The Book is Probably Better

In my law and religion seminar this week, we’ve been discussing justifications for religious freedom. Why should the state protect religion? One argument is that religion, on the whole, contributes greatly to social capital. Take aesthetics, for example. How much great art and music has Christianity alone inspired? What a diminished culture we would have without the St. Matthew Passion, the Sistine Chapel, and The Brothers Karamazov.

But, critics object, religion isn’t the only possible source of artistic inspiration. The Enlightenment inspired great works too, like Candide and The Magic Flute. And then there’s this:  John Rawls’s  “A Theory of Justice”: The Musical, a current student production at Oxford. (Better hurry, the February 1 performance is already sold out). “A Theory of Justice,” the producers tell us, will be “the world’s first feature-length musical about political philosophy.” Here’s the plot:

In order to draw inspiration for his magnum opus, John Rawls travels back through time to converse (in song) with a selection of political philosophers, including Plato, Locke, Rousseau and Mill. But the journey is not as smooth as he hoped: for as he pursues his love interest, the beautiful student Fairness, through history, he must escape the evil designs of his libertarian arch-nemesis, Robert Nozick, and his objectivist lover, Ayn Rand. Will he achieve his goal of defining Justice as Fairness?

Well, Handel it’s not, but it could be fun in a nerdy sort of way. And it’s nice to see that the musical theater is finally taking Rawls seriously.  (H/T: First Thoughts).

Around the Web This Week

Here are some interesting law and religion stories from around the web this week:

Brekus, “Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity In Early America”

OsbornThis past December, Yale University Press published Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America by Catherine A. Brekus (University of Chicago). The publisher’s description follows.

In 1743, sitting quietly with pen in hand, Sarah Osborn pondered how to tell the story of her life, how to make sense of both her spiritual awakening and the sudden destitution of her family. Remarkably, the memoir she created that year survives today, as do more than two thousand additional pages she composed over the following three decades. Sarah Osborn’s World is the first book to mine this remarkable woman’s prolific personal and spiritual record. Catherine Brekus recovers the largely forgotten story of Sarah Osborn’s life as one of the most charismatic female religious leaders of her time, while also connecting her captivating story to the rising evangelical movement in eighteenth-century America.

A schoolteacher in Rhode Island, a wife, and a mother, Sarah Osborn led a remarkable revival in the 1760s that brought hundreds of people, including many slaves, to her house each week. Her extensive written record—encompassing issues ranging from the desire to be “born again” to a suspicion of capitalism—provides a unique vantage point from which to view the emergence of evangelicalism. Brekus sets Sarah Osborn’s experience in the context of her revivalist era and expands our understanding of the birth of the evangelical movement—a movement that transformed Protestantism in the decades before the American Revolution.

Brems (ed.), “Diversity and European Human Rights”

BremsThis January, Cambridge University Press published Diversity and European Human Rights: Rewriting Judgments of the ECHR edited by Eva Brems (Universiteit Ghent). The publisher’s description follows.

Through redrafting the judgments of the ECHR, Diversity and European Human Rights demonstrates how the court could improve the mainstreaming of diversity in its judgments. Eighteen judgments are considered and rewritten to reflect the concerns of women, children, LGB persons, ethnic and religious minorities and persons with disabilities in turn. Each redrafted judgment is accompanied by a paper outlining the theoretical concepts and frameworks that guided the approaches of the authors and explaining how each amendment to the original text is an improvement. Simultaneously, the authors demonstrate how difficult it can be to translate ideas into judgments, whilst also providing examples of what those ideas would look like in judicial language. By rewriting actual judicial decisions in a wide range of topics this book offers a broad overview of diversity issues in the jurisprudence of the ECHR and aims to bridge the gap between academic analysis and judicial practice.