Tony Carnes on Jesus’s Auto Body (and Soul) Shop, Blessed Pizza, and NYC Religions Part II
Date: May 19th, 2013

Get ready to go on a journey — a fascinating, inspiring, and sometimes unusual journey — through the spiritual life of New York City.  Following up on a previous podcast interview with Tony  Carnes, who created and runs a research/journalism project known as A Journey Through NYC Religions, we walk through the various boroughs of Gotham to discover a circle of Korean limo drivers holding Bible study, a famous Harlem hat maker who helps troubled souls via a small chapel in her store, and an award-winning hair salon that favors spiritual healing over gossip.  We also find out how (East Coast) Tony discovered a prayer group meeting on a Friday night in one of the seediest parts of the Bronx and located in Jesus’s Auto Body Shop, named after a certain envangelist who did his preaching two millenium ago.  Our conversation begins with how Mr. Carnes started his journalistic investigation some three years ago and almost immediately stumbled upon an odd little church with a Spanish-speaking minister who came from a Russian Orthodoxy tradition.  And in another part of town, he was also amazed to find an Afghan-Hispanic Muslim cooperating with a Chinese-American Jew to teach African-American kids strong morals.  Our conversation not only covers these specific manifestations of New York religiosity, but also covers broader trends.  We hold a fascinating conversation about how many studies of religion underestimate spiritual activity byfocusing only on churches or similar houses of worship that we tend to be familiar with.  Add to this that many of these surveys and censuses are affected by under-reporting by African-American and immigrant churches that stay below the sociological radar for a variety of reasons.  We also discuss how and why 1978 was a pivotal year for church growth in NYC and how religious life further changed in the 1990s under Mayor Giuliani.  We then highlight some of the recent stories that Tony Carnes’s website has featured recently, including a look at Jackie Robinson’s religious background, an aspect of his life that was not covered in the recent movie, “42.”  This prompts (West Coast) Tony to ask about the hubbub surrounding Tim Tebow and the New York Jets over the past year.  A fascinating conversation ensues drawing in the likes of former Knicks guard Jeremy Lin and the pastoral route that former Jets’ lineman Michael Faulkner took with his life.  This is when our conversation then turns to how religiosity has manifested itself in the world of small business in NYC, with our focus turning to Harlem’s Heaven (hat shop), Divine Connection Hair Salon, Blessed Pizza, Jesus’s Auto Body Shop, and a group of Korean limo drivers who hold Bible study sessions at 4 a.m.  Tony Carnes makes several important observations at this point, namely that it is not often elites that change our social culture, but rather grassroots outsiders like all the folks we just mentioned.  Moreover, we note that the recent discussion of the rise of “religious nones” in society is not picking up much of this unconventional religious behavior that goes on in the city.  If you are only looking in the established pews of church buildings, synagogues, or mosques, you are likely to miss a great portion of the story.  Tony discusses how his team of journalists will stop and investigate any store that has a Quran in the window or any business with a spiritual sounding name to see what is happening behind those doors.  As this entire interview reveals, there is a great deal of religion that is occuring on a daily basis.  Tony finishes the interview describing what his organization is up to, including plans underway to expand this model of investigative, data-driven journalism and the various workshops he offers to high school and college students as well as anyone else who is interested in what he is doing.  Recorded: May 15, 2013.


Tony Carnes’s profile on A Journey through NYC Religions

A Journey through NYC Religions main website.

Values Research Institute.

New York Glory: Religions in the City, edited by Tony Carnes and Anna Karpathakis.

Asian American Religions: The Making and Remaking of Borders and Boundaries, edited by Tony Carnes and Fenggang Yang.

Harlem’s Heaven Hat Boutique and the link to the video on A Journey’s website.

Divine Connection Hair Spa on Facebook.

Some of the businesses mentioned in the show, including Jesus’s Auto Body and Blessed Pizza are too small to maintain websites, but we greatly welcome any information that you can provie about them in the comment section below or on our Facebook Fan Page.  Please forgive us if your posts get caught in our spam filter.


Tony Carnes on A Journey Through NYC Religions.

Timothy Dalrymple on Religion, Sports, and Jeremy Lin.


One Response to “Tony Carnes on Jesus’s Auto Body (and Soul) Shop, Blessed Pizza, and NYC Religions Part II”

  1. […] Tony Carnes on Jesus’s Auto Body (and Soul) Shop & Blessed Pizza. […]

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