Jennings, “Outlaw Justice: The Messianic Politics of Paul”

This March, Stanford University Press will publish Outlaw Justice: The Messianic Politics of Paul by Theodore W. Jennings Jr. (Chicago Theological Seminary). The publisher’s description follows.

This book offers a close reading of Romans that treats Paul as a radical political thinker by showing the relationship between Paul’s perspective and that of secular political theorists. Turning to both ancient political philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero) and contemporary post-Marxists (Agamben, Badiou, Derrida, and Žižek), Jennings presents Romans as a sustained argument for a new sort of political thinking concerned with the possibility and constitution of just socialities.

Reading Romans as an essay on messianic politics in conversation with ancient and postmodern political theory challenges the stereotype of Paul as a reactionary theologian who “invented” Christianity and demonstrates his importance for all, regardless of religious affiliation or academic guild, who dream and work for a society based on respect, rather than domination, division, and death. In the current context of unjust global empires constituted by avarice, arrogance, and violence, Jennings finds in Paul a stunning vision for creating just societies outside the law.

Lecture: The Arab Spring and International Law (Update)

The lecture at Fordham’s Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work, “The Arab Spring: Its Impact on International Politics, International Law, and International Relations,” originally scheduled for November 1 and canceled because of Hurricane Sandy, has been rescheduled for December 4. Details are here.

Amerini, “Aquinas on the Beginning and End of Human Life”

This June, Harvard University Press will publish Aquinas on the Beginning and End of Human Life by Fabrizio Amerini (University of Parma), translated by Mark Henninger (Georgetown University). The publisher’s description follows.

In contemporary discussions of abortion, both sides argue well-worn positions, particularly concerning the question, When does human life begin? Though often invoked by the Catholic Church for support, Thomas Aquinas in fact held that human life begins after conception, not at the moment of union. But his overall thinking on questions of how humans come into being, and cease to be, is more subtle than either side in this polarized debate imagines. Fabrizio Amerini—an internationally-renowned scholar of medieval philosophy—does justice to Aquinas’ views on these controversial issues.

Some pro-life proponents hold that Aquinas’ position is simply due to faulty biological knowledge, and if he knew what we know today about embryology, he would agree that human life begins at conception. Others argue that nothing Aquinas could learn from modern biology would have changed his mind. Amerini follows the twists and turns of Aquinas’ thinking to reach a nuanced and detailed solution in the final chapters that will unsettle familiar assumptions and arguments.

Systematically examining all the pertinent texts and placing each in historical context, Amerini provides an accurate reconstruction of Aquinas’ account of the beginning and end of human life and assesses its bioethical implications for today. This major contribution is available to an English-speaking audience through translation by Mark Henninger, himself a noted scholar of medieval philosophy.

Stanford Starts Religious Liberty Clinic

This is welcome news. Next semester, Stanford Law School will start the nation’s first law school clinic focused on religious liberty. Here’s the announcement from the Stanford website:

The Religious Liberty Clinic is the newest addition to the Mills Legal Clinic, and is presently the only clinic of its kind in the country.  The clinic will offer participating students a dynamic, real-world experience representing a diverse group of clients in disputes arising from a wide range of religious beliefs, practices, and customs in a variety of circumstances.  Students will learn in class and apply in practice the laws affecting religious liberty, whether statutory or constitutional, and will be expected to counsel individual or institutional clients and litigate on their behalf with technical excellence, professionalism, and maturity.

During the term, students can expect to handle a discrete accommodation project—e.g., represent a prisoner, student, or employee facing obstacles in the exercise of his or her faith—and likely also participate in a longer-term project involving religion in the public square—e.g., represent a small church, synagogue, or mosque with zoning issues, or a faith-based group seeking access to public facilities.  Opportunities to draft amicus briefs may also arise.  The clinic will involve administrative, trial, and appellate practice—though time constraints may not permit each student to work in all areas—united under the theme of “religious liberty for all.”  Because the clinic is a new and unique venture, students may also help in marketing and outreach efforts to the religious and wider communities.

The clinic will be directed by James Sonne, formerly of Ave Maria Law School.

The fact that a law school of Stanford’s prominence is starting a clinic focusing on religious liberty suggests how important this field is becoming. A few years ago, Stanford hired Michael McConnell, one of America’s foremost law and religion scholars, to direct its Constitutional Law Center. It looks like Stanford is making a serious play to become a leader in law and religion studies in the United States.