatriate community rather than to get in touch with local realities.
But there have also been signs of improvement in recent years, and more cooperation with local churches. There are instances of newly-launched ecumenical dialogue, such as the Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue in Serbia, which was well-covered in the media, explained Luka Ilic, a Protestant pastor in Serbia and currently a doctoral student in Philadelphia. However, similar to the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, such initiatives take place at the highest level, never at the grassroots.
Sawatsky offered the sobering view that Russia and Eastern Europe had been seen as a new challenge for missions, but turned out to be some of the most secular and post-Christian areas of Europe. There are exceptions, well-illustrated by Krystyna Gorniak-Kocikowska (Southern Connecticut State University) on the case of Poland, where a number of politicians today take the task of going into Europe in order to turn back the tide of secularism very seriously. However, she warns that, due to the unexpectedly high level of emigration of Polish young people into Western Europe, nobody knows if their Catholicism will become stronger or decrease. In the long-run, a Quebec-style scenario of a “quiet revolution” in religious affairs cannot be ruled out.
Several participants felt that Americans are welcome if they come to serve, to listen and as partners – not as people eager to impose their views. There will probably be a need for a new generation of Christian American scholars to rebuild relations with Eastern Europe on a new basis (Sawatsky). It is however by no means sure this will be easy at a time when several institutes specializing in Eastern European studies have been closed down.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer
The number of Catholics attending pre-Vatican II Latin Masses roughly make up the size of two average French Catholic dioceses, writes Fr. Claude Barthe in the Fall issue of the conservative French quarterly Catholica.
At a time when there are rumors that the use of the Latin or Tridentine liturgy may soon become widely authorized by Rome for those priests who want it, it is of some interest to get reliable statistical data regarding a country which remains one of the main centers of Roman Catholic traditionalism.
There are about 300 places in France where the Tridentine Mass is said every Sunday, and some 400 priests use it. Approximately 190 places of worship belong to the Society St. Pius X (i.e. the followers of the late Archbishop Lefebvre), and about 120 are authorized by local French Catholic bishops, according to provisions made by the Ecclesia Dei Commission for those faithful who wanted to remain in communion with Rome. On average, they are significantly younger than the average “mainline” Catholic priests in the country.
Consecrations of priests in the Tridentine rite currently accounts for about 10 percent of all priestly consecrations in France. This is not surprising if one considers that the Traditional Catholic milieu tends to appeal to very devout families. Out of 61 million inhabitants, there are 2.9 million practicing Catholics in France today. According the best estimates, Traditionalist Catholics make 2 percent of the whole population of practicing Roman Catholics in France.
The Society St. Pius X has about 25,000 faithful attending its Masses every Sunday on French territory, and there are probably more people in the so-called “Ecclesia Dei” places of worship. Fr. Barthe writes that, if the use of the Tridentine rite would be liberalized, one could expect the percentage to reach as much as 5 percent of practicing French Roman Catholics. — By Jean-Francois Mayer
(Catholica, 42 rue Dareau, 75014 Paris, France)
01: The Episcopal Church has experience a “precipitous” loss of nearly 115,000 members over the past three years, mainly over the issue of homosexuality.
The Christian Century (November 14) reports that the losses come after a period of relative stability, if not much growth, in the denomination. Half of the losses are said to stem from parish conflicts over the 2003 election of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the church. One indication of the outflow of dissenting members comes from figures published by the conservative Anglican American Council, which shows an almost 60 percent rise in individual memberships from the 2003 church convention to shortly before the 2006 gathering.
[More dramatic losses may be in the wings if the California diocese of San Joaquin and others like it secede from the national church.] A study by Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler found that the member losses took place mostly in congregations identified in surveys as already in conflict over gay ordination and same-sex unions. They found that 48 percent of congregations experienced moderate to very severe conflict over the 2003 vote to permit Robinson’s consecration.
(Christian Century, 407 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL 60605)
02: A recent study of married men in rural sub-Saharan Africa finds a link between high religiosity and reporting lower risk of contracting HIV.
In analyzing data from a study of married men from rural Malawi, researchers Jenny Trinitapoli and Mark D. Regnerus find that Pentecostal men with high church attendance were associated both with reduced odds of reporting extramarital partners and with lower levels of perceived risk of HIV infection. In the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion(December), Jenny Trinitapoli and Mark Regnerus write that there have been sparse and conflicting, studies on religion and HIV/AIDS in Africa. One problem is that previous research has used broad religious categories–such as “Christian” and “Muslim”–but have not investigated the level of devotion in particular faiths.
The researchers found that when comparing adherents of different religious affiliations, Pentecostal men were the least likely to report having extramarital partners, and persons who report attending religious services weekly or more frequently were less than half as likely as persons who attend less than monthly to report a recent extramarital partner. The researchers note that environmental factors (such as whether polygamy is predominant in a given region) are also at work in the different levels of self-reporting HIV risk and infection. While self-reporting rates may not be completely accurate, there is little reason to believe that the Pentecostal self-reporting would be any lower or higher than the other religious groups, Trinitapoli and Regnerus add.
Mormonism is entering the academic mainstream as several universities inaugurate Mormon studies programs. Just as there has been the creation and growth of endowed Jewish and Catholic studies at secular universities in the past two decades, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is endowing chairs in the academic study of Mormonism, reports Baptists Today (November).
Utah State University and the School of Religion at Claremont Graduate University are starting Mormon studies programs within the next two years, and the University of Wyoming is in the initial stages of planning for such a program. These programs will all focus on the comparative and analytical study of the religion rather than advocating or encouraging belief.
(Baptists Today, P.O. Box 6318, Macon, GA 31208-6318)
The rise of public intellectuals in religion and the financial challenges of technology are changing the nature of scholarly religious publishing, according to Publishers Weekly’s Religion Update (November 20).
Academic publishers’ traditionally issuing monographs on specialty subjects are facing decreasing library budgets and less demand for class texts (due to professors using reading packets) as well as the transition to the uncertain world of electronic publishing. One publisher predicts that the shrinking market will mean a significant reduction in the number of academic publishers, either through merger or death.
At the same time, scholars are facing new pressure from sales-hungry publishers to write for general audiences, “a task (often involving writing in a personal style) their training has ill equipped them for,” writes Lynn Garrett. The pressure has come from the success of recent academic books finding a popular audience by such “public intellectuals” as Elaine Pagels and Karen Armstrong. The growing realization of the importance of religion in the modern world, especially in politics and international affairs, has broken down the divisions between academic disciplines.
This is taking place as interdisciplinary books are also figuring in the business strategies of publishers, Garret writes. Academic publishers in religion have lagged behind those in the sciences and languages in moving beyond print into electronic publishing. The growth of blogs and “thousands of small affinity groups” on religion on the Internet will generate new publications. “Top-down religious authorities will increasingly find themselves in dynamic negotiation with bottom-up religious populism,” says one publisher.
“One of the most important new facts about Christian theology is the sudden popularity of the theologians and pastors, monks and bishops, martyrs and missionaries, who first fashioned a Christian culture nearly two thousand years ago,” writes R.R. Reno in First Things magazine (November).
The renewed interest in the early church fathers can be seen in the ongoing 28-volume project by the evangelical InterVarsity Press,The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. The series presents selections of early church interpretations organized around the verses of the Bible. Reno adds that graduate students and professors who a few decades ago may have cited or written dissertations on liberal Catholic theologian Karl Rahner are “now more likely to focus on the speculative system of Origin or the Christian Platonism of the Cappodocians.”
Reno adds that the “Paul Tillich Society may soldier on, but in the large annual meetings of scholars in religion, sessions on the Church Fathers (especially their biblical interpretation) have increased manyfold…Even biblical scholars, the last Enlightenment rationalists in the now postmodern universities, have taken notice. Researchers are interested in how the early Church read the Bible, and the history of interpretation is a growing focus of scholarly enquiry.”
Reno notes that this development was not even on the charts for either Protestants or Catholics, who predicted that the future of theology would be in embracing modernization or social revolution or (for evangelicals) retrieving the purity of the biblical text. The early church fathers resonate with Christians “struggling to find a voice after Christendom,” since they were the “original agents of evangelization,” addressing a non-believing culture with Christian claims. At the same time, postmodern academic trends encourage this turn to the Fathers, since postmodernists “want to analyze the process by which texts come to function as mechanisms of authority that shape our notions of the truth.”
(First Things, 156 Fifth Ave., Suite 400, New York, NY 10010)
There has been a Pagan explosion since 1990, increasing more than thirty-eight-fold in the USA between 1990 and 2001, said James Roger Lewis (University of Wisconsin) during the Contemporary Pagan Studies Consultation at the November conference of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) in Washington.
While statistics should be handled with caution and are not always based upon sufficient research (not even mentioning the fact that people who used to be reluctant to acknowledge their Pagan orientation may now consider it as more socially acceptable) there is no doubt about a rapid and significant growth. Moreover, Lewis has collected data from several other countries (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand), which show a similar pattern, even if not always as strong.
Lewis suggests that the Internet has played an important role in making Paganism more popular and more accessible: “Pagans invaded the Internet,” Lewis observed. Lewis expects further increase in years to come, though not as dramatic. The total percentage of Pagans in the US population may be around 0.145 percent. This small figure is complimented by an academic trend, judging by the existence of academic periodicals devoted to Pagan issues and by the growing number of academic publications and doctoral students in that field. At the Junior Scholar-Senior Scholar Roundtable of the New Religious Movements Group at the AAR, most of the “junior scholars” attending were found to be in Pagan studies, and often practicing Pagans themselves– something which certainly would not have been the case only five years ago
Growth also means that there will increasingly be second-generation Pagans. While NRM research on second-generation is on the rise, it is still practically non-existent on Pagans. Of special interest at the AAR was the presentation of a pilot study on second (and third) generation Pagans in Western Massachusetts, conducted in 2005-2006 by Laura Wildman-Hanlon (Cherry Hill Seminary). Despite the small size of the sample, it does already provide some useful indications. According to the results, the second-generation is indeed staying, which is seen by Wildman-Hanlon as evidence that the Pagan movement will survive and not just be a passing fad.
Second-generation Pagans tend to identify themselves as generic Pagans rather than to relate primarily to a specific tradition. This may partly be due to the crucial role played by Pagan gatherings for conveying a sense of belonging. Young Pagans report to have received little or no religious training from their parents (“at least, my parents had something to reject”, one of the interviewees remarked). They were often not involved as children in rituals, hence the crucial role of gatherings. In addition to the lack of religious training, second-generation Pagans expressed dissatisfaction to Wildman-Hanlon about the loss of family traditions involving all generations, from grand-parents to grand-children: several of them feel that they will have nothing of that kind to pass to their own children. Those are probably issues which will need to be addressed for future retention of younger generations.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer, RW Contributing Editor and founder of the website Religioscope (http://www.religion.info)
After the Christian right suffers some major defeat it has not been uncommon for analysts and commentators to pronounce the imminent demise of the movement. It could be the widespread realization of the staying power and adaptability of the Christian right that this did not happen after the recent elections where Democrats turned the tide against conservative Republicans. The Economist (November 11) recaps the many troubles of the Christian right: the voting turnout was a disappointment for Republicans, with polls showing that a third of evangelicals voted Democrat. In 2004, only one in five voted Democrat. Prominent spokesmen for Religious conservatives, such as Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, went down in defeat while scandals dogged Christian right leaders such as Ralph Reed and Ted Haggard.
But the magazine notes that much of this replays similar difficulties from years ago, such as the televangelist scandals of the late 80s or the demise of the Moral Majority and the shriveling of the Christian Coalition. The article maintains that the Christian right has the ability to reinvent itself largely due to the still-secular tilt of the Democrats and its new focus on international issues, such as the Darfur massacres, rather than remaining centered on gay rights or overreaching on the Terri Schiavo affair.
In the new book Righteous (Viking, $24.95), journalist Lauren Sandler finds the future of the Christian right in the evangelical youth counterculture. The book is part of a vast genre of popular accounts, usually by secular journalists, of evangelical America and the Christian right. Sandler writes that religious revivals throughout American history started out as “ecstatic youth movements.” Evangelical young people as varied as tattooed skaters, teen pro-lifers, postmodern church planters, black Christian rappers, and Christian right activists at Patrick Henry College are all characterized as part of the “Disciple Generation.” She notes how the children of such conservative Christian leaders as Franklin Graham, Stephen Strang, James Dobson and Jim Bakker are among the more radical leaders of this youth movement. Sandler sees this generation as distinct from older evangelicals (mainly in their use of “extreme” language and youth- relevant methods of outreach), but concludes that their dogmatism and blending of “nationalism” with Christianity, all belong to a worrisome “fundamentalist” resurgence in American society that needs to be fought by secularists. In fact, the most revealing part of the book may be Sandler’s call to arms for secularists to mimic the Disciple Generation’s effective methods of activism in order to steer America in a more secular, leftist direction
Meanwhile, the above mentioned international issues may also further divide the Christian right from evangelical moderates and the left, according to a recent study. Such an international issue as AIDS relief in Africa has tended to unify the various camps of evangelicals as well as create new coalitions with secular activists. But a paper by Jennifer Eaton Dyer of Vanderbilt University presented at the recent meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Washington, attended by RW, finds that such common ground is shifting. Early in the new millennium those on the evangelical right, such as Franklin Graham, and James Dobson, joined with centrists and leftists, such as Rick Warren, Nelson Mandela and rock star Bono to fight against the spread of AIDS in Africa. By 2004, the issue of poverty was joined with that of AIDS, drawing such Christian right leaders Pat Robertson to cooperate with secular liberals in the One Campaign.
But more recently, the cooperative mood has dissipated within the evangelical fold, according to Dyer. The first sign of such a schism was last spring when a large number of evangelicals from the left and moderate spectrums backed a drive to combat global warming, while much of the evangelical right–as represented by James Dobson and Southern Baptist leader Richard Land– led an opposing attack on the initiative. Then last May Dobson and other religious right leaders led a campaign to halt funding to the Global Fund, mainly due to its lack of U.S. representation , with more liberal evangelicals fighting to retain funding for the international hunger relief group. The latest conflict has been between evangelical left activist Jim Wallis calling for renewed attention to poverty in the U.S. and Tony Perkins of Focus on the Family urging evangelicals to hold the line on such family issues as gay rights and abortion. Dyer concludes that other possible dividing issues such as international sex trafficking and diplomacy in North Korea may also work to divide the evangelical right from the evangelical moderates and left.
Another alliance, that between Catholics and evangelicals on many political issues, may have been shaken in the November elections. The National Catholic Reporter (November 17) notes that Republican strategists hoped that the “God factor” (relating to the finding that regular church-going Catholics tended to vote Republican), evident among Catholics in the 2004 elections, would also be in play during the recent race. But exit polls showed that this year, 55 percent of Catholics voted Democratic, with 46 percent weekly churchgoers from all denominations supporting House Democratic candidates. Republican Catholic activists claim that the disaffection was mainly a protest over corruption in the Republican Party and note that pro-life Democrats gained wide support. Nevertheless, the success of the Democrats among Catholics, often on economic issues, has bolstered party strategists who have made an extra effort to appeal to people of faith after the 2004 election. Analyst John Green said he expects “to see a lot more discussion of [Democratic religious outreach] and a lot more Democratic candidates who adopt this approach. The Democrats learned a lesson and they adapted.”