Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

New research shows digital religion’s down- and upsides during pandemic

Just as there is mounting concern about the effect of smartphones and social media on mental health, the pandemic has raised new questions about the impact of digital religious expressions on emotional and spiritual life. Both religious practitioners and leaders have had mixed views about online religious participation, praising its convenience and far reach while […]

Pandemic moves Jainism to greater social, interfaith involvement

The pandemic has led Jainism to engage in greater community and social involvement, resulting in a renewed connection to India but also helping the religion transcend traditional caste and sect identities, writes Brianne Donaldson in the journal Nova Religio (January/February). Jain teachings are non-theistic and emphasize nonviolence toward all living beings. Many Jains saw the […]

Catholic divisions intensify as the Synod of Bishops approaches

In our annual review last month, RW speculated that the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI might spur conservative Catholics on to greater dissatisfaction and protests against the papacy of Francis, who is seen as having a freer hand to implement his progressive reforms. Judging by recent events, this scenario seems to be happening in […]

Classical religious colleges show resilience, growth in a field of dropping enrollments

While national college enrollment has decreased by 13 percent over the last decade, a new breed of “classical” religious colleges have defied the crises of Covid, economic recession, and a smaller national pool of applicants with significant increases in enrollment, writes Jeremy Tate in First Things magazine (January 3). These colleges, some of which were […]

From Dobbs to Ukraine, 2022 religion dramatic and consequential

Religion in 2022 saw the intensification of trends that were visible in the previous year, none more dramatic and traumatic than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its impact on Eastern Orthodoxy. The following review of last year and preview of how these trends may play out in the year ahead is lengthier than previous annual […]

Social media amplifies Buddhist scandals, lowering monks’ status in Thailand

While financial and sexual scandals have taken place among Buddhist monks for decades in Thailand, the spread of news and criticism of this behavior through social media is having a detrimental effect on the reciprocal relationship between clergy and laity, write Brooke Schedneck and Steve Epstein in the online magazine The Revealer (December 8). The […]

Social scientists focus on pandemic’s broader religious impact beyond congregations

It came as no surprise that many of the sessions and papers presented at the November meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Baltimore were devoted to the pandemic. Yet even the scholars making the presentations were unsure about Covid’s effect on religious institutions, beliefs, and practices in the long term. […]

Evangelical churches running intensive theological education programs for members

Theological education programs have been growing in evangelical churches for members who want to study church history and theology without going to seminary or who don’t feel called to the ministry, reports Maria Baer in Christianity Today magazine (November). While congregations have always had Bible studies, adult education programs, and new member classes for teaching […]

End-times thinking flourishes despite evangelical political victories

Judging by the number of new books and social media posts, there has been a surge of belief and discourse concerning the “end-times,” writes Molly Olmstead in the online magazine Slate (October 6). She cites Publishers Weekly reports on the increasing reader demand for end-times topics, usually centered around interpreting current events like the pandemic, […]

Generational change driving collaborative turn in Vineyard churches

As younger generations take charge, the Vineyard church, once known for its emphasis on “signs and wonders” and the entrepreneurial style of its pastors, is shifting to a worship and leadership style characterized by democratic participation and collaboration, writes Daniel Silliman in Christianity Today (October). Since the 1970s, Vineyard churches have been seen as the […]