Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Coronavirus disrupts organized religion, raising issues of religious freedom and responsibility

The fast-moving nature of the coronavirus pandemic defies easy forecasts about how religious institutions and even patterns of religious beliefs and practices may change from this crisis. But the disruptive nature of the virus on congregational life as well as the more long- term implications for religious freedom stand out as recurring themes.

Americans embracing the alternatives of spiritual secularity and secular religiosity?

In recent years, it has not been unusual for secular and cultural movements and trends to be portrayed as religious, spiritual, or at least quasi-religious. Most often, the activity in question may be interpreted as religious in nature even if they are accompanied by beliefs that are considered religious. Such a case can be seen in an article in the conservative magazine First Things (March 2020) on the emergence of “secular monks” – a segment of middle-aged, highly successful American men who lead a secular lifestyle in a religious way.

Reviewing and previewing religion in fractured times

It may not come as a surprise that the religious trends emerging in 2019 reflected many of the divides that mark society—from denominational schisms to new political-religious fractures. Yet some developments stemmed from actors and actions existing apart from political dynamics, even if they will carry considerable social impact. In this year’s review and preview of trends in religion, we will put the accent on the latter, particularly because our new publishing schedule brings our issue to readers already into the new year of 2020. As usual, we cite the issues of RW and other sources where these trends were reported.

Spiritual direction outfitted for “nones”

Just as there is a growing number of nones…there is also a growing interest in spiritual direction both within and outside of the Catholic Church…Interestingly, as more Americans move away from participation in institutional religion, many seekers and nones are also seeking out places where they can have in-depth conversations about their spiritual lives,” writes Kaya Oakes in America magazine (November 25).

LDS stagnation: secularization or shortfalls in Mormon culture?

While the worldwide growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) may be stalling overall, its variations in membership loss and pockets of growth and the vitality of rival global faiths suggest that there is no easy explanation for this trend, according to papers presented at the mid-October meeting of the […]

Litigating and legislating against clergy sex abuse rises amidst mounting secular pressure

Church-state issues surrounding clergy sexual abuse are becoming a pressing concern to church bodies, even as they draw up new regulations to punish perpetrators and establish ministries to help victims, according to scholars speaking at a recent symposium on religious freedom in New York, which RW attended. The trend of more legislative attempts to require […]

How the mainline factor still shapes civic and international landscape

While mainline denominations and many congregations continue to decline, new research suggests that the distinctive cultures, beliefs, and practices of these mainstream Christian bodies are still playing an important social function—in the U.S. and abroad—especially in the areas of civic life and international development. This mainline effect was seen in a study of volunteering and […]

Political religion and European-style culture wars come under new scholarly scrutiny

At a conference better known for holding forth on the steady advance of secularization in much of Europe, it was striking how many of the papers at this year’s meeting of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion in Barcelona showed the growing political influence of religious groups and discourse on the continent. In […]

How safe are congregations and clergy from automation?

Judging by the fast pace at which technology is overtaking certain work tasks, clergy seem not to necessarily be exempt from the threat of automation, with several aspects of their work already being performed by artificial intelligence, writes William Young in the religion and science journal Zygon (June). Certain professions, such as medicine, law, journalism, […]

Megachurches trading relevance for liturgical reverence?

“Old-school Catholic practices and traditions” are being increasingly used in American megachurches, reports America magazine (May 13). The article focuses on New Life Church in Colorado Springs, a prominent non-denominational megachurch that has recently embraced traditional liturgies as well as social justice work without evangelization. The church now recites the Nicene Creed and has communion […]