This week here during our endless Covid Season… and a first wonderful week with my new New Testament students at Northern.

What will the Virus do to online and on site worship attendance?

One-third of U.S. adults have watched religious services online or on television in the past month, and a little over half of them – or 18% of all adults – say they began doing this for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic. Of course, if you’re worshipping remotely, you can’t hug the other members of your congregation or shake hands with your minister, priest, rabbi or imam. But you can wear whatever clothes you want, turn up (or down) the volume, forget about traffic in the parking lot, and easily check out that service you’ve heard about in a congregation across town or even across the country.

Whatever the reasons, lots of people like virtual worship. Nine out of 10 Americans who have watched services online or on TV in the past month say they are either “very” satisfied (54%) or “somewhat” satisfied (37%) with the experience; just 8% say they are “not too” or “not at all” satisfied, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey conducted in mid-July.

So what does this bode for the future? By the time the COVID-19 pandemic has finally run its course, will Americans have lost the habit of going in person to a church, synagogue, temple or mosque? Some commentators have suggested that just as the pandemic has accelerated the trend toward shopping online and made Americans reliant on the internet for work, school, health and entertainment, so might many, if not all, varieties of religious experience move online in the 21st century.

But that’s not what the people who’ve been worshipping online see in their future. On the contrary, most U.S. adults overall say that when the pandemic is over, they expect to go back to attending religious services in person as often as they did before the coronavirus outbreak.

To be sure, a substantial share of Americans (43%) say they didn’t attend religious services in person before the pandemic struck and they don’t plan to start going to a church or other house of worship when it’s all over. But 42% of U.S. adults say they plan to resume going to religious services about as often as they did before the outbreak, while 10% say they will go more often than they used to, and just 5% anticipate going less often.

Similarly, a lot of Americans are not interested in virtual services: Two-thirds of U.S. adults say they have not watched religious services online or on TV in the past month. But of the one-third of U.S. adults who recently watched services online or on TV, relatively few (19% of this group, or 6% of all adults) say that once the pandemic is over, they intend to watch religious services more often than they did before it started.

Most online worshippers say that after COVID-19 has passed, they plan to revert to their pre-pandemic habits (18% of all adults) or watch online less often than they did before the outbreak (9%).

The forecast is even more striking if one looks just at regular attenders from pre-COVID times – the respondents who told us in a 2019 survey that they went to services at least once or twice a month. Of those congregational stalwarts, 92% expect that when the pandemic is fully behind us, they will attend physical services at least as often as they did in the past. This includes 10% who say they will also watch online or on TV more than in the past.

Rescuing children:

ATLANTA – The U.S. Marshals Service worked with local authorities to rescue 26 missing children and ensure the safe location of 13 others during a two-week operation in Georgia, according to a news release Thursday.

Authorities arrested nine people, many of whom had multiple arrest warrants for charges including sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations, drugs and weapons possession.

“The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you,” said Director of the Marshals Service Donald Washington.

The rescued children were considered to be “some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area, based on indications of high-risk factors such as victimization of child sex trafficking, child exploitation, sexual abuse, physical abuse and medical or mental health conditions,” according to the release.

The youngest child was reportedly just 3 years old, and, while many had been gone for several weeks, one was missing for two years before being rescued.

The U.S. Marshals Service Missing Child Unit worked with the agency’s Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and several state and local agencies to carry out the operation.

“When we track down fugitives, it’s a good feeling to know that we’re putting the bad guy behind bars. But that sense of accomplishment is nothing compared to finding a missing child,” said Darby Kirby, chief of the Missing Child Unit. “It’s hard to put into words what we feel when we rescue a missing child, but I can tell you that this operation has impacted every single one of us out here. We are working to protect them and get them the help they need.”

Bloviating, that describes how most participate in politics.

The absence of men at the grassroots organizing meeting was curious to me because, especially on my social media feeds, I see men talking about politics—a lot. Indeed, research indicates that men are more likely than women to describe themselves as interested in politics, a topic discussed by Eitan Hersh, a political scientist at Tufts and author of Politics is for Power. For example, from 1960 until 2008, the American National Election Study found that men were over 30% more likely than women to describe themselves as being interested in politics.

As Hersh argued, men tend pursue their interest in politics in distinctive ways—specifically, as a type of hobby. For example, men tend to know more political facts than women do, and they’re likelier to engage in politics primarily by chatting about the latest polls and trying to score points in arguments with strangers on Facebook. By practicing this “political hobbyism,” they treat politics as a sport and engage in these behaviors primarily to fulfill their “emotional needs and intellectual curiosities,” rather than to address the immediate needs of their communities. According to Hersh, the people who tend to be political hobbyists are people like himself: college-educated, liberal, white men.

Women do politics differently. For one, women vote more. For example, the Pew Research Center recently reported that in presidential elections since 1980, women have turned out to vote more than men, with the gender gap in voting widening over the years. In 2016, for example, 63% of women voted, compared to 59% of men. The same pattern holds for midterm elections. In 2018, the Pew Research Center found that 55% of women voted, compared to 51.8% of men. Women have turned out to vote at higher rates than men for the last five midterm elections since 1998.

Women also volunteer more. Hersh cited one study that found that, of the people who reported spending two hours a day on politics without doing any type of volunteering, 56% were men. In contrast, of the people whose daily two hours of politics involved some sort of volunteering, 66% were women. Many of the most prominent grassroots organizations that emerged in the aftermath of the 2016 election were powered by women.

Women not only volunteer more, but they often do the work that is the most difficult and impactful. In his book, Hersh featured the stories of several people who rejected political hobbyism and chose, instead, to dedicate their time to labor-intensive activities such as deep canvassing and grassroots organizing. In these efforts, women were critical. At one meeting of Changing the Conversation Together—an organization that facilitates transformative, in-depth, face-to-face conversations with voters—Hersh observed that about two-thirds of the volunteers were women.

Ultimately, Hersh found that men and women revealed striking differences in political participation. “Participation could just take the form of bloviating about political news online, in the case of men,” he wrote, “or it could be organizing neighbors to vote, in the case of women.”

Anthony Bradley is not bloviating but carefully sorting things out into a new set of categories:

For many years, researchers have pondered the growing absence of men in conservative Protestant churches, especially evangelical churches. In fact, losing men has been a problem for Christian denominations since the late 19th century, which ushered in the era of “muscular Christianity” as a way to win men back to the church. During the early 20th-century, church leaders had deep concerns about the ways in which church life was skewing primarily towards the interests and concerns of women and the ways in which urban life began to redefine men’s roles in society.

Men were falling away from church life. As sedentary life was becoming an industrial revolution norm, due to advances in technology and improving economic mobility, religious leaders introduced sports, fitness, adventure, and social justice as way to reconnect boys and men to the church. This explains the partnering of church life with the YMCA, the Boy Scouts, outdoor camps, and enlisting men in the Social Gospel Movement. As Clifford Putney explains in his book, Muscular Christianity, by 1899 women comprised three-quarters of Protestant church membership and nine-tenths of its attendance. Recent studies on gender disparities in American churches report that women regularly attend church more than men at 61 to 55 percent, respectively.

Over the past twenty years, much ink has been spilled raising alarms about the “feminization of the church” in evangelical circles as a way to explain the absence of men. Women naturally balk at these accusations because it is hard to conceptualize a feminized church when most, if not all, of the leaders are men. I believe this discrepancy makes sense because we have not been using the tools of human anthropology to analyze our society. Evangelical churches are actually not patriarchal, even with mostly male leaders. Nor are they feminized. They do not emasculate men in order to appeal to women’s sensibilities or desires. “Feminized” is the wrong word to describe the sermon content, music styles, programs, décor, and the like of many evangelical churches. The study of human anthropology provides another possibility: Evangelical churches are, in fact, matrilineal.

Chicago’s neighboorhood teens getting it done:

AUSTIN — There’s a new place in Austin to buy fresh produce.

The Austin Harvest food mart pop-up was brought to life by neighborhood teens who recognized the food scarcity in the area and decided to take matters into their own hands. The market held a soft opening Wednesday where the teens offered produce, fresh-cut flowers and refreshments.

The market will officially launch Monday and run for 12 weeks. It will be open 3-6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the site of a former liquor store, 423 N. Laramie Ave.

The project was funded by former Chicago Bears linebacker Sam Acho and other Chicago athletes, as well as By the Hand Kids Club. But it was the teens themselves who envisioned the food mart and brought the idea to fruition.

Young West Siders had their hands in every part of development, from designing the space to crafting a business plan to managing the pop-up.

“We’ve been behind the scenes completely, as well,” said Azariah Baker, one of the teens who created Austin Harvest. “We’ve discussed how we want to show our market, where we wanted our market to be, what we sell, what we look like. This is who runs it.”

The teens started working on the pop-up after the protests for George Floyd in June. By the Hand hosted a series of listening circles to give young people a platform to voice their frustrations around the systemic racism they see in their neighborhood, and to talk about how the civil unrest had impacted them.

Eco-friendly, biodegradable flip flops:

(CNN)Researchers at the University of California San Diego have developed flip flops made from algae-based, polyurethane materials to help fight plastic pollution around the world.

The team, which works at the California Center for Algae Biotechnology, used chemistry and biology to turn algae into renewable polymers that can be used to create a wide range of biodegradable products.

One of the first products is a pair of flip flops, which the researchers hope will draw attention to widespread plastic pollution in the world's water supply.

As "the world's most popular shoe," plastic flip flops account for a significant portion of that pollution, Mike Burkart told CNN.

"It has become obvious that the world has a major plastic problem polluting the planet, now more than ever," said Burkart, a biochemistry professor at the university who helped develop the sandals.

"We need to change our habits and take on the personal responsibility to use less plastic in our lives," he said. "But plastic is very useful material all around us, so we need to get to the point where when someone's buying a product, they insist it's biodegradable."

Laptop shortages for schools:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Schools across the United States are facing shortages and long delays, of up to several months, in getting this year’s most crucial back-to-school supplies: the laptops and other equipment needed for online learning, an Associated Press investigation has found.

The world’s three biggest computer companies, Lenovo, HP and Dell, have told school districts they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops, in some cases exacerbated by Trump administration sanctions on Chinese suppliers, according to interviews with over two dozen U.S. schools, districts in 15 states, suppliers, computer companies and industry analysts.

As the school year begins virtually in many places because of the coronavirus, educators nationwide worry that computer shortfalls will compound the inequities — and the headaches for students, families and teachers.

“This is going to be like asking an artist to paint a picture without paint. You can’t have a kid do distance learning without a computer,” said Tom Baumgarten, superintendent of the Morongo Unified School District in California’s Mojave Desert, where all 8,000 students qualify for free lunch and most need computers for distance learning.

Baumgarten was set to order 5,000 Lenovo Chromebooks in July when his vendor called him off, saying Lenovos were getting “stopped by a government agency because of a component from China that’s not allowed here,” he said. He switched to HPs and was told they would arrive in time for the first day of school Aug. 26. The delivery date then changed to September, then October. The district has about 4,000 old laptops that can serve roughly half of students, but what about the rest, Baumgarten asks rhetorically. “I’m very concerned that I’m not going to be able to get everyone a computer.”

Chromebooks and other low-cost PCs are the computers of choice for most budget-strapped schools. The delays started in the spring and intensified because of high demand and disruptions of supply chains, the same reasons that toilet paper and other pandemic necessities flew off shelves a few months ago. Then came the Trump administration’s July 20 announcement targeting Chinese companies it says were implicated in forced labor or other human rights abuses against a Muslim minority population, the Uighurs. The Commerce Department imposed sanctions on 11 Chinese companies, including the manufacturer of multiple models of Lenovo laptops, which the company says will add several weeks to existing delays, according to a letter Lenovo sent to customers.