Shils on Text as Tradition

In preparation (maybe pre-preparation is more accurate) for a new large project, I am re-reading and enjoying the sociologist Edward Shils’s short masterpiece, Tradition. In an early part of the book, he says the following about “texts” which I thought relevant to several issues in law (particularly, but not only, constitutional law):

From the standpoint which I take here both declaration and interpretation are traditions. The physical artifacts–manuscripts–are traditions. The sacred text itself is a tradition. The “tradition” is accumulated understanding of the text; the text would be only a physical object without interpretation. The sacredness of the text sets it apart, but it would make no sense without an interpretation; yet the interpretation which makes it what it is, is regarded as different from the text. The works of literary figures like Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, and Dante are placed in a somewhat similar situation; large bodies of interpretation form around them. The manuscripts and printed books in which the text is recorded, the text and the interpretations of it are all tradita.

Hobby Lobby Obtains Preliminary Injunction

The Becket Fund is reporting that the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma has issued a preliminary injunction in the Hobby Lobby litigation against the enforcement of the federal government’s contraceptive mandate. The preliminary injunction follows after the Tenth Circuit’s recent decision in the litigation.

Plus, We Keep Electing These Puritanical Mayors

Here’s a surprise for a summer Friday. Christianity Today posts about a new list, published by the real-estate blog, Movoto, of the “saintliest” cities in the United States. Can you guess number one? Bet you can’t. It’s Babylon on the Hudson–and my home town–New York City!

However did the nice people at Movoto come up with this? Christianity Today explains:

Movoto says it reached its conclusions by reversing the data it collected to compile its “sinful cities” list, which it released last month. It based those calculations for the country’s 95 most populous cities on data selected to represent each of the seven deadly sins, including:

Strip clubs per capita (Lust) Cosmetic surgeons per capita (Pride) Violent crime per year per 1,000 residents (Wrath) Theft per year per 1,000 residents (Envy) Percentage of disposable income given to charity each year (Greed) Percentage of obese residents (Gluttony) Percentage of physically inactive residents (Sloth)

Whichever cities ranked highest in those categories were determined to be “sinful.” To determine which cities were most saintly, however, Movoto looked “at the same criteria (the sins) from the opposite perspective…. This time around the cities with the least amount of these things would rank highest and thus be the most saintly.

The most saintly city, according to these criteria, is good old Gotham. I’m sure Evangelical readers will be offended by the obvious works-righteousness of this reasoning, but, really, it makes a lot of sense, when you think about it. It’s like the old parenting advice: busy kids stay out of trouble. We New Yorkers are far too busy pursuing money and career advancement to fall into temptations. Greed and pride, for example.

Around the Web This Week

Some interesting law & religion stories from around the web this week:

Ariel, “An Unusual Relationship: Evangelical Christians and Jews”

9780814770689_FullIn June, New York University Press published An Unusual Relationship: Evangelical Christians and Jews by Yaakov Ariel (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). The publisher’s description follows.

It is generally accepted that Jews and evangelical Christians have little in common. Yet special alliances developed between the two groups in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Evangelicals viewed Jews as both the rightful heirs of Israel and as a group who failed to recognize their true savior. Consequently, they set out to influence the course of Jewish life by attempting to evangelize Jews and to facilitate their return to Palestine. Their double-edged perception caused unprecedented political, cultural, and theological meeting points that have revolutionized Christian-Jewish relationships. An Unusual Relationship explores the beliefs and political agendas that evangelicals have created in order to affect the future of the Jews. Additionally, it analyses Jewish opinions and reactions to those efforts, as well as those of other religious groups, such as Arab Christians.

This volume offers a fascinating, comprehensive analysis of the roots, manifestations, and consequences of evangelical interest in the Jews, and the alternatives they provide to conventional historical Christian-Jewish interactions. It also provides a compelling understanding of Middle Eastern politics through a new lens.