Wednesday, January 10, 2018

California Megachurches Changed American Christian Culture

That's the topic of this article at RNS by Richard Flory.  He explains how the California megachurches that arose in the last half of the twentieth century led the way in merging various aspects of culture with religious life and practice.  His two key examples -- the Crystal Cathedral and the Calvary Chapel -- are both only minutes away from UC Irvine.  Megachurches are still thriving in California;  there are over 200 in California, which is more than in any other state.

Flory writes:
Current iterations of California megachurches, such as Mosaic and Oasis in Los Angeles, C3 (now VIVE Church) in the Bay Area, among others, follow a similar script and arguably build on elements of California culture: the promise of a comfortable experience in church, the opportunity to feel good about oneself, and participation in a community of like-minded people that doesn’t require any deeper commitments unless one so desires.
Across the country, the broader impact of the California churches can be seen in the different ways that megachurches, such as City Church in Seattle, which caters to young Christian hipsters, or the more family-oriented programming at Willow Creek in Chicago, have adapted their purpose and programming to specific cultural currents in order to create their own unique identity – an approach pioneered in California.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Nevada Court Says Humanism is Not a Religion

Earlier this week a Nevada federal district court ruled that Humanism does not qualify as a religion for the purpose of the Free Exercise or Establishment Clause (see here).  The main concern of the court was that if religion is defined as any symbol or belief to which an individual ascribes serious significance, then so many things will fall under that umbrella that virtually any action by the government could be seen as favoring one religion over another.  In other words, attributing special status to religion requires that religion be narrowly enough defined to prevent the second amendment from paralyzing the government.

It is unclear what the long-term effects of this ruling will be.  It does go against the long-run trend of including more and more systems of belief under the protections afforded to religion.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Europe's Growing Muslim Population

That's the title of a new report issued by the Pew Forum.  Europe has experienced large inflows of Muslims and the growth of the Muslim will continue.  The report considers different growth trajectories, one with no migration, one with medium migration, and one with high migration.  Because the Muslims in Europe have higher fertility rates than non-Muslims, high growth is expected no matter the scenario.  Full pdf here.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Church-state Relationships Around the World

The Pew Forum has released a report on church-state relationships around the world.  The complete report is here.  The report is nicely conceived and has several useful graphics and appendices.

They partition nations into four categories:  (i) those with official state religions, (ii) those with a preferred or favored religion, (iii) those with no official or preferred religion, and (iv) those that are hostile to religion, with the distribution of countries in these categories being 22%, 20%, 53%, and 5%, respectively.

Countries from the Middle East and North Africa are common in category (i), with Islam the most common official state religion in those countries.  European countries are prominent in category (ii), with Christianity the most common favored religion.

This is a nice resource for researchers and students alike.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Impact of ATMs on Churches

James Hudnet-Beumler, Professor of American Religious History at Vanderbilt University, wrote an article at Real Clear Religion that describes how ATMs impacted church fundraising in the U.S.  Here is an extended quote:

There are two interesting dimensions of this appearance of ATMs and churches to consider. One is the strong affinity between cash and conservative evangelicals. For many evangelicals debt is a form of bondage – a message conveyed through conservative radio financial guru Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to tens of millions of his followers on AM radio each week in his call-in programs. Ramsey teaches how to “dump debt, budget, build wealth and give like never before!” The building of wealth is a corollary to eschewing debt and it makes Christians free, in Ramsey’s view to be godly. 
The point is, money isn’t just a fungible means to various ends, it is sacred to these believers.
The second dimension for consideration in the appearance of ATMs in the lobbies of evangelical churches is that they signaled something by their very presence: America was in fact becoming a cashless society. The debit card that people carried in their wallet could be just as good as cash anywhere else, but in the sanctuary, cash was the appropriate offering.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

500th Anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 Theses

Martin Luther penned his 95 theses five hundred years ago--though there's actually no contemporary historical evidence that he nailed them to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  The Research on Religion podcast has another episode on Luther and his 95 theses, this one on Luther's historical setting and impact with Emily Fisher Gray.  The Pew Forum also has done a survey of American Protestantism 500 years after Luther.  The results suggest that Protestants are still fairly split on various ideas including the role of works and the role of the Bible, see here and here.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Religious Digital Currencies

BitCoen is set to launch next month as the first ever international Jewish currency.  A Buddhist currency, Karma Tokens, is also in the works.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

How Much do Catholic Priests Make?

According to a new national study, the median total taxable income for Catholic priests in the U.S. is $45,593.  This amount has risen about 9% during over the last two decades.  The taxable income includes salary, housing allowances, Mass stipends, stole fees, and bonuses.

Interestingly, this average taxable income is much less than $75,355 median income for full-time Episcopal priests, though of course the component parts of Episcopal priests' income differ from those of Catholic priests.  Episcopal priests can be married, but Catholic priests are unmarried except for rare cases of when a married priest from another denomination switches to Catholicism.

See more details here.