Posts Tagged ‘Volume 33 No. 3’

Rewinding and forwarding on 2017 religion

Reviewing religion in 2017 by looking at the few key words and phrases that served as flashpoints in the media—populism, immigration, racial divides, and evangelicals and President Donald Trump—ignores the fact that many of these developments had taken shape well before last year. Religion in 2017 revealed other trends that were just unfolding and may become more visible in the upcoming year and beyond. As in past annual reviews, we cite the issue of RW (and other sources) where these subjects were covered in greater depth during the past year.

1) The Islamic State’s failure to create an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East seemed certain by the end of 2017, but the extremist Islamic group will likely maintain itself virtually. The use of the Internet to recruit new jihadists and spread propaganda may also serve to give the movement a second wind in attempting to create its own state, or at least create a new offshoot that may do so (just as Al Qaeda gave birth to the IS).

2) The relation of evangelicals to the Trump presidency rated as the most popular religious news story last year. Many dimensions of this story were visible during the 2016 primary race, such as the large evangelical support for the candidate despite the ethical questions surrounding him. But Trump’s election by a majority of evangelicals and their continuing support of his policies—and the related campaign and moral issues surrounding Alabama’s Roy Moore—has intensified questions of evangelical “ownership” of an unpopular presidency and the fallout among non-evangelicals and younger evangelicals who are critical of his administration. The Trump administration’s overtures to the religious right, such as the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and the endorsement of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, suggests a long-term alliance that will likely shape the results of this year’s mid-term elections.

3) The growing coalition between American conservative Christians (not just evangelicals) and their counterparts in Eastern Europe and Russia also became recognizable in 2017. Although such an alliance is buttressed by admiration for Vladimir Putin and his friendliness toward “traditional values” and for the Trump administration, the connections with conservative groups and parties in Hungary and Poland should not be overlooked in the year ahead (see this issue’s article on the movement against Christian persecution in the Middle East for more on the Hungarian connection). (November RW)

4) The rebirth of the religious left was another theme that reverberated throughout 2017. The Trump presidency has ignited liberal and radical protests and alternatives that encompassed religious activists and organizations on such issues as immigration, poverty, and gender equality. But it is difficult to assess the strength of these initiatives since they are targeted toward a declining base in mainline and liberal Catholic churches. Even if the progressive message resonates with a growing number of younger voters and activists, congregations and other organizations have to make the case to the non-affiliated that the faith component is an important part in such activism. In the case of the sanctuary movement, religious congregations have a unique function in ministry to illegal immigrants because of their legal exemptions, but even here it remains to be seen if this movement will expand beyond a small network of congregations.

New concerns, players in movement against persecuted Christians in Middle East

While the Islamic State’s attempt to impose a caliphate in Iraq and Syria may have ended, it seems the movement to fight for the religious freedom of Middle Eastern Christians is still gaining momentum. An early-December conference in New York on Middle East Christians, organized by the Anglosphere Society and attended by RW, shows a […]

Churches of Christ decline affects ‘brand loyalty’ to church colleges

Along with the decline of membership and congregations in the Churches of Christ, there is diminishing “brand loyalty” to the denomination’s colleges and universities. The Christian Chronicle (December 26) reports that universities associated with the Churches of Christ have seen a 51 percent decline in students who identify with the fellowship. At the start of […]

Current Research January 2018

The downturn in religious affiliation in the U.S. has been interpreted as a sign of secularization and how America may be becoming more like European countries, but a recent article argues that it may be more the case that one segment of Americans is becoming more intensely religious than the rest of the population. Sociologists […]

Evensong—drawing seekers at home and abroad

Despite reports of growing secularism in Europe, such a liturgical service as evensong is finding steady popularity—in both its birthplace of England and in the Netherlands. Evensong is an evening prayer service that is delivered mostly through song, offering a reflective and contemplative service that combines elements of a choir concert. The blog Church Leaders […]

At anniversary, Ismaili Muslims maintaining positive image in the West

Both their tolerant approach towards people of other faiths and their humanitarian and development initiatives contribute to a positive image of Ismaili Imami Muslims (also called Nizaris) in the West, while their spiritual understanding of Quranic rules, veneration for their current imam and openness to the Western way of life earn them criticism from more […]

Sufism under attack in Libya

Since the political changes that took place in 2011, dozens of Sufi sites (mosques, shrines, tombs, and libraries) have been destroyed in Libya, while a number of Sufi religious leaders have been kidnapped and killed, with little protection from authorities, according to a statement by Human Rights Watch (Dec. 7, 2017). Two historic Sufi mosques […]

Findings & Footnotes January 2018- Special Focus on Winter Books

With Religion Watch having become available for free, one of our goals has been to make available online those years of our newsletter that had only been published in print (i.e. pre-1998 issues). Thanks to the patient work of associate editor Jean-Francois Mayer in designing and updating the files, and to Frances Malone, who patiently […]