Studies in World Christianity, Issue 26.3

The COVID-19 Pandemic and World Christianity

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic will, for generations to come, constitute a point of reference for many endeavours, issues and social institutions, including religion. Some of the most public responses to the pandemic have been of a religious nature. The pandemic has also obviously affected our understanding of world Christianity and its contextual expressions and responses, especially in the face of the enigma of evil. Historically speaking, the pandemic has permanently inserted itself into how the Christian life is lived and expressed. It struck at a time on the Christian calendar when Christians worldwide were preparing to celebrate the major landmarks of the faith – Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost.

In non-Western contexts in particular, these historical Christian events occasion major celebrations in various church activities with some of them culminating in social gatherings in the holidays associated with the Crucifixion and the Resurrection in particular. In some parts of Europe where traditional church services are no longer the norm, the Monday after Pentecost is a public holiday. Whether these Christian landmarks were to be celebrated in religious services, Masses or as social gatherings, the coronavirus ensured that in-person meetings had to be aborted. In many cases, media technology of various sorts came to the rescue as churches and their leaders looked for innovative ways in which to stay in touch with the faithful.

We have dedicated this and the next issues of Studies in World Christianity to the study of how select Christian churches and communities from different continental contexts responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly regarding church services. Religion is itself a mediated phenomenon, and modern media technology has evolved as a major means of religious practice. In virtually all the studies relating to the church and the coronavirus scourge, media technology had to play a critical role in religious mediation and communion. The spread of COVID-19 led to the cancellation of events, negatively affected economics, disrupted political and social life and, most importantly for our purposes, religious life as well. When such negativities strike in terms of affliction, people search for answers. The Christian religious context, on account of its promises of salvation and deliverance from evil, became one of the main sources of appeal as people sought to make sense out of the pandemic situation.

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Between Christianity and Judaism?: The Rise of ‘Judaising Evangelicalism’ in Brazil

Manoela Carpenedo is associate lecturer in religious studies at the University of Kent and an affiliated researcher at the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge. The following is a summary of some of her doctoral research at Cambridge, which she presented at the Centre for the Study of World Christianity’s weekly research seminar. We present it here as an example of ethnographic research in our ongoing discussion of methods in world Christianity begun with Jason Bruner’s post on 30 January 2018.

Manoela Carpenedo discusses her research on Judaising Evangelicals in Brazil at the CSWC’s research seminar on 23 January 2018.

Ritual borrowing and appropriation of Jewish religious tenets by Christians is not something new. On the contrary, it constitutes the very basis of Christian tradition itself. Yet, the current appropriation of Jewish narratives, rituals and even political anxieties by Christians is gaining more and more relevance in the religious and socio-political landscape. Continue reading

Billy Graham (1918–2018): Prophet of World Christianity?

Billy Graham in 1966. (Photo by Warren K. Leffler, U.S. News & World Report Magazine Collection, Library of Congress)

Most of the notices and obituaries of Billy Graham, who died on 21 February 2018, have focused on his significance for Christianity in the United States. Dubbed ‘America’s pastor’ by President George H. W. Bush in 2007, Graham seemed to be the quintessential American preacher – handsome, dapper, eloquent, uncompromising in his presentation of the gospel, and apparently quite untroubled by modern questions about the reliability of the Bible. He was on first-name terms with a string of American presidents from Eisenhower to Obama. He was also a typical product of the Bible belt in the American south. At first he accepted racial segregation, even in Christian meetings, as a fact of life and his relationship with the civil rights movement – notably with Martin Luther King – was at times a fractious one. Continue reading