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1. The drums of worship

Drums have been called “God’s heartbeat” by worshippers, and they’re an integral part of the religions of cultures all over the world. But, with the exception of contemporary praise bands, they have not been widely used by American Christian congregations.

That’s changing. Fifty-eight percent of congregations that always or almost always use drums in worship grew larger in recent years, according to a Hartford Seminary Faith Communities Today survey. And 93 percent of the largest Christian churches use drums in some way. Today, African, Brazilian, Indian and Korean drums have become frequent aspects of worship services in a range of denominations, from Catholic to Congregational, evangelical to Unitarian. The phenomenon isn’t restricted to Christians, either. Many Jewish congregations, especially in the Reform and Renewal movements, have incorporated drums and drum circles in worship.

Why are drums so popular? Some trace the trend to Robert Bly’s Iron John movement of the 1980s, which incorporated drum circles. Others say it is an attempt to bring a more masculine feel to worship and draw more men. Some cite the influence of missionaries returning from Africa and South America, where drums are an integral part of worship – another influence of the Global South on world Christianity.

Journalists can explore the different facets of this trend by looking at how local congregations are using drums. What do drums add to worship services? Who plays them? What kinds are used? What congregations use them? How do worshippers learn to use them?

Sources

  • Bruce Adolph

    Bruce Adolph is the publisher of Christian Musician Magazine and Worship Musician! Magazine and produces the Christian Musician Summit conferences. He can discuss the role of drums in contemporary Christian worship. He is based in Puyallup, Washington.

  • Marc Anderson

    Marc Anderson has a DVD/CD titled Drums in the Church: A Practical Guide for Percussion in Christian Worship. He teaches workshops and classes and is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

  • Donna Marie Beck

    Sister Donna Marie Beck is professor emerita and former director of music therapy at the Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa. She is also a Catholic nun and the facilitator of a healing community drum circle.

  • Terl Bryant

    Terl Bryant is a drummer and author of A Heart to Drum, published in 2006. He lives in Great Britain.

  • Drummers for Jesus

    Drummers for Jesus is an international Christian ministry that spreads the gospel through drums. The ministry is based in Rockwall, Texas, and has a list of chapters throughout the U.S.

  • Jan Gregory

    Jan Gregory was an adjunct professor of liturgy, worship and spirituality at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn., where she taught a course in drumming and worship.

  • Adair T. Lummis

    Adair T. Lummis is a religion sociologist and a faculty associate in research at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. Her research focuses on denominational policies; gender, spirituality and leadership in communities of faith; and clergy concerns. Her books include, as co-author, Clergy Women: An Uphill Calling.

  • Rayzel Raphael

    Rabbi Rayzel Raphael leads drum circles in Philadelphia.

  • Patricia Telesco

    Patricia Telesco is the co-author of Sacred Beat: From the Heart of the Drum Circle. She has been participating in drum circles for many years and lives in Amhearst, N.Y. Contact via Bonni Hamilton, director of publicity for Red Wheel/Weiser.

Drumming congregations

Background

2. Taking 'sin' out of the cinema

Summertime is synonymous with fun and frolicking and, of course, blockbuster movies. Somehow spirituality doesn’t seem to fit into that equation. But amid all the skin, sin and car chases and explosions galore, a number of summer films demonstrate a thesis that experts and entrepreneurs have been arguing for years: Movies are seedbeds of spiritual themes, sometimes overt, usually subtle, but almost always profitable. Below is a list of popular films since 2003 that convey spiritual messages. What films do the same this?

  • The Lord of the Rings film (2003) is analyzed for Christian themes related to the author’s religious affiliation.
  • Read a “Critical Reflection on Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ”  about its religious themes.
  • Kingdom of Heaven‘s plot was based around a French blacksmith’s crusade to Jerusalem and his battle with Muslim leader Saladin.
  • The Da Vinci Code was highly debated after its premiere in 2006 for its grey line between religious, historical fact and fiction.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was Harry’s latest battle against the forces of darkness – and resuscitated all the debates about witchcraft and kids and whether Harry is a role model or a danger.
  • Read about the religious themes and symbolism in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008).
  • Inglorious Bastards (2009) follows a group of Jewish-American commandos sent behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France.
  • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, premiered in 2010, portrays themes sexuality, gender, salvation and eternal life.
  • The Adjustment Bureau (2011) is based on the idea of a higher plan and free will.
  • The Hunger Games (2012) was said to have gone through great lengths to omit religion or religious themes from the plot. Were producers successful in doing so?

3. The church of baseball

There’s no mistaking the passion baseball incites in many Americans. But for some fans the lure of baseball goes way beyond pennant drives and box scores; they have almost a mystical attachment to the rituals, the legends, the perceived deeper meaning of the game.

Some have called baseball a “civic religion,” and for some folks it comes close to a religion of sorts. Baseball stadiums and fantasy leagues gather the faithful together. Folks have written essays and books about the great mythical characters of the game and about what baseball tells us about life and character; some make annual pilgrimages to spring training camps. One pastor-blogger riffed in 2012 about how “baseball, the greatest sport IN THE WORLD, would be the sport of choice had Jesus had the opportunity to sign up for T-ball.” And, as Annie told the world in the movie Bull Durham: “There’s 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there’s 108 stitches in a baseball.”

Articles

  • “Rockies faithful share a day of faith at Coors Field”

    Some baseball teams – including the Colorado Rockies and Atlanta Braves – have held “Faith Days,” in which players share their Christian faith with fans after the final out. It’s optional – fans buy a separate ticket for the “Faith Day” event after the game. But post-game Christian fellowship has become a big money-maker in the minor leagues.

  • “In Baseball Now, More Teams Pray Before They Play”

    Prayer services and talk of religious values are common on some teams. Read a Sept. 18, 2005, Washington Post story about a ministry called Baseball Chapel and the practice of players praying before games.

Sources

  • Christopher H. Evans

    Christopher H. Evans is professor of history of Christianity and Methodist studies at Boston University School of Theology. He is co-editor of The Faith of 50 Million: Baseball, Religion and American Culture, a collection of essays on religious motifs in baseball.

  • Allen E. Hye

    Allen E. Hye is the author of The Great God Baseball: Religion in Modern Baseball Fiction (Mercer University Press, 2004). He was a professor of Danish and German at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and the Popular Culture Association.

  • Joseph L. Price

    Joseph L. Price is a professor of religious studies at Whittier College in Whittier, Calif. He wrote the article “Religion and American Popular Culture” for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (1996) and has taught a course on religion and film. He is the author of the 2006 book Rounding the Bases: Baseball and Religion in America and editor of From Season to Season: Sports as American Religion, a collection of 14 essays, six of which Price wrote. They include “The Super Bowl as Religious Festival” and “The Final Four as Final Judgment: The Religious and Cultural Significance of the NCAA Basketball Championship.”

  • There’s a market for baseball-related religious toys. Check out the “Jesus Is My Coach” baseball action figure or the Bible Baseball board game available from Catholicsupply.com.

4. Faith and fitness

Some fitness gurus use faith to inspire people to get out on the hiking and biking trails and into swimming pools and gyms. Several contemporary trends — faith, exercise and popular music — are intersecting as Christian fitness gurus remind followers that their bodies are temples of the spirit. Many of them cite research that links health, prayer and stress management and believe that spiritual motivation can inspire health changes that exercise alone can’t accomplish.

Some religious fitness gurus are repackaging fitness regimes with Eastern roots. Laurette Willis’ Praise Moves DVDs are one of several Christian alternatives to yoga, which has Hindu origins. The popular Billy Blanks, a Christian, offers the Taebo Believers Workout – Power Within. There’s also a Jewish version of Taebo called Chai-Bo, which, according to a website on the subject, originated in the Shanghai Jewish community before World War II. Former Northern Exposure TV star Janine Turner also has a Christian yoga DVD.

Journalists can look for religious groups with fitness programs or ask congregations whether they’re trying to replace the fat- and carbohydrate-laden traditional “church supper” and other meals with fresh, low-fat foods. Do local gyms get requests for music or classes that stress the faith side of fitness? (Christian Music Fitness sells Christian music to play while walking, power walking and doing aerobic activities.) Consider interviewing athletes and exercise enthusiasts who visit congregational fitness facilities. What do they say about the role faith plays in their workouts and accomplishments? Look for faith-based fitness in places outside congregations, too: Faith Gym, a nonprofit Christian fitness facility, opetates in Barberton, Ohio, in a former Methodist church building where the sanctuary serves as the main sanctuary.

Resources

  • A flurry of instructional and motivational DVDs, CDs and books tell Christians that their bodies and souls should both be treated as a treasured part of God’s creation. One of the most influential is fitness guru Donna Richardson Joyner’s 2007 DVD, Sweating in the Spirit, which showcases her faith by combining an aerobics routine with a live gospel music concert that includes vocalists Martha Munizzi, RiZen and Byron Cage.
  • The faith and fitness movement goes at least as far back as 1844, when the Young Men’s Christian Association was formed in London, England, incorporating exercise into an atmosphere of moral and physical hygiene for young urban male workers. Read a history of the Y on its website. Presbyterian minister Charlie W. Shedd has been credited with starting the faith and fitness movement in 1957, when he published his book Pray Your Weight Away.
  • In recent times, Dr. Kenneth Cooper, known as the father of the aerobic exercise movement, was among the first to articulate the connection between fitness and religion. In 1995 Cooper published Faith-Based Fitness: The Medical Program That Uses Spiritual Motivation to Achieve Maximum Health and Add Years to Your Life. Founder of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, Cooper told Faith and Fitness magazine, in an interview in the April-May 2007 issue, that complete fitness involves physical as well as spiritual fitness. Cooper urges church leaders to build more fitness facilities and to model healthful cooking at church dinners.
  • A Soma Review (“dedicated to dissecting the human soul”) article, “Faith-Based Fitness,” cites research that religious people are more likely to be overweight and posits that the reason is that they’re less dissatisfied with their lives and their bodies.

5. Green yoga: the new spiritual activism

Everything’s going green, and it shouldn’t be any surprise that yoga is, too. But the greening of yoga represents a powerful new wave in the popularity of the practice among Westerners, wedding environmental and spiritual activism. Yoga is the practice of physical and mental disciplines with roots in Hinduism and ancient India; it’s also regarded as a religious practice by Buddhists and Jains. More than 15 million Americans have embraced yoga, most often as a general mind-body-spirit exercise. It has also been borrowed by other religious traditions, inspiring classes in Christian yoga and Jewish yoga.

The green yoga movement is reclaiming the spiritual element of yoga by returning it to the moral and philosophical principles it was founded on. Green teachers say that yoga, since its beginnings, has involved nurturing an intimate connection to the natural world. The Vedas — the earliest scriptures in India, dating back 3,500 years — record praises to the Earth, water and nature, for example. By deepening practitioners’ spiritual connection to the Earth, the teachers say, yoga can inspire them to be more active in caring for it, no matter what their religion.

Environmentalism is the other major thrust in the green yoga movement. Yoga practice in itself has no impact on the environment, of course. But the people behind the green yoga movement became aware that the popularization of yoga has spawned products and practices that are anything but eco-friendly. Green yoga proponents encourage people to not only deepen their connection to the environment through practice but also to extend that appreciation to caring for the world by using products and encouraging policies that protect it. The Green Yoga Association, for example, began promoting the use of eco-friendly yoga mats six years ago after it learned that most were made with environmental toxins; now most companies that sell mats offer an eco-friendly version. The association also encourages teachers to “green” their yoga studios as a way of increasing practitioners’ environmental awareness, making them energy-efficient, using eco-friendly materials, reducing the number of paper handouts and encouraging transportation by bicycle or public transit.

The potential impact of the green yoga movement is large. Americans are spending $5.7 billion a year on yoga classes and products, according to Yoga Journal‘s Yoga in America study — an 87 percent increase over 2004. About 7 percent of Americans practice yoga, but 1 in 12 say they are interested in trying it – a tripling of interest over 2004. Almost half of practitioners said they started yoga as a way to improve their health.

Environmentalism has gained new momentum as concern about global warming has increased. Yoga practice has grown in popularity among stressed-out Westerners. And spiritual seeking is on the rise outside of religious institutions. The green yoga movement represents an influential new trend in yoga practice by knitting together environmentalism and spiritual activism. The resources below will lead you to teachers and studios that practice green yoga.

Resources

  • Georg Feuerstein

    Georg Feuerstein and his wife, Brenda, are the authors of Green Yoga. He studies philosophy and history and authored over 30 books on mysticism, Yoga, Tantra, and Hinduism. Georg created several learning courses made available through Traditional Yoga Studies, his wife’s Canadian educational company.

  • Green Yoga Association

    The Green Yoga Association is a network of yoga practitioners, teachers and businesses who believe that taking care of the planet is essential to yoga practice. It’s based in Emeryville, Calif. It posts a directory of more than 100 “green” yoga studios and teachers all over the country.

    Contact: 888-659-7925.
  • “Yoga in America Study”

    Read a Yoga Journal story reporting the results of its Yoga in America survey.

  • “The Greening of Yoga”

    Read a May 2005 LA Yoga Magazine story on the greening of yoga.

  • Swasti Bhattacharyya

    Swasti Bhattacharyya is associate professor of philosophy and religion at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. She specializes in environmental ethics, comparative religious ethics, peace studies, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, ancient Judaism and early Christianity.

    She was a speaker at the 2009 green yoga conference.

  • Christopher Key Chapple

    Christopher Key Chapple is a professor of Indic and Comparative Theology in the Department of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. His research has focused on the renouncer religious traditions of India including Yoga, Jainism, and Buddhism. He has written about nonviolence toward animals in the Asian traditions.

    Chapple is a member of the Green Yoga Association and a teacher of green yoga. He is the author of Yoga and the Luminous: Patanjali’s Spiritual Path to Freedom (2009).

6. Book 'em: the faith pages

Whether you’re headed to the beach, airport, cabin or only a backyard lounge chair, the long days of summer bring vacation time to relax, catch up and dive into the pages of a book. Books about religious or spiritual subjects continue to draw readers looking for answers, advice, consolation and fictional escape. These books were in readers’ hands in the summer of 2007. What religious books are people reading today?

Book pulpit: A handful of megachurch pastors, such as Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, sell millions of books. A bestselling example of the book as pulpit is Reposition Yourself: Living Life Without Limits by T.D. Jakes. Pastor of the 30,000 member The Potter’s House in Dallas, Jakes’ gospel is a blend of salvation and self-improvement.

Jesus and Buddha: When a high-profile author offers a portrait of a major religious leader, the result is an easy bestseller. That was the case with two very different books by two very different people. Jesus of Nazareth, released in May 2007, was the first book Joseph Ratzinger wrote as pope. Jesus has long been a popular subject for scholars and authors, and the pope’s book intended to correct popular misperceptions. Published at the same time, spirituality pioneer Deepak Chopra wrote Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment, a novelized version of the early life of the Buddha. Despite their differences, the two books are comparable in their interest in making accessible to a wide audience the central figure of a long-established religious tradition.

Getting up to speed on Islam: The wave of publishing about Islam continues as writers from a wide variety of perspectives share their analyses and/or life experiences. Bestselling titles include:

  • Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali;
  • No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan;
  • Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil by Deborah Rodriguez and Kristin Ohlson;
  • Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future by Joel Rosenberg;
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

Because the authors vary widely in their views of the relationship between Islamic and Western cultures, Muslims will differ in their assessments of these books. What do local Muslims say about recent books dealing with their faith? Are local congregations or interfaith groups using currently popular books for study? What do local religion scholars say about the current bestselling books on Islam? An April 2013 poll found that 41 percent of Americans said they haven’t heard enough or are unsure about their impression of Islam. Do popular books help change that, or has the new diversity of books about the faith complicated the task of understanding Islam?

Fiction: From mystical to inspirational, fiction can look at religious and spiritual themes more obliquely. Novels are most likely to be vacation reads. Some titles: Ever After by Karen Kingsbury; The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho; The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon; Kingdom Come: The Final Victory (Left Behind #13) by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Check with local retailers and book clubs.

7. Food for thought

In Islam, food is considered one of God’s greatest blessings. In fact, most religious rituals, no matter what the faith, seem to involve food. When faith communities gather for festivals or dinners, it’s a good time to look at how food contributes meaning to faith and practice. Whether it’s Aunt Dora’s casserole or Grandma’s tamales, the food of faith says a lot about a community. As faith communities become more diverse and many cities have a wider array of religions, food is a good gateway for explaining new and changing traditions.

Resources

  • Visit eBay.com to get an idea of the range of church cookbooks sought by collectors.
  • The International Vegetarian Union

    The International Vegetarian Union is a global network of independent organizations that promote vegetarianism worldwide by educating people on the history, prevalence and religious influences of vegetarianism.

    Vegetarianism has long been associated with different religions. The International Vegetarian Union has a website on religion and vegetarianism.

  • Jenna Weissman-Joselit

    Jenna Weissman-Joselit, a visiting professor of Jewish History at Princeton University. She studies closely the relationship between the material culture and personal identity. She has authored a number of books, including The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture, 1880-1950 (Henry Colt, 1994) which received the National Jewish Book Award in History, and A Perfect Fit: Clothes, Character, and the Promise of America (Henry Holt, 2001).

    She gave at talk on “Jewish in Dishes: Food, Faith, and Community in Modern America” at a 2002 symposium on Food and Judaism.

  • Charles Wallace

    Charles Wallace is a chaplain and retired professor of religious studies at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

    Wallace taught a course called Soul Food: Eating and Drinking in Western Religion at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Read a syllabus.

7. Summer camps: a window on religious diversity

Sure, there have always been religious summer camps, and there always will be. And sure, they’ve increased in variety in recent years. Why write about them this summer? Consider this:

  • The variety of spiritual summer camps hasn’t just increased; it’s blossomed into a rich reflection of the religious diversity of America. What’s more, the number of camps for religious minorities is increasing, making them more accessible to youths in more parts of the country. There are now camps for Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs, as well as Christians and Jews. There are interfaith camps, too. And there are camps for some of the smaller religious groups in North America, including Jains and Bahá’is. And not only are there camps for all the different traditions of the major faiths, there are also camps for niche groups, such as Christian homeschoolers or Christians with disabilities. There are also a growing number of camps for atheists and agnostics, as well as pagans. And then there are specialty camps that combine faith with an activity, such as Catholic soccer camps — featuring Catholic spirituality and coaches from Italy.
  • Camps also cater to the rising number of “nones,” or people who claim no formal religious affiliation. Most nones — a group that makes up about 15 percent of the population — say they have spiritual beliefs. Omega’s teen camp focuses on integrating “mind, body and spirit” and features a sweat lodge. The Association for Research and Enlightenment Virginia Beach, which teaches holistic health, personal spirituality and reincarnation, has camps that include dream interpretation and meditation.
  • There are a wide variety of nonreligious camps focused on issues in which spiritual people are often engaged. Consider that research has shown that even camps that don’t have a particular spiritual mission still increase spirituality in children: A 2007 American Camp Association study found parents notice a statistically significant increase in children’s spirituality levels after attending camp – and even six months later – even though campers themselves were less likely to report spiritual growth. Camps that teach sustainable living and environmentalism are gaining in popularity, for example. There are camps that teach conflict resolution. And there are camps focused on practices that, for some, have a spiritual element, such as yoga (favorite name: the Budding Yogis Camp), mindfulness and drumming.
  • Religious summer camps are sometimes places where contentious national issues are explored with youth. The intelligent design-evolution battle has spawned camps. In 2006, the Christian Camp and Conference Association reported that half its camps have science programs about God’s creation, while the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Fresno, Calif., sponsors an “Under the Stars” camp every other year to teach about evolution. (See a July 12, 2006, Newsweek story.) And the tensions in the Middle East are often explored through interfaith camps, where Jews, Muslims and Christians can gain understanding of each other’s views and experiences.

To find camps, talk to youth leaders and to members of religious and cultural communities in your area. To find examples of all the kinds of camps mentioned above, simply Google a key word (such as “interfaith” or “mindfulness”) and “summer camp.”

Resources

  • Karen-Marie Yust

    Karen-Marie Yust is an associate professor of Christian education at Union Theological Seminary-Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Va. She is a minister in both the United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ denominations and is the author of Real Kids, Real Faith: Practices for Nurturing Children’s Spiritual Lives.

    She directed the Lilly Endowment’s Indiana Camp Ministries Enhancement Program and has written and spoken about the importance of religious camps in nurturing children’s spiritual life.

  • Bob Ditter

    Bob Ditter is a therapist and author who specializes in working with youth and their families. He is a consultant for the American Camping Association and has worked with summer camps since 1982.

    In 2007, he gave a talk at the ACA’s national conference about how camps can nurture spiritual development in children and youth.

    Contact: 617-438-3020.

9. Teens turn to volunteering

The Great Recession has made summer a terrible time for teen employment. That means more teens — eager to pad résumés, lacking money for movies and shopping, bored, or simply interested in meaningful service — are likely to turn to volunteering. Experts say the current generation of teens has already shown more passion for volunteering than others in the recent past.

In summer 2008, teen employment reached a 60-year low in the United States. Just a third of 16- to 19-year-olds held jobs, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University — down from 45 percent in 2000. But what some call a crisis in the teen job market may turn out to be a great opportunity in the world of volunteerism. Studies show that people who develop the habit of volunteering early in life are more likely to continue and expand their volunteerism as they age. And as the struggling economy saps the finances of nonprofits, teen volunteers may play critical roles in organizations with downsized staffs.

Much of the benefit is likely to be seen by religious organizations, which are the most popular organizations for volunteers, followed by educational and youth service organizations. And many studies have shown that people of all faiths say their religious beliefs motivate them to volunteer.

The 2009 economic stimulus package may also help stir do-gooderism among teens and young adults. It provides $1.2 billion for youth activities, including the creation of 1 million summer jobs to run them. That money is being distributed to states, where it’s trickling down to counties and local programs. The stimulus plan also provides $201 million for AmeriCorps, which pays people 17 and older to work part- or full-time at nonprofits for 10 or 12 months.

Summer offers a great opportunity to report on teen volunteering, a topic that rarely receives attention beyond stories on individuals or individual programs. The resources below offer national experts and studies to help put local teens’ experience in the context of larger trends.

Resources

  • Nancy Macduff

    Nancy Macduff is a volunteer trainer, manager and author who publishes the online newsletter Volunteer Today.  She’s based in Walla Walla, Wash.

    See statistics that the newsletter posted from a study that found that more than two-thirds of adult volunteers also volunteered as a youth and 60 percent were involved in a religious organization as a youth.

  • Marcy Fink Campos

    Marcy Fink Campos is director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service at American University in Washington, D.C. The center supports student volunteerism that ranges from structured one-day projects to multi-year initiatives that lead to the development of independent nonprofit organizations.

  • Roger Nozaki

    Roger Nozaki is associate dean of the college and director of the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University in Providence, R.I. The center develops programs to strengthen leadership skills and provide direct service; connect community-based work with learning; and build partnerships with local, national and international communities.

  • Sarah Jane Rehnborg

    Sarah Jane Rehnborg is interim director of the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. The center seeks to build a more caring society through initiatives in philanthropy and volunteerism.

  • Alexander W. Astin

    Alexander W. Astin is professor of Higher Education Emeritus at the University of California. He is a co-principal investigator of “Spirituality in Higher Education: A National Study of College Students’ Search for Meaning and Purpose,” an ongoing study by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles.

  • Jennifer Shiner

    Jennifer Shiner is director of the Youth Philanthropy and Service program at the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The program promotes leadership and involvement by youth in the giving of time, money and talent to their community.

  • Julie Chavez Rodriguez

    Julie Chavez Rodriguez is is the Associate Director of Latino Affairs and Immigration for the Office of Public Engagement at the White House. She is also programs director at the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization that works to engage youth to live out the values of her grandfather, Cesar E. Chavez. A lifelong volunteer, she is a fellow in the National Service-Learning Emerging Leaders Initiative and serves on the National Youth Leadership Council.

  • James Youniss

    James Youniss is Wylma R. & James R. Curtin Professor of Psychology at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Youniss has studied teens’ engagement in community service and politics.

  • Michelle Nunn

    Michelle Nunn is president and CEO of the Points of Light Institute, which mobilizes millions of volunteers to help solve social problems in thousands of communities.

  • “Love Thy Neighbor: The Role of Faith in Volunteer Motivation”

    “Love Thy Neighbor: The Role of Faith in Volunteer Motivation,” a study by the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, found a very high correlation between religiosity and volunteer service.

  • “Building Active Citizens: The Role of Social Institutions in Teen Volunteering”

    “Building Active Citizens: The Role of Social Institutions in Teen Volunteering” is a study by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Based on 2004 data, it found that 55 percent of teens volunteered through a formal organization that year.

  • “OMG! How Generation Y is Redefining Faith in the iPod Era”

    This 2004 survey of almost 1,400 youth ages 18 to 25 that included Christian, Muslim, Jewish youth and a mix of races and ethnicities – explored attitudes about faith, politics and volunteer service. It found a “strong and intimate” connection between religious faith and volunteerism. 56 percent of those surveyed volunteered in their community in the previous year, but only 14 percent did so regularly. The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

  • “Overview Statistics: Volunteering and Civic Life in America”

    The 2011 Volunteering in America study details volunteering trends nationally and provides data by state and city. It includes information about college students.

  • “The Historically Low Summer and Year Round 2008 Teen Employment Rate”

    See “The Historically Low Summer and Year Round 2008 Teen Employment Rate,” a September 2008 study by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

  • CIRCLE

    CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., conducts research on the civic and political engagement of Americans between the ages of 15 and 25. It posts research on its Web site.

10. Hey Good Lookin': the spiritual side of beauty

In art, the divine is almost always represented by great physical beauty. The fact that most religions teach that true beauty is on the inside is apparently cold comfort to the millions of women who diet, have plastic surgery and Botox injections, or pour themselves into skimpy summer clothes. In a culture obsessed with physical appearances, does spiritual and religious teaching have any impact on perceptions of beauty? How do women view the connection between spirituality and beauty, if at all? Do people perceive that those who are good-looking are more spiritual and those who are less attractive are less spiritual? What do women say could change their perception of what makes them beautiful?

Resources

  • Lilian Calles Barger

    Lilian Calles Barger is an independent historian and the author of Eve’s Revenge: Women and a Spirituality of the Body, an examination of women’s relationships with their bodies and how that affects their Christianity. Contact via her website.

  • Richard Viladesau

    Richard Viladesau is author of Theological Aesthetics: God in Imagination, Beauty and Art (Oxford University Press, 1999), in which he discusses how beauty can reveal the divine. He is a professor of theology at Fordham University, a Catholic institution in New York, N.Y.

  • Madeline Crabb

    Madeline Crabb is a Christian and self-proclaimed “modesty consultant” who believes that many Christian women need a dose of restraint in their appearance. Crabb is the author of Dressing to Please God: Clothing the Mind, Body, and Spirit, a Training Manual, which offers biblical guidelines for female fashion and personal care. She lives in Bloomington, Ind.

  • Sheron Patterson

    The Rev. Sheron Patterson is known for her books and her radio program, The Love Clinic. They focus on Christian relationships, particularly of African-American women. She is senior pastor of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Dallas.

  • “The Case Against ‘Youth-anasia'”

    Read an essay by beliefnet.com columnist Frederica Mathewes-Green about how cosmetic surgery can move people further away from the idea of being made in God’s image.

  • “Women in Judaism”

    Read an essay by Rebbetzin Feige Twerski, who is Jewish, about the relationship between beauty and God as expressed in the form of the human body.

  • What is Beautiful?

    Young children struggle with issues of beauty, too. Etan Boritzer’s book What is Beautiful? (Veronica Lane Books, 2002), aimed at children ages 4 to 10, explores religious and physical aspects of beauty by emphasizing “the inside stuff.”

    Contact: 310-315-9502.
  • R. Marie Griffith

    R. Marie Griffith is director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis and associate professor of religion at Princeton University in New Jersey. She has written on women in charismatic and Pentecostal movements.

    She is author of Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity (University of California Press, October 2004), an investigation into Christian fitness and diet culture

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