Is religious diversity good for business?
Imagining post-pandemic changes for congregations

Will this renewed interest in religion persist?

Name a national or global crisis, from wars to pandemics, and one of the results -- however short-lived -- is likely to be an upsurge in participation or reliance on religion.

Religions-of-the-worldRemember how full houses of worship were right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks? It didn't last, but there was a definite surge.

There's already anecdotal evidence of a similar upswing in this COVID-19 pandemic, and in this First Things piece, translator and journalist Filip Mazurczak, writing from Poland, expresses at least cautious hope that the current renewed interest in God and religion, if it's real, will last.

He says that "there are some preliminary reasons to hope that this trying time will cause more people to reflect on their relationship with God, even if that religious revival is limited and uneven."

This may remind you of that old but untrue cliche that there are no atheists in foxholes.

But even if this current semi-surge in interest in religion doesn't last long, this pandemic has given all of us another opportunity to assess how we live our lives and whether, once we're past the crisis, we want to try to make some permanent changes. Will those of us who have taken lots of walks in this time continue that healthful practice? Will we simply get outdoors more? Will we take advantage of the opportunity to be part of a live congregation at worship now that we have experienced worship via Zoom or Facebook Live?

The point, of course, is that we shouldn't waste a good crisis. We have a chance to do some assessment and make some changes, whether in how we approach religious faith or in such matters as gathering with family members who don't live under our roof.

I'm pretty sure I'll spend whatever time I have left in life washing my hands more frequently and thoroughly. And even something that seemingly small can make a difference.

But well beyond that, this is a chance to think deeply again about whether we want to try more diligently to live by the Golden Rule or convert to Buddhism or become a vegan or join a gym or use your library card more often or volunteer your time at a charity or donate to a good cause.

I hate COVID-19 and long for its banishment from the Earth. But I am grateful for another chance to think through what's really important in and about life. I hope you are, too.

By the way, if you read the piece to which I linked you above, you may notice that the author doesn't understand the nature of news. He writes this: "When all is back to normal, the mainstream media will once again disproportionately focus attention on the minority of evil clerics and willfully ignore the many virtuous ones." News is what happens that is out of the ordinary. It's not news when clergy behave well. That's what's normal and what should be expected. It's news when they don't behave in moral ways. Similarly, count it a good thing when war and crime make news because war and crime are out of the ordinary.

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Almost every sentient adult in the U.S. has heard stories of Islamophobia. But a new book that I haven't yet had a chance to read (it won't be officially published until late May) provides more than anecdotal evidence of this foolish hatred. It's Outsiders at Home: The Politics of American Islamophobia, by Nazita Lajevardi. In an interview with RNS, she said this about her work: "Anecdotal accounts of discrimination are not persuasive to lawmakers, to courts, to policymakers or to advocates. Without systematic evidence, we can’t trace whether these phenomena are actually occurring. By measuring discrimination empirically from a number of different perspectives and using a number of different methods, the book provides an account of discrimination that moves beyond anecdotes."

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P.S.: The last day of this year's SevenDays events will happen Monday evening on Zoom. It's a discussion of interfaith cooperation and understanding, and I will be a discussion leaders in one of the break-out sessions. It starts at 7:30 p.m. CDT at this Zoom address. Hope some of you can join us.


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