ISSN: 1522-5658

Volume 23 (2021)

From the
Desk of
the Editor

Looking Forward to the Next Twenty Years

Zachary B. Smith, General Editor
[ Editorial ]

Supplement
Series

Religion and the New Politics [ Supplement 23 ]

Edited by Ronald A. Simkins and Zachary B. Smith, Creighton University

Articles

Authentic Contextualization and Church Growth: The Case of Catholicism in Malawi 1889-2000

Chrispin Dambula, Fuller Graduate School of Intercultural Studies
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Ideology in Biology: Theism Meets Atheism in the Case of Abiogenesis

Marc Ruffinengo and Anthony Walsh, Boise State University
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Individual Religiosity and Social Trust in the U.S., 2004

Craig Wiernik, Wilkes-Barre, PA
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Exoticizing Terrorism: Religious Bias and the Unchecked Threat of Evangelical Christian Extremism in Brazil

Danielle N. Boaz, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Performance in Boko Haram’s Religious Fanaticism

Soji Cole, Brock University
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Addressing the Unaddressed: Changemakers’ Hopes for the Future around Issues of Sexuality in Catholic Higher Education—Theological Insights

Mark A. Levand, Villanova University
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Jihad and the Sect: Sunni and Shia Interpretations of Striving in the Path of God

Adib Abdulmajid, University of Leuven, Belgium
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

On Being Together: The Role of Lived Experience in Scriptural Reasoning

Rebecca Skreslet Hernandez, Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, Cambridge, UK
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Christianity and the “Others”: On Conversion of the Tangkhul Nagas

Woryaomi Kharay, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi, India
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Exploring Sports Ministry in the UK: National Trends and Local Expressions

Andrew Parker, Ridley Hall, Cambridge, UK
Rob French, Ridley Hall, Cambridge, UK
Naomi Marturano, University of Gloucestershire, UK
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

The Malediction of a “False Idea of Freedom”

Angus Sibley, Paris, France
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Essays
& Opinions

On the Profit of Protestant Wives

Dennis Barone, University of Saint Joseph
[ Essay PDF ]

The Incompatibility of Christianity with Racism and Capitalism

Matt Kappadakunnel, El Segundo, California
[ Essay PDF ]

The American Church and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Johnny Payne, Orange Grove Center
[ Opinion PDF ]

Malawian culture was denunciated and demonized as irrational and unbiblical by the early Catholic missionaries from the West. However, this negative attitude toward Malawian culture largely succeeded in hindering Catholic expansion during its nascency in the country. In this paper, I argue that contextualization of the gospel can provide a fertile ground for proliferation of Christianity in any cross-cultural setting and that effective contextualization is expediated by local leaders. To buttress my argument, I mull over the history of Catholicism in Malawi from 1889 to 2000. Catholicism faced fierce resistance in Malawi during its inception but later surged exponentially to become the dominant force in terms of demographics in the country. I argue that the Roman Catholic Church surged in Malawi because the converts could appropriate Catholicism in a meaningful way to their culture. That is authentic contextualization. My main contribution in this paper is that Christian witness in a new setting is more effective when indigenous people are agents of contextualization.
Abiogenesis is the proposed process through which inanimate matter eventually led to life on earth. As a research area, the issue is certainly loaded with fodder for debate and philosophical and ideological disagreement about what life is and how it came to be. Dealing with the origin of life (OoL) obviously has the potential to tread into spiritual and religious grounds for both scientists interested in this area but also for the public at large when any debate about “where did we come from?” arises. However, it is not just the general public that struggles with balancing religious and spiritual explanations for how people came into being with scientific evidence. As we will show, there is a lively debate among OoL researchers about a similar set of scientific facts pointing to the intervention of a transcendent designer or such an idea being incompatible with science generally. Furthermore, we note that much of this debate is centered around the concepts of ontological and methodological materialism. While we make no claims about resolving or contributing meaningfully to the debate it is worth pointing out, especially to outside observers, that such a debate is in fact alive and well among OoL researchers. Thus, it is certainly possible for OoL researchers to view abiogenesis as an atheistic endeavor and many do. However, atheism is not a requirement to believe that abiogenesis played a role in the OoL as many scientists view such discoveries as a “mark of the Creator” as opposed to merely an idea that life must have come from inanimate matter.
This study examines the association between an individual’s religiosity and social trust. Using The Baylor Religion Survey I examine two general models of an individual’s religiosity and how religiosity influences social trust. As social trust is both moral and experiential, religion provides a moral foundation on which trust is built, and that trust is reinforced through behaviors and activities, both religious and secular. Religiosity should then impact trust through both the beliefs which create that moral foundations of trust, and the actions taken to maintain it. Ultimately, I find that one’s religiosity is best modeled as a single construct to predict social trust, and that the more religious one is, the higher their levels of social trust. Contrary to existing research, when examined as separate from religious participation, religious beliefs are not associated with social trust, but religious commitment is.
Since the start of the 21st century, Brazil has been experiencing a rapidly escalating problem with Evangelical Christian extremism. Persons referring to themselves as “armies of Jesus” have been assaulting devotees of Afro-Brazilian religions—stealing and destroying their sacred artifacts, as well as burning and bombing their places of worship. Although Brazil recently passed some of the most expansive anti-terrorism legislation in the world, it has failed to hold Evangelical extremists accountable under these laws. This article explores how Brazil’s non-recognition of Evangelical extremism is part of a global trend to “exoticize” terrorists as a foreign, unfamiliar threat.
The activities of Boko Haram in Nigeria evolved within a very short time from a religious sect professing hatred for western values, into a violent dissident group. The group has become a threat to the social and political stability of Nigeria and neighboring countries, and they are believed to have links with ISIS and Al-Qaeda. The group’s media-attention strategy includes recording vicious moments of slaughtering captives, displaying victims’ mangled corpses, and sending threatening media messages. Though seen as a propaganda strategy by the group, this paper contextualizes the group’s activities as an extreme and sadistic form of public performances—an otherwise descriptive strategy for complex fanaticism. This article explores a historiographic and analytic description of performance and fanaticism, and underlies the relationship between the two terms as tangible sociological constructs that serve the terror group as mechanism of representation and communication. By applying the frameworks of historical and performance theories, the article describes how the concept of fanaticism shapes and constructs the identity and public actions of Boko Haram.
Issues of sexuality in Catholic higher education often go unaddressed, under examined, or handled with inadequate care. In a larger study of the experience of 31 changemakers at 17 different Catholic colleges and universities, participants discussed how they effected change around an issue of sexuality at their university. At the end of the interviews, participants were asked about what hopes they had for the future of sexuality in Catholic higher education. This article is an exploration of the emergent themes in their answers to future hopes, as well as insights and support from the Catholic theological tradition.
This article investigates sectarian-based interpretations of jihad as a concept and practice. It explores similarities and differences between Sunni and Shiite approaches to the notion of jihad and its fundamental principles. In order to examine the sectarian dimension of jihad, the most well-known and yet least understood conception in the contemporary debate about Islam, this article revisits and analyses relevant literature with a new interpretation. Sectarian-guided interpretations of the notion of jihad remain scarcely tackled and poorly researched. There seems to be a certain degree of agreement between Sunni and Shiite Muslims with respect to jihad in its spiritual and physical forms. However, questions of righteousness to launch and guide jihad, its place among the cornerstones of the faith, and the ends its application tend to serve remain controversial when it comes to sectarian-based approaches.
In the multicultural city of London, there is a widely acknowledged need for context-based, grassroots approaches to interfaith engagement that take local communities and practice into consideration. As a tool for interreligious dialogue that calls for members of different faith traditions to read and reflect on each other’s scripture together, Scriptural Reasoning (SR) is very much a work in progress. While scripture and textual reasoning are at the heart of SR, I argue that the practice is most effective when discussions go beyond recitations of doctrine and tap into the lived experience of the participants, engaging them in both mind and body. This research draws on empirical data gathered from more than a dozen SR events in northwest, central, and east London. Looking at the practice of SR through the lens of lived experience highlights areas of tension and ambiguity that may be problematic and disruptive to the goals of SR but can, at the same time, hold creative potential that might ultimately enhance the SR experience. Issues of presence and embodiment, authenticity, and authority emerge as essential to the processes of world-making and boundary-crossing that represent both the risk and the promise of SR as lived experience.
This article explores the attitudinal and ideological underpinning of the Christian conversion of a society in northeastern India. It is a modest attempt to demonstrate that the methods of conversion employed by the missionary Rev. William Pettigrew reflected one significant conventional western missionary approach that was grounded in an evolutionary understanding of social change and progress. Yet, for all of Pettigrew’s contempt towards the native society, this article asserts that a fundamental compatibility between the pre-existing and the new religious patterns laid the groundwork for the successful implantation of the Christian tradition among the Tangkhul Naga tribe.
In recent years, sport has grown exponentially as a major economic force in the UK, and historically speaking has flourished in both faith-based and secular environments. Building on the “muscular Christian” pedigree of British Victorian society, the sport-faith interface has gained increasing momentum over the past three decades. Yet, despite these developments, to date, there has been relatively little empirical research carried out on the nature and effectiveness of sports ministry (including sports chaplaincy) organizations in the UK and the challenges which they face. Even less attention has been paid to the role of sports ministry within the Church of England. This small-scale study examines the factors affecting the growth of sports ministry within the context of one Church of England diocese. Utilizing evidence from focus group discussions with key stakeholders, findings demonstrate that external perceptions, resource implications, and communication strategies all impacted the advancement of sports ministry provision across the geographical region concerned. Research participants believed that the sport-faith relationship had the potential to enhance the attractiveness of church but that long-standing assumptions concerning the “spiritual value” of the sporting endeavor still held sway. The article concludes by suggesting that whilst sports ministry provision is heavily dependent both on organizational and individual resourcing, such activity has the potential to facilitate the emergence of new worshipping communities.
Today, freedom is often seen as a negative quality, relieved of constraints and unhitched from morality. This libertarian concept of freedom clashes with more positive notions of freedom as “power to do good,” found in classical philosophy and in traditional religions. We note resonances between the author’s Catholic position and concepts of freedom proposed by Aristotle and by ancient and modern Jewish writers who argue that true freedom is not amoral, but is inseparable from justice and from private and civic virtue. While oppressive or inappropriate constraints can obviously damage our freedom, well-chosen constraints can enhance it, and are necessary for a fair and humane society. We consider firstly some basic philosophical notions of freedom and, in general terms, their practical consequences; secondly the implications for our economies and societies of how freedom is understood and practiced; finally, some considerations on what a positive and moral concept of freedom implies for political issues and public policy.