In April, Rowman & Littlefield will release “The Founders and the Bible” by Carl J. Richard (University of Louisiana at Lafayette). The publisher’s description follows:
The religious beliefs of America’s founding fathers have been a popular and contentious subject for recent generations of American readers. In The Founders and the Bible, historian Carl J. Richard carefully examines the framers’ relationship with the Bible to assess the conflicting claims of those who argue that they were Christians founding a Christian nation against those who see them as Deists or modern secularists. Richard argues that it is impossible to understand the Founders without understanding the Biblically infused society that produced them. They were steeped in a biblical culture that pervaded their schools, homes, churches, and society. To show the fundamental role of religious beliefs during the Founding and early years of the republic, Richard carefully reconstructs the beliefs of 30 Founders; their lifelong engagements with Scripture; their biblically-infused political rhetoric; their powerful beliefs in a divine Providence that protected them and guided the young nation; their beliefs in the superiority of Christian ethics and in the necessity of religion to republican government; their beliefs in spiritual equality, free will, and the afterlife; their religious differences; the influence of their biblical conception of human nature on their formulation of state and federal constitutions; and their use of biblical precedent to advance religious freedom.
In April, I.B. Tauris will release “Women’s Rights in Authoritarian Egypt: Negotiating Between Islam and Politics” by Hiam Salaheldin Elgousi (University of Leeds). The publisher’s description follows:
During the uprisings of late 2010 and 2011 which took place across the Middle East and North Africa, women made up an important part of the crowds protesting. Women’s rights were central to the demands made. However, despite this, in the ensuing social and political struggles, these rights have not progressed much beyond the situation under previous governments. Hiam El-Gousi’s book offers an examination of the status of women under Egypt’s various authoritarian regimes. In exploring the role played by religious scholars in helping to define women’s status in society, she focuses on personal status laws and health rights. In examining the issue of women’s rights El-Gousi begins with an account of feminism in Egypt: the centre of feminist thought in the Middle East at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Based on extensive research in the country, especially at grassroots level, El-Gousi goes on to analyse the constitutional and legislative rulings which have affected the lives and rights of Egyptian women. This book will become a vital primary resource for those studying feminism in the wider Middle East and North Africa.
At the First Things site this morning, I have an essay about young Evangelicals’ use of the phrase “Spiritual but Not Religious” to describe themselves, and what that suggests about tradition in America. Here’s an excerpt:
Paradox also characterizes our American religious tradition—a tradition in which Evangelical Christianity, broadly defined, is such an important element. On many cultural and political issues, tradition appeals to Evangelicals; they are the “traditional values” people. But Evangelicalism sits uneasily with the idea of tradition. Evangelicalism stresses personal faith, unimpeded by custom and “human” inventions. Wariness about tradition seems at the core of Evangelical spirituality, a characteristic that separates it from other forms of Christianity, like Catholicism and Orthodoxy, in which tradition has a much greater role.
The popularity of “Spiritual but Not Religious” among young Evangelicals today is a good example. Many young Evangelicals apparently wish to signal their distance from religious tradition, even their own. Tradition for them is not a benign thing; it is a snare to be avoided. True, one might distinguish religious traditions from other sorts. People might minimize tradition in their Christian life but honor it in politics, for example. But I have to think that wariness about tradition in religion influences how people see tradition in other areas of life, too.
I continue to think tradition may be ready for a revival. But I acknowledge the obstacles it faces. In America, it’s not only secular individualists who are suspicious of tradition, but many Christians as well. Tradition will have to overcome not only the objections of skeptics, but many believers, too.
You can find the full essay here.
In January, Lehigh University Press released “Faith and Slavery in the Presbyterian Diaspora,” edited by William Harrison Taylor (Alabama State University) and Peter C. Messer (Mississippi State University). The publisher’s description follows:
Faith and Slavery in the Presbyterian Diaspora considers how, in areas as diverse as the New Hebrides, Scotland, the United States, and East Central Africa, men’s and women’s shared Presbyterian faith conditioned their interpretations of and interactions with the institution of chattel slavery. The chapters highlight how Presbyterians’ reactions to slavery –which ranged from abolitionism, to indifference, to support—reflected their considered application of the principles of the Reformed Tradition to the institution. Consequently, this collection reveals how the particular ways in which Presbyterians framed the Reformed Tradition made slavery an especially problematic and fraught issue for adherents to the faith.
Faith and Slavery, by situating slavery at the nexus of Presbyterian theology and practice, offers a fresh perspective on the relationship between religion and slavery. It reverses the all too common assumption that religion primarily served to buttress existing views on slavery, by illustrating how groups’ and individuals reactions to slavery emerged from their understanding of the Presbyterian faith. The collection’s geographic reach—encompassing the experiences of people from Europe, Africa, America, and the Pacific—filtered through the lens of Presbyterianism also highlights the global dimensions of slavery and the debates surrounding it. The institution and the challenges it presented, Faith and Slavery stresses, reflected less the peculiar conditions of a particular place and time, than the broader human condition as people attempt to understand and shape their world.
This month, Penguin Random House released “United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists,” by Peter Bergen. The publisher’s description follows:
In April, Chicago Review Press will release “The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel: The Rise of a Village Theocracy and the Battle to Defend the Separation of Church and State” by Louis Grume (former executive director of the New York State School Boards Association) and John M. Caher (Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications with the New York State Unified Court System). The publisher’s description follows:
Twenty years ago, in the middle of the night and on the last day of the legislative session, the New York State Legislature created a publicly funded school district to cater to the interests of a religious sect called the Satmar, an insular group of Hasidic Jews that objects to, among other things, female school bus drivers. The rapidly growing sect had bought land in rural Upstate New York, populated it solely with members of its faction, and created a village called Kiryas Joel that exerted extraordinary political pressure over both political parties. Marking the first time in American history that a governmental unit was established for a religious group, the legislature’s action prompted years of litigation that eventually went to the US Supreme Court. As today’s Supreme Court signals its willingness to view a religious viewpoint like any other speech and accord it equal protection, the 1994 case, Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, stands as the most important legal precedent in the fight to uphold the separation of church and state. In The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel, plaintiff Louis Grumet opens a window onto the Satmar Hasidic community, where language, customs, and dress have led to estrangement from and clashes with neighboring communities, and details the inside story of his fight for the First Amendment and against New York’s most powerful politicians. Informed by numerous interviews with key figures such as Governor George Pataki, media accounts, court transcripts, and more, The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel not only tantalizes with a peek at cynical power politics driven by votes and Supreme Court justice squabbling and negotiation; it also provides an important demonstration of how a small, insular, and politically savvy religious group can grasp legal and political power. This story—a blend of politics, religion, cultural clashes, and constitutional tension—is an object lesson in the ongoing debate over freedom of versus freedom from religion.
In April, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Buddhism and the Political Process” edited by Hiroko Kawanami (Lancaster University, UK). The publisher’s description follows:
In its interpretation of Buddhism both as a cultural heritage and social ideology, this edited volume seeks to understand how Buddhist values and world views have impacted on the political process of many countries in Asia. In their respective work in Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China, Japan and Tibet, the contributors engage with an interactive typology originally proposed by the late Ian Harris, to whom the book is dedicated. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, they explore the interaction between Buddhism and politics, religious authority and political power, considering issues that concern the politicization of monks, proliferation of violence, leadership, citizenship, democracy and communalism in order to further understand the interface between Buddhism and politics in modern and contemporary times.
In April, Springer Press will release “Religious Rules, State Law, and Normative Pluralism: A Comparative Overview,” edited by Rossella Bottoni (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore), Rinaldo Cristofori (University of Milan), and Silvio Ferrari (University of Milan). The publisher’s description follows:
This book is devoted to the study of the interplay between religious rules and State law. It explores how State recognition of religious rules can affect the degree of legal diversity that is available to citizens and why such recognition sometime results in more individual and collective freedom and sometime in a threat to equality of citizens before the law. The first part of the book contains a few contributions that place this discussion within the wider debate on legal pluralism. While State law and religious rules are two normative systems among many others, the specific characteristics of the latter are at the heart of tensions that emerge with increasing frequency in many countries. The second part is devoted to the analysis of about twenty national cases that provide an overview of the different tools and strategies that are employed to manage the relationship between State law and religious rules all over the world.
In April, Routledge will release “Antagonistic Tolerance: Competitive Sharing of Religious Sites and Spaces,” edited by Robert M. Hayden (University of Pittsburgh), Aykan Erdemir (Bilkent University), Tugba Tanyeri-Erdemir (Middle East Technical University), Timothy D. Walker (University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth), Devika Rangachari (University of Delhi), Manuel Aguilar Moreno (California State University – Los Angeles), Enrique López-Hurtado (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú), and Milica Bakic-Hayden (University of Pittsburgh). The publisher’s description follows:
Antagonistic Tolerance examines patterns of coexistence and conflict amongst members of different religious communities, using multidisciplinary research to analyze groups who have peacefully intermingled for generations, and who may have developed aspects of syncretism in their religious practices, and yet have turned violently on each other. Such communities define themselves as separate peoples, with different and often competing interests, yet their interaction is usually peaceable provided the dominance of one group is clear. The key indicator of dominance is control over central religious sites, which may be tacitly shared for long periods, but later contested and even converted as dominance changes. By focusing on these shared and contested sites, this volume allows for a wider understanding of relations between these communities.
Using a range of ethnographic, historical and archaeological data from the Balkans, India, Mexico, Peru, Portugal and Turkey, Antagonistic Tolerance develops a comparative model of the competitive sharing and transformation of religious sites. These studies are not considered as isolated cases, but are instead woven into a unified analytical framework which explains how long-term peaceful interactions between religious communities can turn conflictual and even result in ethnic cleansing.