Faith or Tradition? A Bolognese Easter Controversy

Here’s an interesting story about an Italian controversy concerning the giving ofGIOSUE-CARDUCCI a blessing at the public Giosuè Carducci Elementary School in Bologna in advance of Easter. Apparently there is an objection by a parent to the blessing that has generated a law suit against the school. In a lovely exemplar of the privatization of religion, the objecting parent opined, “Everything has a place, and the school is not the place for these blessings.” One wonders whether the public square is the place for San Petronio. And in a clear echo of the “endorsement test’s” concern for offended feelings and excluded sensibilities, there is this: “‘Is it fair that everyone has to see this, even if some students are Muslims, Buddhist or atheists?’ asked Adele Orioli, legal adviser to Italy’s Union of Atheists and Rationalistic Agnostics.” There is also some dispute among the school board members about where the blessing should be given, whether in a central garden location or instead in a less central (and probably danker and less sweet smelling) gymnasium. Finally, there is this from the Reverend Raffaele Buono, who oversees religious education in Bologna’s schools:  “It is not a matter of faith. It is a matter of belonging to a tradition.” Must it really be either/or, Reverend Buono?

Welcome, Italy, to issues that have plagued the United States for the last quarter century! You had your first taste with Lautsi, but believe me when I tell you that these will be sources of limitless acrimony and contention for you. We over here are waiting with bated breath to see whether Bologna will be compelled to rip down its statues of San Petronio and house them in privately owned palestre. (parenthetically, Carducci himself (pictured), a late Risorgimento nationalist writer whose poetry I have generally found to be abominably pompous, would almost certainly have held the Christian blessing in the greatest contempt).

Tene, “Changes in Ethical Worldviews of Spanish Missionaries in Mexico”

This month, Brill releases “Changes in Ethical Worldviews of Spanish Missionaries in Mexico” by Ran Tene (Hebrew University). The publisher’s description follows:

“Conversion” is a basic religious concept, which has manifold implications for our everyday lives. Ran Tene’s Changes in Ethical Worldviews of Spanish Missionaries in Mexico utilizes a cross-disciplinary methodology in which the fields of Philosophy, History, and Literary Studies are drawn upon to analyze conversion. He focuses on two moments in Spanish writing about Mexican missions, the early to mid-sixteenth century writings of the Spanish missionaries to Mexico and the early seventeenth century manuscripts of the author/copyist Fray Juan de Torquemada. The analysis exposes changes in worldviews – including the concepts of identity, ownership, and cruelty – through missionary eyes. It suggests two theoretical models – the vision model and the model of touch – to describe these changes, which are manifested in the missionary project and in the texts that it (re)produced.

Baron, “Obligation in Exile: The Jewish Diaspora, Israel and Critique”

This month, Edinburgh University Press releases “Obligation in Exile: The Jewish Diaspora, Israel and Critique” by Ilan Zvi Baron (Durham University). The publisher’s description follows:

Combining political theory and sociological interviews spanning four countries, Ilan Zvi Baron explores the Jewish Diaspora/Israel relationship and suggests that instead of looking at Diaspora Jews’ relationship with Israel as a matter of loyalty, it is one of obligation.

Baron develops an outline for a theory of transnational political obligation and, in the process, provides an alternative way to understand and explore the Diaspora/Israel relationship than one mired in partisan debates about whether or not being a good Jew means supporting Israel. He concludes by arguing that critique of Israel is not just about Israeli policy, but about what it means to be a Diaspora Jew.