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  • CrossCurrents at 70 and BeyondAn Editor’s Introduction
  • S. Brent Rodríguez-Plate (bio)

As I write this, I peer out the window of my office in central New York, gazing on snow covered fields, a forest full of bare trees, and a glint of sunrise on an otherwise cloudy day. My bucolic reverie quickly dissipates as the sounds of my children’s online classes drift into my space: teachers appear on little computer screens as their cats interrupt their lectures, students forget to turn off their microphones as they send messages to friends, and my own children grow hungry and ask if I can make them breakfast (which I gladly do).

I have inherited the editorship of this journal in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. For one full year now, much of the world has radically changed its day to day comings and goings, from classrooms to emergency rooms, barber shops to restaurants, family reunions to book clubs, weddings to funerals. Anyone who might happen on this introduction in years to come will undoubtedly remember the first years of the 2020s from a very different perspective. The mass carnage from the virus (to date there have been over 2-million deaths caused by Covid-19 around the world) and its curtailing of basic human abilities to talk with and embrace loved ones has made us rethink our relationships with each other.

With this, we have also noted the impact of technology on our lives, the importance of evidence-based public policy, and the need for health care accessibility in both urban and rural areas. This year’s compound crises in public health, economic distress, and police brutality have ripped the band-aid off the ailing body politic of the United States to reveal the unhealing wound of white oppression and exploitation of Black and Brown bodies. It has revealed the ugly disparities between rich and poor, and between remote professionals and in-person service industry workers. These disparities are not mere demographics, they determine who lives and who dies, who gets sick and who stays healthy. [End Page 1]

In the realm of religious life, the pandemic has caused us to query what constitutes an authentic religious gathering and whether technology can supply a good enough substitute for the times when people cannot physically meet. Rabbis, priests, imams, and other religious leaders have scrambled to provide guidelines for what counts as sacred space online, and how to perform rituals from afar. We also wonder about the social role of religious institutions in the wake of disaster. What can, and should, temples, mosques, synagogues, churches, and gurdwaras do to bring solace, provide sanctuary, and supply hospitality to local communities during times of crisis? We keep saying there will be a “new normal” once the severity of the pandemic diminishes, but there’s a good chance everything will go on as before. We may learn nothing from it all. But we also hope that is not the case.

The geopolitical landscape of 2021 is also in disarray, with or without the pandemic. The United States has recently voted out a narcissistic President with autocratic tendencies who leaves office right after he incited an insurrection against the U.S. Capitol. Simultaneously, a resurgence of so-called populism around the world has brought with it a wave of anti-immigration sentiment which sometimes sediments into laws. This resurfaced populism has also given rise to the ugly specter of white supremacist activity, full of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia that combines with attacks against minoritized people based on racial, sexual, and gender identity differences. Countering this trend, current movements such as Black Lives Matter are challenging many of the long-held white supremacist assumptions about U.S. history, and countering the deep currents of racist policies and cultural norms.

And then there is the global climate change crisis that constantly looms in the background, a cataclysmic event so enormous that most of us cannot really grasp it. Among other terrible components, 2020 was the hottest year on record around the globe (tied with 2016), Australia’s wildfires from the year are estimated to have killed or displaced three billion animals, and California...


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