USC Dornsife College Of Letters Arts and Sciences

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Medicine, Masculinity and Marketing: Trends to Watch in Religion in 2019

Medicine, Masculinity and Marketing: Trends to Watch in Religion in 2019

May you find healing and happiness in 2019!

Medicine, Masculinity and Marketing: Trends to Watch in Religion in 2019

In the past year, we have seen our 2018 trends to watch come to fruition with stories of the supernatural, trust in institutions, activist healers, faith-based political organizing and women stepping up their leadership in the faith world (we might have had some insider knowledge on that last one—as our very own Najuma Smith-Pollard led this work in Los Angeles’ Black Church).

So we sat down again to come up with some snarky and some serious predictions for the coming year. As we look across the trends, we can see a new battle of the sexes developing in 2019. We start with marketers catching up with some of the trends we’ve identified in the past.

Museum of Jesus Opens as a Selfie Haven in Arts District Loft

You no longer need to go all the way to the Holy Land to walk where Jesus walked. At the Museum of Jesus, you can pose for a selfie as part of the Nativity, experience #instasalvation on the road to Damascus, and test your faith like Peter in the Sea of Galilee ball pit. And don’t forget to get a taste of heaven in the Cloud Nine cotton candy shop!

Our snarkiest prediction of 2019 contains a couple of real trends. The rise of pop-up “museums” reflects the pop-culture version of a trend we’ve pointed to in the world of religion—the desire for embodied experiences. But ultimately, the experiences are as shallow as the obligatory ball pit, designed for Instagram-worthy selfies rather than personal transformation.

Nevertheless, iVangelicals, as we named a certain “type” of evangelicals this past year in our guide to American evangelicalism, “excel at appropriating elements of the larger culture to provide a ‘relevant’ church atmosphere.” Indeed, we have seen more and more churches incorporate social media and selfie opportunities into their church experience, so we can expect a movie opening-like red carpet step-and-repeat with Jesus at a Christian pop-up museum to be the next iteration of that. Just get your tickets now, because it will only be open for 40 Days and 40 Nights.

Chief Transformation Officers and Radical Entrepreneurs Revive “Ancient” Medicine

Health in the US continues to decline, shortening life expectancy, and the mental health crisis continues to rise, leading to an increase in what many have dubbed “deaths of despair.” Due to a lack of trust in institutionalized religion and Western medicine, along with rising costs of healthcare, many are turning to a medicalized form of spirituality to cure what ails them, both in body and spirit. Whether your disease is chronic pain, depression, anxiety, headaches or social isolation, there is a cure and most likely a product or experience that can heal you. If 2018 was the year of the activist as healer, 2019 is the year of the entrepreneur as healer.

Do you need to cure your depression, and find your spiritual purpose? Try Soul Drops and explore micro-dosing psilocybin or LSD or cannabis with the help of your local fee-based shaman. Or do you need to overcome past trauma? Try DMT, often called the spirit molecule, and learn how to trip from classes led by a spiritual guide trained in Peru. Are you having trouble concentrating, want to improve oxygenation to the brain, increase libido and your serotonin level all while inspiring bliss? Try plant medicine like a cacao ceremony facilitated by chief transformation officers trained in the ancient art form by indigenous shamans.

Self-styled “radical” entrepreneurs are filling gaps in a crumbling healthcare system, marketing products by reinforcing their roots in a variety of cultural and religious contexts alongside laundry lists of medical and spiritual benefits, creating trends that are surprisingly enticing for those who are not finding institutional or Western medical healing and support.

From spiritual haircuts, which balance your chakras and heal pain in your body, to snake massages and jade rolling, which “draws out negative energy and balances your chi” while firming your skin, social entrepreneurs are rebranding as healers, and there seems to be a new product emerging every day that promises to improve your health and spiritual connection. Keep your eyes open for trends that not only seek to align your purpose with your health, but also serve the dual purpose of empowering women, a submarket that we expect to grow as yoni eggs, orgasmic meditation and vaginal steaming increase in popularity.

Faith Leaders Fall Under #MeToo Pressure

The #MeToo movement has cast light on abuses of power, from a president who paid hush-money to a porn star and former Playboy model, to religious leaders facing allegations of sexual misconduct. We see 2019 being a year of accountability—or at least a test of the system’s ability to provide accountability.

In the male-dominated cultures of religion and spirituality, prominent individuals who have been accused of sexual violence come from all faiths, including Noah Levine, the founder of a growing secular meditation movement; Tariq Ramadan, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Oxford; and the late megachurch pastor Eddie Long. Even conservative evangelical scion Jerry Falwell, Jr., is receiving criticism for his coddling of a 21-year-old pool-boy whom he met while he was on vacation with his wife in Miami.

Declaring an end to patriarchy in either religion or politics is premature: The ascent of strong-man leaders in the US, Russia, India, Brazil, Turkey and elsewhere suggests that male authoritarians are here to stay, at least until their supporters grow impatient with hollow promises and shallow slogans.

Still, with the widespread success of women candidates in the 2018 midterms and the increasing prominence of women’s voices in discussions of sexism in religious institutions, there is some hope for change. We predict that 2019 will be the year of accountability—from the culmination of Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of corruption and collusion in the Executive Branch to new investigations into the Catholic Church’s cover-up of abuse by more than a dozen state Attorneys General.

Trust in institutions, both political and religious, is at an all-time low. That will not change until there’s an honest reckoning with the wages of unchecked abusive power and privilege, both in the pulpit and in the highest seats of government. Some institutions may not survive this reckoning, but others may become incubators for new, more transparent and democratic structures of authority and leadership.

The 2019 Word of Year: Masculinism

If recent gendered movements lead to an opportunity for accountability in 2019, then we can also expect 2019 to be the year that male organizers make noise. Though not new (Psychology Today published an article in 2010 using the term), we expect “masculinism” to be one of the words of the year. Masculinism is “the advocacy of the rights or needs of men and boy.” While there is not an identifiable organization for Masculinists more and more men are sharing similar thoughts and finding each other, largely through social media. even a newsletter called “The Masculinist.”

One figure in this informal movement is Canadian psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson, whom the New Yorker called “one of the most influential—and polarizing—public intellectuals in the English-speaking world.” He became a cultural icon among alt-right conservatives and libertarian males for criticizing a 2016 law protecting gender identity and expression. He now has 1.6 million subscribers on YouTube, a best-selling book, and speaks to sold-out halls on college campuses, appealing mostly to young, white males. He says he is defending masculinity and argues that the decline in religiosity has created a generation of listless young men (also an argument that has been around for a while–see the MMA at church trend).

Indeed, masculinism seem to have a particular appeal among Christian men, though unlike recent trends of young men joining white supremacist groups, the masculinist movement does not have racial boundaries. CRCC’s Najuma Smith-Pollard has spoken with a man active in the Black Church who proudly wears a masculinist T-shirt. Boys are being trained to be soft, and men are catching hell, he told her, referring to the rhetoric around sexual misconduct.

Look for new conversations and a backlash against the rise of women by increasingly vocal mens’ movements in both society and the church this coming year.

Religious Right Prepares Early for 2020

The 2018 election saw religiously unaffiliated voters mobilize to have a real impact on the results of the mid-term election. The allure of a growing population of religiously unaffiliated will continue to spark hot takes and op-eds about the declining power of religion in the United States, or religion’s fundamental remodeling.

With no major elections in 2019, however, episodic coalitions and other mobilizing efforts of an irreligious left are likely to dissipate. Meanwhile, look for consistently organized political groups—Trump-Vangelicals in particular—to use this year as an opportunity to get a leg up on the competition.

While the religious and political demography of the US is shifting, and that will mean fractured power and contestations of traditional redoubts of authority, it won’t mean the decline or the end of the power of organized religion. In fact, the continued decline in religious membership will have an inverse effect on its power. That’s because when people drop out of organized religion, they do not drop IN to anything in particular. The loose, highly individualized and private networks that attract the religiously unaffiliated cannot hold the attention of this group for longer than is personally useful for individuals in those movements. Thus, religions and any other group that can maintain high levels of regular participation to create and replicate social capital, even though they may be shrinking, will remain powerful. Read more about our angle on the leaner and arguably meaner evangelical church.