The Library of Law and Liberty has posted my review of Gerard Russell’s Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms, a new book on Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. Russell describes the history and present circumstances of these groups, including their struggle to emigrate and find new homes in places like the United States:
Will these communities survive in their new environments? Russell hopes so. He describes some touching examples of endurance, like the time he heard a clerk speaking Aramaic in a supermarket in suburban Detroit. But he wonders how long it can last. For all its great achievements, America has a way of destroying traditional identities, and it’s difficult to maintain one’s distinctive customs for very long. He wonders whether escape to the West isn’t “a back-loaded contract for immigrant communities—get the benefit of prosperity now, pay the loss of identity later.” Still, it beats annihilation, which is what threatens these groups at home.
You can read the whole review here.
This May, Bloomsbury Publishing will release “Buddhist and Christian Responses to the Kowtow Problem in China” by Eric Reinders (Emory University). The publisher’s description follows:
The most common Buddhist practice in Asia is bowing, yet Buddhist and Christian Responses to the Kowtow Problem is the first study of Buddhist obeisance in China. In Confucian ritual, everyone is supposed to kowtow, or bow, to the Chinese emperor. But Buddhists claimed exemption from bowing to any layperson, even to their own parents or the emperor. This tension erupted in an imperial debate in 662.
This study first asks how and why Buddhists should bow (to the Buddha, and to monks), and then explores the arguments over their refusing to bow to the emperor. These arguments take us into the core ideas of Buddhism and imperial power: How can one achieve nirvana by bowing? What is a Buddha image? Who is it that bows? Is there any ritual that can exempt a subject of the emperor? What are the limits of the state’s power over human bodies? Centuries later, Christians had a new set of problems with bowing in China, to the emperor and to “idols.” Buddhist and Christian Responses to the Kowtow problem compares these cases of refusing to bow, discusses modern theories of obeisance, and finally moves to examine some contemporary analogies such as refusing to salute the American flag.
Contributing greatly to the study of the body and power, ritual, religion and material culture, this volume is of interest to scholars and students of religious studies, Buddhism, Chinese history and material culture.
This May, the University of South Carolina Press will release “Varieties of Southern Religious History: Essays in Honor of David G. Mathews” edited by Regina D. Sullivan (Carson-Newman University) and Monte Harrell Hampton (North Carolina State University). The publisher’s description follows:
Comprising essays written by former students of Donald G. Mathews, a distinguished historian of religion in the South, Varieties of Southern Religious History offers rich insight into the social and cultural history of the United States. Fifteen essays, edited by Regina D. Sullivan and Monte Harrell Hampton, offer fresh and insightful interpretations in the fields of U.S. religious history, women’s history, and African American history from the colonial era to the twentieth century. Emerging scholars as well as established authors examine a range of topics on the cultural and social history of the South and the religious history of the United States.
Essays on new topics include a consideration of Kentucky Presbyterians and their reaction to the rising pluralism of the early nineteenth century. Gerald Wilson offers an analysis of anti-Catholic bias in North Carolina during the twentieth century, and Mary Frederickson examines the rhetoric of death in contemporary correspondence. There are also reinterpretations of subjects such as late-eighteenth-century Ohio Valley missionaries Lorenzo and Peggy Dow, a recontextualization of Millerism, and new scholarship on the appeal of spiritualism in the South. This collection provides fresh insight into a variety of topics in honor of Donald G. Mathews and his legacy as a scholar of southern religion.