According to reports in the Arab media and Reuters, Saudi Arabia has convicted a Lebanese man of “evangelism” and sentenced him to six years in prison and 300 lashes. According to reports, the man, an Evangelical Christian, converted a Saudi woman in her 20s to Christianity and spirited her out of the country to Lebanon. The Saudi Gazette notes that the man had the woman’s personal belongings sent ahead of her to Lebanon, thus proving that “he had planned out the whole thing and premeditated the woman’s conversion to Christianity.” Not only conversion, but premeditated conversion! The case has been a cause celebre in Saudi Arabia, where proselytism is illegal and converting from Islam to another religion is a capital offense.
From SSRN’s list of most frequently downloaded law and religion papers posted in the last 60 days, here are the current top five:
1. ‘The Divine Institution of Marriage’: An Overview of LDS Involvement in the Proposition 8 Campaign by Kaimipono David Wenger (Thomas Jefferson School of Law) [473 downloads]
2. God and the Profits: Is There Religious Liberty for Money-Makers? by Mark Rienzi (Catholic U. of America – Columbus School of Law) [284 downloads]
3. For-Profit Corporations, Free Exercise, and the HHS Mandate by
Scott Gaylord (Elon U. School of Law) [146 downloads]
4. And I Don’t Care What It Is: Religious Neutrality in American Law by Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern U. School of Law) [145 downloads]
5. Protecting Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty by Douglas Laycock (U. of Virginia School of Law) and Thomas C. Berg (U. of St. Thomas School of Law) [142 downloads]
Culture and law have a mutually-reinforcing relationship. Cultural transformation typically promotes legal change, and legal change often speeds up cultural transformation. A good example is the sexual revolution of the 1960s. As the revolution became mainstream, it put pressure on family law concepts that had been based on traditional Christian sexual ethics. And changes in family law have no doubt accelerated the weakening of traditional Christian sexual morality.
Next month, Harvard University Press will publish a book that describes another cultural transformation that had an effect on law: the movement from pagan to Christian sexual ethics that occurred in late antiquity. In some ways, this seems the mirror image of what is happening today. As Christian values displaced the pagan sexual ethic, Roman law changed as well. Doubtless, pagan traditionalists grumbled about the revolution, just as religious traditionalists grumble today. It’s a good reminder that history doesn’t really move in a one-way direction.
The book is From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity by Kyle Harper (University of Oklahoma). Here’s the publisher’s description:
When Rome was at its height, an emperor’s male beloved, victim of an untimely death, would be worshipped around the empire as a god. In this same society, the routine sexual exploitation of poor and enslaved women was abetted by public institutions. Four centuries later, a Roman emperor commanded the mutilation of men caught in same-sex affairs, even as he affirmed the moral dignity of women without any civic claim to honor. The gradual transformation of the Roman world from polytheistic to Christian marks one of the most sweeping ideological changes of premodern history. At the center of it all was sex. Exploring sources in literature, philosophy, and art, Kyle Harper examines the rise of Christianity as a turning point in the history of sexuality and helps us see how the roots of modern sexuality are grounded in an ancient religious revolution.
While Roman sexual culture was frankly and freely erotic, it was not completely unmoored from constraint. Offending against sexual morality was cause for shame, experienced through social condemnation. The rise of Christianity fundamentally changed the ethics of sexual behavior. In matters of morality, divine judgment transcended that of mere mortals, and shame—a social concept—gave way to the theological notion of sin. This transformed understanding led to Christianity’s explicit prohibitions of homosexuality, extramarital love, and prostitution. Most profound, however, was the emergence of the idea of free will in Christian dogma, which made all human action, including sexual behavior, accountable to the spiritual, not the physical, world.
This month, Stanford University Press will publish a new edition of a famous series of essays by the twentieth-century Pakistani intellectual Mohammad Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. First published in the 1930s, the essays have had a major impact on contemporary Muslim thought. This version contains an introduction by Javed Majeed of King’s College, London. The publisher’s description follows:
The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930) is Muhammad Iqbal’s major philosophic work: a series of profound reflections on the perennial conflict among science, religion, and philosophy, culminating in new visions of the unity of human knowledge, of the human spirit, and of God. Iqbal’s thought contributed significantly to the establishment of Pakistan, to the religious and political ideals of the Iranian Revolution, and to the survival of Muslim identity in parts of the former USSR. It now serves as new bridge between East and West and between Islam and the other Religions of the Book. With a new Introduction by Javed Majeed, this edition of The Reconstruction opens the teachings of Iqbal to the modern, Western reader. It will be essential reading for all those interested in Islamic intellectual history, the renewal of Islam in the modern world, and political theory of Islam’s relationship to the West.