ReligionWatch Archives

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Hindu deities drafted as ‘celestial epidemiologists’ in war against COVID-19

COVID-19 has “increased the goddesses’ workload,” as deities are being repurposed from other causes by Hindus to help fight the virus, reports The Conversation (June 15, 2020). Anthropologist Tulasi Srinivas writes that there have historically been several goddesses that have been delayed during many deadly pandemics in India from ancient to modern times.

The Wenzou model fostering the rise of Chinese Christian nationalism?

Business-friendly evangelical churches originating in the Wenzhou region of China are expanding globally, serving as a new model of missions, but may also be spreading Chinese nationalism, according to two reports. In the evangelical Hong Kong-based journal China Source (June 8, 2020), Brad Fulton looks at how Chinese Christians from Wenzhou—considered China’s Bible belt—have pioneered in a model of missions where church planting networks follow the circuit of business entrepreneurs and their overseas contacts and opportunities.

Findings & Footnotes

Last month, we neglected to mention an important special issue of the journal International Affairs (March, 2020) devoted to the interaction between international relations and the discipline of religious studies. It is not as arcane as it sounds, with editor Katherine Brown writing in the introduction to the issue that “we cannot understand international affairs without understanding religion and also that we cannot understand religion without understanding international affairs.”

Pandemic spreads conspiracies far and wide among a range of believers

Conspiracies seem to be a byproduct of a global crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, and recent reports suggest they are not limited to any one religion or spirituality. What is known as the QAnon movement, which holds to conspiratorial ideas about the existence of a “deep state” seeking to bring down the presidency of Donald Trump, has found a home in a segment of the Christian right, writes Marc Andre Argentino in the online magazine The Conversation (May 18, 2020).

‘Prophecy voters’ forming core of Trump’s evangelical base

Much of Donald Trump’s evangelical base of support comes not from “value voters” or nostalgic “white Christian nationalists” as much as “prophecy voters,” those charismatics who see the president as an anointed leader who will have a part in bringing God’s kingdom to earth. This group is likely to continue to influence and reshape the Christian right during the 2020 elections and beyond, writes Damon Berry in Nova Religio (May 11), a journal on new religious movements.

The pandemic as a driver for change and ritual adjustments in religion

According to Italian journalist Iacopo Scaramuzzi (writing on his Facebook page), the coronavirus epidemic has succeeded in pushing reforms into the Catholic Church in a way nothing else has—with laypeople organizing their own domestic liturgical life and a variety of creative responses to an unexpected situation preventing the gathering of faithful in places of worship.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ find new interest through online innovations

While the Jehovah’s Witnesses have not assigned a unique prophetic significance to the coronavirus outbreak, the pandemic has confirmed their end-times beliefs, created new interest in the religion’s teachings, and strengthened its online presence and innovations, writes George D. Chryssides on the blog CennSam (April 30, 2020) of the Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements.

Rising role of chaplains revealed during pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed that the sources of religious support for many Americans are less focused on clergy and more on chaplains and more unconventional spiritual-care providers, according to sociologist Wendy Cadge writing in the Atlantic magazine (May 17, 2020).

Current Research

A community’s greater degree of social capital, as generated by congregations and other voluntary organizations, is likely to lessen the severity of the coronavirus as well as help in recovery from the crisis, according to research by Christos Andreas Makridis.

Islam and the pandemic in Belgium—crisis as a step toward more integration?

The restriction of various Muslim practices dictated by the coronavirus pandemic may have long-term effects in the Islamic community in Belgium, according to several papers written by scholars associated with the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Islam in the Contemporary World (Catholic University of Louvain).