Posts Tagged ‘Volume 36 No. 4’

American Judaism’s virtual and ad hoc future after the pandemic

American Judaism, long concentrated in large metropolitan regions and organized around major institutions, is giving way to a “new Jewish identity in which the internet now plays the role that urban neighborhoods once did as a hub of communal organizing and religious teaching,” write Joel Kotkin and Edward Heyman in The Tablet (February 17).

American congregations gaining a new audience amidst the digital divide

Congregations’ adoption of new offering and giving platforms during the pandemic shows how religious institutions are reaching wider followings but also experiencing greater inequality in the digital age, reports Arielle Pardes in Wired magazine (February 10). While at the start of 2020 about half of American churches used digital tithing services, Covid-19 greatly accelerated the trend, with one-third of churches that weren’t using a digital tithing platform having signed up for one just a few months into the pandemic.

Racial issues generating new evangelical debate—or a lack of one?

New ideas about race and racism are dividing American evangelicals, adding to conflicts over evangelical support for former President Donald Trump, according to an article in First Things magazine (February). The controversy over how extensive racism is in the church and in society has become new artillery in the culture wars, particularly in relation to what is called critical race theory.

Snake handling getting less dangerous and more public

Pentecostal and Holiness churches that practice snake handling are rethinking their longtime rejection of medical care and belief that it shows a lack of trust in God’s healing powers, writes Julia Duin in National Geographic magazine (February 1). Much of this change in theology has taken place among younger serpent-handling preachers after a number of deaths of leaders in the movement.


Pastoral care in churches has gradually shifted from specific religious teachings to a more ecumenical spirituality and from concerns about human nature and morality to an emphasis on personal narratives, according to a study in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (online in February).

Yoga in pandemic times: fitness or religion?

A legal case in Switzerland is once again raising the question of the religious nature of yoga and similar practices, especially during a public health crisis. A yoga studio in the Swiss canton of Aarau has refused to shut its doors despite federal sanitary regulations temporarily banning sport and fitness activities, including yoga and dance studios.

Pandemic intensifies ultra-Orthodox defections in Israel

The spread and impact of Covid-19 has “shaken the assumptions of some in the insular ultra-Orthodox world, swelling the numbers of those who decide they want out,” writes Isabel Kershner in the New York Times (February 17). Organizations that assist ultra-Orthodox Jews in leaving the fold or managing the transition into modern Israeli society have reported a rise in the demand for their services. Although there is no clear estimate on the scale of defections, Naftali. Yawitz, head of the division of the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry that helps fund such organizations, said there has been a “very significant wave” in recent months of both new leavers and ex-ultra-Orthodox seeking help.

Indonesia cautiously encourages solidarity with Muslim minorities abroad

While the role of Islam has increased in Indonesia’s foreign policy and efforts have been made to promote the rights of Muslims persecuted abroad, the government has also taken its economic interests, regional relations, and domestic politics into consideration, while its own experiences have made it aware of the complexity of conflicts involving Muslims, writes Ann Marie Murphy in an analysis published by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies (December).

Monastic education assumes prominent role in Myanmar

Monastic schools are a key mechanism in Myanmar’s education system to combat marginalization and aiming to include the poorest in society, as the government has come to recognize their importance in delivering education to segments of the population where the state system might be unable to reach, writes Marie Lall (UCL Institute of Education) in a chapter on alternative monastic education of her newly published book Myanmar’s Education Reforms: A pathway to social justice? (UCL Press, University College London, £ 25, open-access PDF available).

Findings & Footnotes

The new book The Routledge Handbook on Religion and Cites (Routledge, $250; e-version, $47.65), edited by Katie Day and Elise Edwards, presents the state of the art on research about religion in the urban context. In the introduction, Day and Edwards write that while there has been renewed attention to religion and cities, there has been less focus on the specific places and spaces and how they interact with religious institutions at the community level.