Posts Tagged ‘Volume 35 No. 9’

Campus ministries see new challenges lasting beyond the pandemic

Under the pandemic, religious leaders who work in higher education are facing new challenges that may endure even beyond the drastically changed conditions they and students will encounter in the fall, reports The Revealer magazine (July 14, 2020). As universities suddenly ended their in-person classes, campus religious leaders had to determine quickly how they were going to support students through grief and anxiety and provide them with a sense of community.

New wave of anti-Catholicism seen in vandalism of churches, Catholic symbols?

Catholic churches, statutory, and other symbols are being targeted in a new wave of anti-Catholicism in the U.S., reports Francis X. Rocca in the Wall Street Journal (July 22, 2020). In just the last month, there has been more than a rash of church arsons, priests attacked, defacements and destruction of statues of the Virgin Mary and Saint Junipero Serra, and Satanic symbols and profanity scrawled on church buildings from California to North Dakota to New York.

End of term court rulings will keep culture wars simmering while offering religious refuge

The ending of the recent term of the Supreme Court signaled new directions that the court is likely to take on social issues, with direct implications for religious freedom and the continuing culture wars, writes Mark Mousavian in a blog for First Things magazine (July 15, 2020). Debates about sexuality, gender, and equality often lurk in the background of the Court’s religious liberty cases, even when the cases do not address those topics expressly.

Neo-Sikh 3HO movement feels reverberations from sex abuse charges against founder

While rumors of sexual misconduct by the late founder of the neo-Sikh and yoga movement 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization), Yogi Bhajan (1929-2004) had circulated for years, such accusations are now being considered very seriously and are impacting the movement, writes Stacie Stukin in Los Angeles Magazine (July 15, 2020). A new self-published book with revelations from a now 77-year old former disciple, Pamela Saharah Dyson (Premka Kaur Khalsa), who used to be part of Yogi Bhajan’s inner circle, has encouraged other women to speak about their experiences, including alleged rapes.


A study of 110,000 sermons by over 5,500 American religious leaders finds that they routinely contain political messages, with mainline Protestants most likely to deliver such sermons, with evangelicals’ preaching being far less predictable than expected. The study, conducted by political scientists Constantine Boussalis, Travis Coan, and Mirya Holman, confirms the entanglement between religion and politics in the U.S., including within congregational life, but sheds light on the actual political content of sermons.

Iranian asylum-seekers in UK converting, revitalizing Christianity

A steady movement of Iranian refugees into the United Kingdom is finding support from church groups and in many cases converting from Islam to Christianity, reports the Christian Century (July 1, 2020). The Iranian asylum speakers are usually processed in the south of England and then settle in such northern cities as Liverpool and Sunderland, where they find their way to churches and their outreach and social service programs.

Radical preachers in the Balkans and Albanian diaspora turn to religious nationalism

Since the emergence of the self-described Islamic State in 2014, a number of second-generation young men and women from the Balkans raised in the West joined jihadist organizations, and it appears that key radical religious leaders in the Balkans played a crucial role in the radicalization and recruitment process, but also in attempting to give a new orientation to Albanian nationalism, writes Ebi Spahiu in a report released by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN, July 7, 2020).

Radical Orthodox groups in Moldova target both church and state

Politicized believers in Moldova represent independent Orthodox actors challenging the mainstream church from below, and their influence should not be overlooked, writes Anastasia Mitrofanova (Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation) in a pre-published article (June 30, 2020) in Religion, State & Society. The article is based on ethnographic research, since the radicals produce few documents.

Anti-cult activism helping to enforce religious restrictions in Russia

The anti-cult movement has had significant influence in Russia since the government adopted a series of amendments which enhanced the scope and penalties of previous religion and anti-extremism laws in 2017, according to a July report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The law targets sharing religious faith, or extending invitations to religious services, as illegal missionary activity if they take place outside of officially registered spaces (including in private homes or over the internet).

Findings & Footnotes

The subtitle of the new book, The End of Empathy (Oxford University Press, $34.95), which asks “Why White Protestants Stopped Loving Their Neighbors,” is intended to provoke, but author John W. Compton has written a fairly nuanced historical study on the loss of Protestant social influence in America. Compton uses primary and secondary sources to document the continual weakening of American religious institutions that promoted concerns, leaving the field open to secular activism and “entrepreneurs of the religious right.”