Shelley, “Ethical Exploration in a Multifaith Society”

In March, Palgrave Macmillan will release Ethical Exploration in a Multifaith Society by Catherine Shelley (Solicitor, Archbishop’s Faculty Office). The publisher’s description follows:

palgrave-macmillanThis book considers the theory and application of ethics for a multifaith society. Much ethics taught in the UK has been dominated by Christian ethics, their relation to secularism and by the Enlightenment’s reaction against theology as a basis for ethical thought. In contrast to these perspectives this book brings secular and theological ethics into dialogue, considering the degree to which secular ethics has common roots with theological perspectives from various traditions. The book assesses the application of ethical and theological principles in today’s multifaith society. Aiming to enhance ethical understanding and awareness across divergent worldviews, identifying at what points divergence does occur, the author examines topics such as reason and ethics in theology, natural law, utilitarianism and deontology and differences of approach to interpreting religious scriptures. The focus on ethical methods is illustrated through topical concerns in religion and ethics, for example sexuality, marriage and education and religion in relation to global ethics and human rights.

Lombardo, “Founding Father”

In March, Brill Publishers will release Founding Father: John J. Wynne, S.J. and the Inculturation of American Catholicism in the Progressive Era by Michael F. Lombardo (University of Mary’s, Rome). The publisher’s description follows:

founding-fatherIn Founding Father, Michael F. Lombardo provides the first critical biography of John J. Wynne, S.J. (1859-1948). One of the most prominent American Catholic intellectuals of the early twentieth century, Wynne was founding editor of the Catholic Encyclopedia (1907) and the Jesuit periodical America (1909), and served as vice-postulator for the canonization causes of the first American saints (the Jesuit Martyrs of North America) and Kateri Tekakwitha. Lombardo uses theological inculturation to explore the ways in which Wynne used his publications to negotiate American Catholic citizenship during the Progressive Era. He concludes that Wynne’s legacy was part of a flowering of early-twentieth century American Catholic intellectual thought that made him a key forerunner to the mid-century Catholic Revival.

Lecture: “The Reformation and Law: 500th Anniversary Perspectives” (Apr. 3-4)

In April,  The Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University will host a lecture titled “The Reformation and Law: 500th Anniversary Perspectives.” A brief description of the lecture follows:

emory-university-eventThis lecture, the fourth installment in The McDonald Distinguished Scholar Lectures on Christian Scholarship, will be held April 3 and 4, 2017.

“The Reformation and Law: 500th Anniversary Perspectives,” will be a scholarly celebration of the contributions of the Protestant Reformation to the transformation of theology, art, music, liturgy, church life, politics, economics, and the law. The celebration will include a Bach organ concert by Timothy Albrecht and Presentation of Reformation archives by Pat Graham.

More information on the lecture can be found here.

Aydin, “The Idea of the Muslim World”

In March, Harvard University Press will release The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History by Cemil Aydin (University of North Carolina). The publisher’s description follows:

the-muslim-worldWhen President Barack Obama visited Cairo in 2009 to deliver an address to Muslims worldwide, he followed in the footsteps of countless politicians who have taken the existence of a unified global Muslim community for granted. But as Cemil Aydin explains in this provocative history, it is a misconception to think that the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims constitute a single religio-political entity. How did this belief arise, and why is it so widespread? The Idea of the Muslim World searches for the intellectual origins of a mistaken notion and explains its enduring allure for non-Muslims and Muslims alike.

Conceived as the antithesis of Western Christian civilization, the idea of the Muslim world emerged in the late nineteenth century, when European empires ruled the majority of Muslims. It was inflected from the start by theories of white supremacy, but Muslims had a hand in shaping the idea as well. Aydin reveals the role of Muslim intellectuals in envisioning and essentializing an idealized pan-Islamic society that refuted claims of Muslims’ racial and civilizational inferiority.

After playing a key role in the politics of the Ottoman Caliphate, the idea of the Muslim world survived decolonization and the Cold War, and took on new force in the late twentieth century. Standing at the center of both Islamophobic and pan-Islamic ideologies, the idea of the Muslim world continues to hold the global imagination in a grip that will need to be loosened in order to begin a more fruitful discussion about politics in Muslim societies today.

“New Perspectives on the Nation of Islam” (Gibson & Berg, eds.)

In March, Routledge will release New Perspectives on the Nation of Islam edited by Dawn-Marie Gibson (University of London), and Herbert Berg (University of North Carolina Wilmington). The publisher’s description follows:

nation-of-islamNew Perspectives on the Nation of Islam contributes to the ongoing dialogue about the nature and influence of the Nation of Islam (NOI), bringing fresh insights to areas that have previously been overlooked in the scholarship of Elijah Muhammad’s NOI, the Imam W.D. Mohammed community and Louis Farrakhan’s Resurrected NOI. Bringing together contributions that explore the formation, practices, and influence of the NOI, this volume problematizes the history of the movement, its theology, and relationships with other religious movements. Contributors offer a range of diverse perspectives, making connections between the ideology of the NOI and gender, dietary restrictions and foodways, the internationalization of the movement, and the civil rights movement. This book provides a state-of-the-art overview of current scholarship on the Nation of Islam, and will be relevant to scholars of American religion and history, Islamic studies, and African American Studies.

 

Pope John Paul II, “In God’s Hands”

In March, Harper Collins Publishers will release In God’s Hands: The Spiritual Diaries of Pope John Paul II written by Pope John Paul II. The publisher’s description follows:

In God's Hands.pngAvailable for the first time in English, the private reflections of the modern pope recently elevated to sainthood—deeply personal writings that reveal a spiritual leader who agonized over his service to God, continually questioning whether he was doing enough.

As the head of the Roman Catholic Church for twenty-five years, from the final decades of the twentieth century to the first years of the new millennium, Pope John Paul II significantly impacted our world. As famous as a rock star, this powerful leader who conferred with numerous heads of state was the ultimate model of wisdom and religious commitment for numerous Catholics around the globe.

Throughout much of his adult life, from 1962 until two years before his death in 2003, John Paul II kept a series of private diaries in which he disclosed his innermost thoughts, impressions, and concerns. Written in his native Polish and never before available in English until now, these journals provide intimate and deeply moving insight into a man, a priest, and a saint’s spirituality and a life devoted completely to God.

In God’s Hands lays bare the soul of this powerful, influential statesman, revealing a devout man untouched by his celebrity status; a selfless servant of God who spent decades questioning whether he was worthy of the role he was called to carry out. Over forty years, from his bishopric in Krakow to his election to the papacy to his final years, one question guided him: “Am I serving God?”

Entrusted to his personal secretary—who defied John Paul II’s instructions to burn them after his death—these notebooks provide us with a privileged glimpse into the life of a humble man who never took for granted his mission or his exalted role in the church and in the world.

Gaposchkin, “Invisible Weapons”

This month, Cornell University Press releases Invisible Weapons: Liturgy and the Making of Crusade Ideology by M. Cecilia Gaposchkin (Dartmouth College). The publisher’s description follows:

invisible-weaponsIn 1098, three years into the First Crusade and after a brutal eight-month siege, the Franks captured the city of Antioch. Two days later, Muslim forces arrived with a relief army, and the victors became the besieged. Exhausted and ravaged by illness and hunger, the Franks were exhorted by their religious leaders to supplicate God, and for three days they performed a series of liturgical exercises, beseeching God through ritual prayer to forgive their sins and grant them victory. The following day, the Christian army, accompanied by bishops and priests reciting psalms and hymns, marched out of the city to face the Muslim forces and won a resounding and improbable victory.

From the very beginning and throughout the history of the Crusades, liturgical prayer, masses, and alms were all marshaled in the fight against the Muslim armies. During the Fifth Crusade, Pope Honorius III likened liturgy to “invisible weapons.” This book is about those invisible weapons; about the prayers and liturgical rituals that were part of the battle for the faith. M. Cecilia Gaposchkin tells the story of the greatest collective religious undertaking of the Middle Ages, putting front and center the ways in which Latin Christians communicated their ideas and aspirations for crusade to God through liturgy, how liturgy was deployed in crusading, and how liturgy absorbed ideals or priorities of crusading. Liturgy helped construct the devotional ideology of the crusading project, endowing war with religious meaning, placing crusading ideals at the heart of Christian identity, and embedding crusading warfare squarely into the eschatological economy. By connecting medieval liturgical books with the larger narrative of crusading, Gaposchkin allows us to understand a crucial facet in the culture of holy war.

Kaufmann, “Luther’s Jews”

In March, Oxford University Press will release Luther’s Jews: A Journey into Anti-Semitism by Thomas Kaufmann (University of Gottingen). The publisher’s description follows:

luthers-jewsIf there was one person who could be said to light the touch-paper for the epochal transformation of European religion and culture that we now call the Reformation, it was Martin Luther. And Luther and his followers were to play a central role in the Protestant world that was to emerge from the Reformation process, both in Germany and the wider world.

In all senses of the term, this religious pioneer was a huge figure in European history. Yet there is also the very uncomfortable but at the same time undeniable fact that he was an anti-semite. Written by one of the world’s leading authorities on the Reformation, this is the vexed and sometimes shocking story of Martin Luther’s increasingly vitriolic attitude towards the Jews over the course of his lifetime, set against the backdrop of a world in religious turmoil.

A final chapter then reflects on the extent to which the legacy of Luther’s anti-semitism was to taint the Lutheran church over the following centuries. Scheduled for publication on the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation’s birth, in light of the subsequent course of German history it is a tale both sobering and ominous in equal measure.

Holtz, “Rabbi Akiva”

In March, Yale University Press will release Rabbi Akiva: Sage of the Talmud by Barry W. Holtz (Jewish Theological Seminary of America). The publisher’s description follows:

rabbi-akivaA compelling and lucid account of the life and teachings of a founder of rabbinic Judaism and one of the most beloved heroes of Jewish history

Born in the Land of Israel around the year 50 C.E., Rabbi Akiva was the greatest rabbi of his time and one of the most important influences on Judaism as we know it today. Traditional sources tell how he was raised in poverty and unschooled in religious tradition but began to learn the Torah as an adult. In the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., he helped shape a new direction for Judaism through his brilliance and his character. Mystic, legalist, theologian, and interpreter, he disputed with his colleagues in dramatic fashion yet was admired and beloved by his peers. Executed by Roman authorities for his insistence on teaching Torah in public, he became the exemplar of Jewish martyrdom.

Drawing on the latest historical and literary scholarship, this book goes beyond older biographies, untangling a complex assortment of ancient sources to present a clear and nuanced portrait of Talmudic hero Rabbi Akiva.

Thoughts on Conference on “Faith, Sexuality, and the Meaning of Freedom”

I am just back from a conference at Yale Law School organized jointly by Professors Robin Wilson and Bill Eskridge on “Faith, Sexuality, and the Meaning of Freedom,” and I offer here some general thoughts about the presentations and the nature of the conference. While the conference’s rules do not permit me to get into specifics about who said what, my overall impression is that it was a gathering of academics, politicians, religious leaders, and practitioners drawn from a comparatively broad spectrum of political, religious, and cultural opinion. Robin and Bill are to be commended, in my view, for that balance–always difficult to achieve to everyone’s satisfaction.

One of the conference’s launch points was the fairly recent report by the US Commission on Civil Rights entitled, “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles With Civil Liberties,” but which did not contain, in my view, very much sound advice for achieving peaceful coexistence or reconciliation. All of the panels concerned the topic of achieving modus vivendi arrangements for the proper legal accommodation of rights of religious liberty and rights of sexual freedom and equality. This has been a large and important part of Robin’s own policy work over the last few years, and the so-called Utah Compromise was studied and considered in this respect.

Two things stood out for me in particular.

First, one of the more interesting debates among the group, and, it seems to me, going forward, is about the baseline question of what constitutes the sort of discrimination that the law ought to proscribe in the first place. Once a particular judgment is found to be proscribable discrimination (I suppose the term is “invidious”), the result is all but foreordained. Some argued that the motivation for a particular discrimination is irrelevant; so long as the effect is adverse action against a person within a designated protected category, that ought to be sufficient. Others returned that this was in effect stacking the deck. The first question must be whether somebody has engaged in invidious discrimination at all, and that this is not a question about motivation but about how we properly describe the discrimination that the person has made. Barronelle Stutzman’s case is one example of this sort of debate, and this brief authored by Professor Steve Smith addresses the question. But the larger issue of the baseline affects many sorts of discriminations that people make in other contexts. Suppose, for example, that a hospital refuses to perform a surgery to remove the healthy uterus of a woman who identifies as transgender and desires to become a man. Is that the sort of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation that the law should condemn? Or is it nothing of the kind–is it simply a judgment that hospitals do not remove healthy uteruses–and certainly nothing like a hospital’s refusal to perform heart bypass surgery on a woman who identifies as transgender?

Second, one of the pervasive themes of the conference was the conflict between perfectionist and anti-perfectionist accounts of liberalism, and whether perfectionist liberalism is in its ascendancy at the moment. As is well-known, Robin, in her work with others like Professor Douglas Laycock and some of our own MOJ colleagues, has worked tirelessly to hammer out compromises that reflect a judicious anti-perfectionist liberalism. But my sense, in some ways confirmed by this conference, is that perfectionist accounts of liberalism (indeed, perfectionist accounts of politics in general) cannot really ever be sidelined. My own inclinations have always been rather pessimistic when it comes to true pluralism in a liberal democratic nation, even as I deeply appreciate the work of Robin and others. I believe strongly that the expressive and symbolic power of the law is an extremely important feature of it–what the law says about its people, what its people are proud of it to say, always lurks as a sort of subtext beneath the surface of whatever modus vivendi arrangements we might achieve. It is a mistake to ignore that subtext, as it will otherwise only come frothing and bubbling up at unexpected moments.

My own presentation involved what is seemingly a somewhat esoteric topic–Article XI of the Treaty of Tripoli–which begins with the statement that “[T]he government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion.” Part of my talk involved the history of Article XI (which is fascinating) but part suggested that the fight over American identity that the phrase (and many phrases like it) has come to represent–and the symbolic and expressive force of the law–is both a substantial impediment to anti-perfectionist liberal democratic governance and an inevitable and important feature of any government worth the name. More on this soon, I hope.

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