This November, Oxford University Press will publish Articles of Faith: Religion, Secularism, and the Indian Supreme Court by Ronojoy Sen (National University of Singapore). The publisher’s description follows.
This book examines the relationship of religion and the Indian state and seeks to answer the question: ‘How has the higher judiciary in Independent India interpreted the right to freedom of religion and in turn influenced the discourse on secularism and nationhood?’ The author examines the tension between judgments that attempt to define the essence of religion and in many ways to ‘rationalize’ it, and a society where religion occupies a prominent space. He places the judicial discourse within the wider political and philosophical context of Indian secularism. The author also focuses on judgments related to Article 44, under the Directive Principles of State Policy, which places a duty on the state to ‘secure’ a uniform civil code for the nation. His contention is that the Indian Supreme Court has actively aimed at reform and rationalization of obscurantist religious views and institutions and has, as a result, contributed to a ‘homogenization of religion’ and also the nation, that it has not shown adequate sensitivity to the pluralism of Indian polity and the rights of minorities.
This October, Columbia University Press will publish Conflict, Conquest, and Conversion: Two Thousand Years of Christian Missions in the Middle East by Eleanor H. Tejirian (Columbia University) and Reeva Spector Simon (Columbia University). The publisher’s description follows.
Conflict, Conquest, and Conversion describes two thousand years of the Christian missionary enterprise in the Middle East within the context of the region’s political evolution. Its broad, rich narrative follows Christian missions as they interact with imperial powers and as the momentum of religious change shifts from Christianity to Islam and back, adding new dimensions to the history of the region and the nature of the relationship between the Middle East and the West.
Historians and political scientists increasingly recognize the importance of integrating religion into political analysis, and this volume, using long-neglected sources, provides the necessary context for this effort. It surveys Christian missions from the earliest days of Christianity to the present, with particular emphasis on the role of Christian missions, both Protestant and Catholic, in the political and economic imperialism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The authors delineate the ongoing tensions between conversion and a focus on witness and “good works” within the missionary movement, which has contributed to the development and spread of nongovernmental organizations. This volume’s systematic study offers an unparalleled encounter with the social, political, and economic consequences of these trends.
On October 18, Fordham’s Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work will host what looks to be a fascinating panel discussion, “Why Morality-Free Economic Theory Does Not Work: A Natural Law Perspective in the Wake of the Recent Financial Crisis.” Speakers include Luigino Bruni (Milan-Bicocca), Michael Baur (Fordham) and Russell Pearce (Fordham). Details are here.
David Brooks has an interesting column this morning. I don’t have much to comment about with respect to the substance other than that this statement caught my eye: “But there was another sort of conservative, who would be less familiar now. This was the traditional conservative, intellectual heir to Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, Clinton Rossiter and Catholic social teaching.”
There certainly is something to what Brooks says (and as to Burke, de mortuis nil nisi bonum), but it’s worth adding that Catholic social teaching is not a sub-category of traditional conservatism. Within Catholic social teaching, there are political strains of all kinds, from left to right. There are even writers who take themselves to be interpreting the Catholic tradition who are squarely in the economic conservative camp (for example, Michael Novak and Stephen Bainbridge among many others, though the reasons for their economic conservatism are complex). And there are influential writers in the tradition who espouse what would today pass for conventionally liberal or even radical political views. Nevertheless, if the particular points that Brooks is making about traditional conservatism’s concern for cultivating and maintaining social structures for the support and well-being of the working class are cogent (a view as to which, in this post, I express no opinion), then it is true that those concerns do substantially overlap with many key documents and ideas in the tradition of Catholic social thought.