Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

A cultic revival without the cults?

“Cults are in style again. Or at least it’s trendy to call things cults—everything from QAnon to SoulCycle,” writes Jesse Walker in Reason magazine (June). Up until recently, “cults,” or new religious movements (NRM), were thought to have little appeal for Americans, especially as compared to the decades of the 1960s to the 1990s. But J. Gordon Melton, an NRM specialist at Baylor University, says that while we may not be reliving the early 1990s, there has been an intensification of cult and anti-cult rhetoric in American culture.

Biden presidency highlights Catholic politics and political significance

President Biden’s publicly visible faith and the polarized views of him among American Catholics reflect both a struggle within the faith over its direction and a political struggle over the Catholic vote. In a feature article in Time magazine (April 12/April 19), Brian Bennett notes that while they were formerly a reliably Democratic constituency, growing divisions among Catholics have made them a key target for both major parties, with Republicans seeking to win over Hispanic Catholics in particular as part of their effort to expand their voter base beyond older whites.

Parents take the lead in handing down and talking up the faith

Religion Watch recently interviewed John Jay College sociologist Amy Adamczyk about her research on how parents transmit religious faith to their children. Adamczyk is the co-author, with Christian Smith, of the new book, Handing Down the Faith: How Parents Pass Their Religion on to the Next Generation (Oxford University Press, $29.95). The book is based on interviews with religious and non-religious parents as well as an analysis of survey research.

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).

Biden era signals a liberal Catholic moment and more tension with U.S. church leaders

While the election of Joe Biden as U.S. president seems to be ushering in a new era of liberal Catholic (and, in general, liberal religious) influence, by closely aligning themselves with the Democratic administration, liberal Catholic activists and leaders run the risk of being perceived to be as partisan as evangelicals were under the Trump […]

Crises and reinvention mark religion in 2020

RW’s previous annual reviews of religion often left the editors stymied over whether the developments that we spotted could really be traced to the year in question. For better and worse, that dilemma doesn’t apply to 2020. Almost from the beginning of this momentous year, we entered a vortex of crises and events that will likely shape contemporary religion for several years to come.

Religious factor playing a new role in minority voting?

On first impression, the religious complexion of the recent U.S. elections showed more similarities than differences to voting behavior in 2016. Republican and Democrat voting patterns showed secular and unaffiliated Americans, along with religious minorities lining up with the latter while a significant share of active Protestants and Catholics, particularly evangelicals, sided with the former.

Jewish voters divided and energized by Trump

Whatever the results of the 2020 presidential elections, the voting behavior of American Jews shows both continuities and change under the presidency of Donald Trump, according to reports. In his blog Spiritual Politics (October 22, 2020), Mark Silk reports that Jewish voting patterns have changed little since 2016, even as President Trump made his support of Israel an important part of his campaign. In that year, Jewish voters chose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 71 percent to 24 percent.

Homeschooling during COVID sees culture wars flare-up

The growth of homeschooling during the pandemic has encouraged Christian homeschooling leaders and families while opening new fault lines between the Christian orientation of much of the movement and its secular and more liberal newcomers. These new points of division can be seen in an article by Elena Trueba in Religion and Politics (September 10, 2020). Estimates on the growth of homeschooling—and not just remote learning—have reached the double digits in many states; the number of families registering to homeschool in Vermont jumped by75 percent, with states such as Nebraska and North Carolina also showing high growth rates.

How shifts in communion practices during pandemic play into worship wars

Controversial and possibly long-lasting effects from the coronavirus pandemic are being felt in Christian churches and the way they celebrate the sacrament of communion. This can be seen in new online observances and rituals that have emerged, but also challenges have been posed to smaller but ancient ways of celebrating this central sacrament.