Sheldon, “Tragic encounters and ordinary ethics”

In October, the Manchester University Press will release “Tragic encounters and ordinary ethics: Palestine-Israel in British universities,” by Ruth Sheldon (University of London).  The publisher’s description follows:

For over four decades, events in Palestine-Israel have provoked raging conflicts within British universities around issues of free speech, ‘extremism’, antisemitism and 9781784993146Islamophobia. But why is this conflict so significant for student activists living at such a geographical distance from the region itself? And what role do emotive, polarised communications around Palestine-Israel play in the life of British academic institutions committed to the ideal of free expression?

This book draws on original ethnographic research with student activists on different sides of this conflict to initiate a conversation with students, academics and members of the public who are concerned with the transnational politics of Palestine-Israel and with the changing role of the public university. It shows how, in an increasingly globalised world that is shaped by entangled histories of European antisemitism and colonial violence, ethnography can open up ethical responses to questions of justice

Fried, “Charlemagne”

In October, the Harvard University Press will release “Charlemagne,” by Johannes Fried (University of Frankfurt). The publisher’s description follows:

When Charlemagne died in 814 CE, he left behind a dominion and a legacy unlike anything seen in Western Europe since the fall of Rome. Distinguished historian and 9780674737396-lgauthor of The Middle Ages Johannes Fried presents a new biographical study of the legendary Frankish king and emperor, illuminating the life and reign of a ruler who shaped Europe’s destiny in ways few figures, before or since, have equaled.

Living in an age of faith, Charlemagne was above all a Christian king, Fried says. He made his court in Aix-la-Chapelle the center of a religious and intellectual renaissance, enlisting the Anglo-Saxon scholar Alcuin of York to be his personal tutor, and insisting that monks be literate and versed in rhetoric and logic. He erected a magnificent cathedral in his capital, decorating it lavishly while also dutifully attending Mass every morning and evening. And to an extent greater than any ruler before him, Charlemagne enhanced the papacy’s influence, becoming the first king to enact the legal principle that the pope was beyond the reach of temporal justice—a decision with fateful consequences for European politics for centuries afterward.

Though devout, Charlemagne was not saintly. He was a warrior-king, intimately familiar with violence and bloodshed. And he enjoyed worldly pleasures, including physical love. Though there are aspects of his personality we can never know with certainty, Fried paints a compelling portrait of a ruler, a time, and a kingdom that deepens our understanding of the man often called “the father of Europe.”

Symposium: Religious Freedom Today (New York, September 16)

The Center for Law and Religion is pleased to co-sponsor a symposium on Professor Nelson Tebbe’s forthcoming book, Religious Freedom in an Egalitarian Age, here at St. John’s Law School next month. The symposium is also sponsored by the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development and the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights. In addition to the author, participants include Carlos Ball (Rutgers-Newark), Alan Brownstein (UC-Davis), Chad Flanders (St. Louis), Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern), and Patricia Marino (Waterloo). For more information, please click here.

 

Book Event: “Getting Religion” (Chicago, Sept. 27)

The Lumen Christi Institute has announced a reception for and discussion of Kenneth Woodward’s newly released book, “Getting Religion: Faith, Culture, & Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama,” to take place on September 27th, at the University Club of Chicago.  More information follows below:

Impeccably researched, thought-challenging and leavened by wit, Getting Religion (Convergent Books), the highly-anticipated new book from Kenneth L. Woodward, is 9781101907399perfect for readers looking to understand how religion came to be a contentious element in 21st century public life.

Here the award-winning author blends memoir (especially of the postwar era) with copious reporting and shrewd historical analysis to tell the story of how American religion, culture and politics influenced each other in the second half of the 20th century. For readers interested in how religion, economics, family life and politics influence each other, Woodward introduces a fresh vocabulary of terms such as “embedded religion,” “movement religion” and “entrepreneurial religion” to illuminate the interweaving of the secular and sacred in American public life.

This is one of those rare books that changes the way Americans think about belief, behavior and belonging.

Find out more about the event here.

“Buddhist Extremists and Muslim Minorities” (Holt, ed.)

In October, the Oxford University Press will release “Buddhist Extremists and Muslim Minorities: Religious Conflict in Contemporary Sri Lanka,” edited by John Clifford Holt (Bowdoin College).  The publisher’s description follows:

The year 2009 brought the end of the protracted civil war in Sri Lanka, and observers hoped to see the re-establishment of harmonious religious and ethnic relations 9780190624378among the various communities in the country. Immediately following the war’s end, however, almost 300,000 Tamil people in the Northern Province were detained for up to a year’s time in hurriedly constructed camps where they were closely scrutinized by military investigators to determine whether they might pose a threat to the country. While almost all had been released and resettled by 2011, the current government has not introduced, nor even seriously entertained, any significant measures of power devolution that might create meaningful degrees of autonomy in the regions that remain dominated by Tamil peoples. The Sri Lankan government has grown increasingly autocratic, attempting to assert its control over the local media and non-governmental organizations while at the same time reorienting its foreign policy away from the US, UK, EU, and Japan, to an orbit that now includes China, Burma, Russia and Iran. At the same time, hardline right-wing groups of Sinhala Buddhists have propagated-arguably with the government’s tacit approval-the idea of an international conspiracy designed to destabilize Sri Lanka. The local targets of these extremist groups, the so-called fronts of this alleged conspiracy, have been identified as Christians and Muslims. Many Christian churches have suffered numerous attacks at the hands of Buddhist extremists, but the Muslim community has borne the brunt of the suffering.

Buddhist Extremists and Muslim Minorities presents a collection of essays that investigate the history and current conditions of Buddhist-Muslim relations in Sri Lanka in an attempt to ascertain the causes of the present conflict. Readers unfamiliar with this story will be surprised to learn that it inverts common stereotypes of the two religious groups. In this context, certain groups of Buddhists, generally regarded as peace-oriented , are engaged in victimizing Muslims, who are increasingly regarded as militant , in unwarranted and irreligious ways. The essays reveal that the motivations for these attacks often stem from deep-seated economic disparity, but the contributors also argue that elements of religious culture have served as catalysts for the explosive violence. This is a much-needed, timely commentary that can potentially shift the standard narrative on Muslims and religious violence.

McSkimming, “Leaving Christian Fundamentalism and the Reconstruction of Identity”

In September, Routledge will release Leaving Christian Fundamentalism and the Reconstruction of Identity by Josie McSkimming (University of New South Wales). The publisher’s description follows:

Leaving Christian Fundamentalsim

There is an increasing interest in the influence of religious fundamentalism upon people’s motivation, identity and decision-making. Leaving Christian Fundamentalism and the Re-construction of Identity details the stories of those who have left Christian fundamentalist churches and how they change after they have left. It considers how the previous fundamentalist identity is shaped by aspects of church teaching and discipline that are less authoritarian and coercive, and more subtle and widely spread throughout the church body. That is, individuals are understood as not only subject to a form of judgment, but also exercise it, with everyone seemingly complicit in maintaining the stability of the church organization. This book provocatively illustrates that the reasons for leaving an evangelical Christian church may be less about what happens outside the church in terms of the lures and attractions of the secular world, and more about the experience within the community itself.

 

Rathey, “Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio”

In September, Oxford University Press will release  Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio: Music, Theology, Culture by Markus Rathey (Yale University). The publisher’s description follows:Johann Sebastian Bach.png

In the last decades of the 17th century, the feast of Christmas in Lutheran Germany underwent a major transformation when theologians and local governments waged an early modern “war on Christmas,” discouraging riotous pageants and carnivalesque rituals in favor of more personal and internalized expressions of piety. Christmas rituals, such as the “Heilig Christ” plays and the rocking of the child (Kindelwiegen) were abolished, and Christian devotion focused increasingly on the metaphor of a birth of Christ in the human heart. John Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, composed in 1734, both reflects this new piety and conveys the composer’s experience living through this tumult during his own childhood and early career.

Markus Rathey’s book is the first thorough study of this popular masterpiece in English. While giving a comprehensive overview of the Christmas Oratorio as a whole, the book focuses on two themes in particular: the cultural and theological understanding of Christmas in Bach’s time and the compositional process that led Bach from the earliest concepts to the completed piece. The cultural and religious context of the oratorio provides the backdrop for Rathey’s detailed analysis of the composition, in which he explores Bach’s compositional practices, for example, his reuse and parodies of movements that had originally been composed for secular cantatas. The book analyzes Bach’s original score and sheds new light on the way Bach wrote the piece, how he shaped musical themes, and how he revised his initial ideas into the final composition.

“Religion and Equality” (Durham & Thayer, eds.)

In June, Routledge released “Religion and Equality: Law in Conflict,” edited by W. Cole Durham, Jr. (Brigham Young University) and Donlu Thayer (Brigham Young University).  The publisher’s description follows:

This volume presents an analysis of controversial events and issues shaping a rapidly changing international legal, political, and social landscape. Leading scholars and 9781472459152experts in law, religious studies and international relations, thoughtfully consider issues and tensions arising in contemporary debates over religion and equality in many parts of the world. The book is in two parts. The first section focuses on the anti-discrimination dimension of religious freedom norms, examining the developing law on equality and human rights and how it operates at international and national levels. The second section provides a series of case studies exploring the contemporary issue of same-sex marriage and how it affects religious groups and believers. This collection will be of interest to academics and scholars of law, religious studies, political science, and sociology, as well as policymakers and legal practitioners.

Stoner’s Response: “Legal Realism, Legal Revolution”

The final response to my essay on law and tradition has been posted over at Liberty Law, Tradition Projectand it is superb: Professor James Stoner’s Legal Realism, Legal Revolution. Jim’s work has been formative for my own learning about the relationship of the common law tradition and American constitutionalism–and in particular about the erroneous and all-too-common characterization of constitutional law as “judge-made law.” It’s wonderful to have his contribution. A bit from the end of Jim’s piece:

Just a little over two months after praising Americans for discarding a “blind veneration” of legal tradition, Madison wrote a most interesting passage in Federalist 49. In that February 2, 1788 essay he explained the need for the Constitution to earn what I infer must be enlightened “veneration” (he repeats the noun, without an adjective) from the people. This would come over time, as the system established by the Constitution demonstrated its capacity to insure good government. I think Madison had in mind a respect that inclines people to work within the system to seek improvements, and an inclination to wonder whether even what appear to the most agitated of us to be “stupidities” or “rigging,” might not have a reasonable purpose, even if that purpose has come to be overlooked or forgotten.

“In a nation of philosophers,” he continued, “this consideration ought to be disregarded. A reverence for the laws would be sufficiently inculcated by the voice of enlightened reason. But a nation of philosophers is as little to be expected, as the philosophical race of kings wished for by Plato.” The impossibility of such a nation, moreover, is not accidental, but somehow essential, if the limits of human reason are understood. As Madison explains a few papers later, “Had every Athenian citizen had been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”

DeGirolami seems right on point in describing the anti-traditionalism of the legal academy today and, since this has been the case for more than a generation, of the bar and bench that they have trained. The thirst for novelty, driven by academic practices that ultimately imitate the natural sciences without showing anything like scientific progress, except perhaps to partisans of dominant opinion, has corrupted the respect for tradition that once imbued the law and that—let me repeat by way of emphasis—made possible genuinely successful reform.

Perhaps, as DeGirolami hopes, something can be salvaged of the common law tradition, in its new guise as “judicial process,” to guide pragmatic reformers who don’t want to scrape their shins on the furniture—even if the brightest and most ambitious eschew Holmes’ path of “profound interstitial change” in favor of openly promoting causes they think noble. I confess to being a bit skeptical that tradition can be recovered as a formal category and an independent good apart from the actual, concrete tradition of common law and constitutionalism which we inherited, developed, and now seem eager to spend down. I doubt, too, whether that tradition could be restored unless the difficult philosophical work were done inside the law schools and outside of them—the work that would be needed to revive the thought, the experience, and even the faith in human reason out of which our tradition first emerged.

Around the Web

Here is a look at some law and religion news stories from around the web this week:

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,493 other followers

%d bloggers like this: