Archive for the ‘General Articles’ Category

Anti-immigrant cloud threatens transnational missions

The growth of immigrant church leaders seeking to evangelize their fellow immigrants in the U.S., often through transnational groups and congregations, is coinciding with “America’s volatile relationships with immigrants [and] the waning interest of second and third generations who have little memory of their homeland,” reports Christianity Today magazine (July-August). Most of these mission initiatives […]

Alt-right embraces alternative healing

Holistic health and alternative medicine are finding a following among the far right, even if the ethnic and religious origins of these remedies may seem worlds apart from their agenda, according to Holly Folk of Western Washington University. Folk, who presented a paper at the mid-August meeting of the Association for the Sociology of Religion […]

Turned off by technology, beauty industry turns on to spirituality

The use of spirituality and the occult in beauty products is a new feature in the global organic personal care market, which is expected to exceed $25 billion by 2025. The New York Times Style Magazine (August 20) reports that “It is no longer enough to employ pesticide-free ingredients—these days, products should have superpowers, too. […]

TM faces second-generation disenchantment and loss of charismatic leadership

Transcendental Meditation (TM) has become highly factionalized since the death of founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 2008, with the familiar scenario of second-generation members chafing under original members seeking to maintain the purity of the movement’s teachings, writes Lane Atmore in the journal Communal Societies (No. 1, 2017). Atmore conducted 44 interviews with TM members […]

Religious minorities’ plans to return to Iraq beset by political differences

Christians and Yezidis who had suffered deeply under the Islamic State (IS) have celebrated the extremist regime’s recent expulsion from Mosul and the surrounding villages of the Nineveh Plain, with some of these refugees already moving back to their ancestral homeland. But religious and political differences are also returning to the region, with various religious leaders and groups lining up on opposing sides, reports The Tablet (August 12), a Catholic magazine in the UK. Plans about how to resettle these groups have been under debate almost since the IS pushed these religious minorities out of Mosul and the surrounding villages, most notably the proposal to establish an autonomous region for Christians and Yezidis [See June 2016 RW for more on this proposal]. The problem is that Iraqi Kurds, who were instrumental in routing the IS, also dispute claims to the region. The Christians distrust the Kurds, believing that they received little security from Kurdish troops after the Kurds disarmed them.

The Yezidis have fewer issues with the Kurds, but it is the strong political divisions among Christians, who have shrunk from two million to 400,000 today, that make them “easy prey for manipulation,” writes Filipe d’Avillez. Although the crisis in the region has brought the various churches closer together, they still have different takes on politics. The Assyrian Church of the East tends to favor autonomy, as do the Syriac Catholic and Orthodox churches. The leadership of the Chaldean Catholic Church has been more opposed to this idea, though it has recently softened its position. Avillez concludes that an autonomous region may be the only way for these religions to preserve themselves. But for this proposal to work, “church leaders and politicians, the people on the ground and the leaders in the diaspora, will have to achieve something that so far has always proved elusive: to pull in the same direction.”

(The Tablet,

Saudi Arabia determined to keep custodianship of Islam’s central places

Faced with low oil prices and challenges to its influence, the Saudi Kingdom’s role as the custodian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina is becoming more important, writes analyst Kamran Bokhari in Geopolitical Futures’ daily digest (Sept. 1). For a long time, the Saudi dynasty was aware of the importance of controlling the […]

Evangelical church music bridging secular and sacred

Evangelicals are using new musical forms that go significantly beyond “traditional” contemporary Christian music (CCM) in both worship and outreach, but such experimentation may have unintended consequences for churches according to two reports. Christianity Today magazine (July–August) reports on the rise of electronic dance music (EDM) in evangelical churches that may be challenging the lyric-based […]

Religious environmentalists step up activism in the face of government retreat

The critical attitude toward environmental controls and regulations and the withdrawal from the Paris accord on climate by the Trump administration appears to be driving up the environmental activism of American churches reports The Economist magazine (July 28). The Erasmus blog of the magazine reports that “green-minded congregations, and even those who have not hitherto […]

Brazil’s Pentecostal and charismatic missions target Brazilian diaspora, Europe

There are probably 3,000 Brazilian Protestant missionaries abroad, mostly Pentecostal, and 90 percent of them are sent  by Brazilian missionary agencies, reported Paul Freston (Wilfrid Laurier University) at the conference of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion in Lausanne, Switzerland (July 4–7), which RW attended. One in five Brazilians today is Pentecostal. Like […]

Buddhism clashing with and appealing to British youth culture

While some ethical values of young adult Buddhists in the U.K. strongly correlate with broader youth culture—e.g. gender equality—other values do not cohere well, such as reluctance about high alcohol consumption, reported Sarah-Jane Page (Aston University) in her paper presented at the conference of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion in Lausanne (July […]