Denysenko, “Theology and Form”

P03253As readers of this blog know, our center is in the midst of the Tradition Project, a multi-year research initiative on the continuing role of tradition in politics, law, and culture. One of the project’s themes is how traditional religious communities adapt to American liberalism. The religions change, of course–a strong pressure exists to reform along Protestant lines–yet they also remain, in some respects, the same. A new book from the University of Notre Dame Press, Theology and Form: Contemporary Orthodox Architecture in America, by Loyola Marymount University professor Nicholas Denysenko, examines how Orthodox parishes adapt traditional architectural forms in the new world, and how the adaptations influence liturgy and parish identity. Looks fascinating. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

How do space and architecture shape liturgical celebrations within a parish? In Theology and Form: Contemporary Orthodox Architecture in America, Nicholas Denysenko profiles seven contemporary Eastern Orthodox communities in the United States and analyzes how their ecclesiastical identities are affected by their physical space and architecture. He begins with an overview of the Orthodox architectural heritage and its relation to liturgy and ecclesiology, including topics such as stational liturgy, mobility of the assembly, the symbiosis between celebrants and assembly, placement of musicians, and festal processions representative of the Orthodox liturgy. Chapters 2–7 present comparative case studies of seven Orthodox parishes. Some of these have purchased their property and built new edifices; Denysenko analyzes how contemporary architecture makes use of sacred space and engages visitors. Others are mission parishes that purchased existing properties and buildings, posing challenges for and limitations of their liturgical practices. The book concludes with a reflection on how these parish examples might contribute to the future trajectory of Orthodox architecture in America and its dialogical relationship with liturgy and ecclesial identity.

Bowles, “Moral Economy”

The doux commerce thesis, a staple of liberal economics for centuries, teaches that markets tend to civilize people, to make them more stable, gentle, hardworking, and governable. Markets do this by creating incentives for industry and tolerance, and against sloth and fanaticism. From the beginning, skeptics like Edmund Burke have pointed out that the moral values the doux commerce thesis extols actually come from outside the market, and that market incentives, alone, cannot create them. I don’t know if the author is a Burkean, but a new book from Yale University Press, Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives Are No Substitute for Good Citizens, by behavioral scientist Samuel Bowles (Santa Fe Institute), offers a critique of the classical liberal position. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

6727288eb91b6f2c8611bbe1950071e6Why do policies and business practices that ignore the moral and generous side of human nature often fail?

Should the idea of economic man—the amoral and self-interested Homo economicus—determine how we expect people to respond to monetary rewards, punishments, and other incentives? Samuel Bowles answers with a resounding “no.” Policies that follow from this paradigm, he shows, may “crowd out” ethical and generous motives and thus backfire.

But incentives per se are not really the culprit. Bowles shows that crowding out occurs when the message conveyed by fines and rewards is that self-interest is expected, that the employer thinks the workforce is lazy, or that the citizen cannot otherwise be trusted to contribute to the public good. Using historical and recent case studies as well as behavioral experiments, Bowles shows how well-designed incentives can crowd in the civic motives on which good governance depends.

“The 60s” (New Yorker Magazine)

Things really seem to be coming unglued in America today. Vulgarity, suspicion, and Right-Left hostility pervade our public life. Not a few thoughtful people wonder whether the American political experiment, and the liberalism that forms its foundation, can survive. I’m not sure our times are so unprecedented, myself. In the 1960s, for example, it surely must have seemed the nation would fall apart. And yet, we didn’t. A new anthology of 60’s writing from The New Yorker, published by Penguin Random House, looks interesting as a period piece–a chronicle of how the bien-pensant set saw things back then. The 60s: The Story of a Decade may offer some insights into our current condition as well. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

9780812983319The third installment of a fascinating decade-by-decade series, this anthology collects historic New Yorker pieces from the most tumultuous years of the twentieth century—including work by James Baldwin, Pauline Kael, Sylvia Plath, Roger Angell, Muriel Spark, and John Updike—alongside new assessments of the 1960s by some of today’s finest writers.

Here are real-time accounts of these years of turmoil: Calvin Trillin reports on the integration of Southern universities, E. B. White and John Updike wrestle with the enormity of the Kennedy assassination, and Jonathan Schell travels with American troops into the jungles of Vietnam. The murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., the fallout of the 1968 Democratic Convention, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Six-Day War: All are brought to immediate and profound life in these pages.

The New Yorker of the 1960s was also the wellspring of some of the truly timeless works of American journalism. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, and James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time all first appeared in The New Yorker and are featured here. The magazine also published such indelible short story masterpieces as John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” and John Updike’s “A & P,” alongside poems by Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton.

The arts underwent an extraordinary transformation during the decade, one mirrored by the emergence in The New Yorker of critical voices as arresting as Pauline Kael and Kenneth Tynan. Among the crucial cultural figures profiled here are Simon & Garfunkel, Tom Stoppard, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and Muhammad Ali (when he was still Cassius Clay).

The assembled pieces are given fascinating contemporary context by current New Yorker writers, including Jill Lepore, Malcolm Gladwell, and David Remnick. The result is an incomparable collective portrait of a truly galvanizing era.

Agamben, “The Mystery of Evil”

pid_28174 (1)Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation in 2013 is looking to be a pivotal event in the history of the Roman Catholic Church–not only because it was the first papal resignation in centuries, but because of the very different path his successor, Pope Francis, is laying out. This spring, Stanford University Press published a translation of a work by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, The Mystery of Evil: Benedict XVI and the End of Days, that addresses the resignation. The title sounds apocalyptic; but the publisher’s description, below, indicates the book is a meditation on the difference between legitimacy and legality:

In 2013, Benedict XVI became only the second pope in the history of the Catholic Church to resign from office. In this brief but illuminating study, Giorgio Agamben argues that Benedict’s gesture, far from being solely a matter of internal ecclesiastical politics, is exemplary in an age when the question of legitimacy has been virtually left aside in favor of a narrow focus on legality. This reflection on the recent history of the Church opens out into an analysis of one of the earliest documents of Christianity: the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, which stages a dramatic confrontation between the “man of lawlessness” and the enigmatic katechon, the power that holds back the end of days. In Agamben’s hands, this infamously obscure passage reveals the theological dynamics of history that continue to inform Western culture to this day.

“Religions, Nations and Transnationalism in Multiple Modernities” (Michel et al., eds)

9781137592385There’s nothing new about “world religions.” All the great religions are global, with followers across the continents. This has been true for centuries, millennia, even. And yet there is something new in the Internet Age: the ability of individuals to sample religions from wherever they are–to have access to online sources and communities from right where they sit. This new sort of globalization will no doubt influence religion. Whether it will increase the influence of global religions, as they take advantage of communications technology to forge communities across the planet, or decrease it, as people use the Internet to create niche religions for fewer and fewer followers, remains to be seen.

A new volume from Palgrave, Religions, Nations, and Transnationalism in Multiple Modernities, edited, among others, by Patrick Michel of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, addresses the new globalization. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

This edited book explores the impact of globalisation on the relationship between religion and politics, religion and nation, religion and nationalism, and the impact that transnationalism has on religious groups. In a post-Westphalian and transnational world, with increased international communication and transportation, a plethora of new religious recompositions now take part in a network society that cuts across borders. This collection, through its analysis of historical and contemporary case studies, explores the growth of both national and transnational religious movements and their dealings with the various versions of modernity that they encounter. It considers trends of religious revitalisation and secularisation, and processes of nationalism and transnationalism through the prism of the theory of multiple modernities, acknowledging both its pluralist worldview but also the argument that its definition of modernity is often so inclusive as to lose coherence. Providing a cutting edge take on 21st century religion and globalization, this volume is a key read for all scholars of religion, secularisation and transnationalism.

Heller, “Jabotinsky’s Children”

From Princeton University Press, a new book on a lesser-known aspect of Jewish history, “right-wing Zionism” in pre-war Poland. The book, Jabotinsky’s Children: Polish Jews and the Rise of Right-Wing Zionism, is by McGill University professor Daniel Kupfert Heller. Here’s a description of the book from the Princeton website:

k11134By the late 1930s, as many as fifty thousand Polish Jews belonged to Betar, a youth movement known for its support of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of right-wing Zionism. Poland was not only home to Jabotinsky’s largest following. The country also served as an inspiration and incubator for the development of right-wing Zionist ideas. Jabotinsky’s Children draws on a wealth of rare archival material to uncover how the young people in Betar were instrumental in shaping right-wing Zionist attitudes about the roles that authoritarianism and military force could play in the quest to build and maintain a Jewish state.

Recovering the voices of ordinary Betar members through their letters, diaries, and autobiographies, Jabotinsky’s Children paints a vivid portrait of young Polish Jews and their turbulent lives on the eve of the Holocaust. Rather than define Jabotinsky as a firebrand fascist or steadfast democrat, the book instead reveals how he deliberately delivered multiple and contradictory messages to his young followers, leaving it to them to interpret him as they saw fit. Tracing Betar’s surprising relationship with interwar Poland’s authoritarian government, Jabotinsky’s Children overturns popular misconceptions about Polish-Jewish relations between the two world wars and captures the fervent efforts of Poland’s Jewish youth to determine, on their own terms, who they were, where they belonged, and what their future held in store.

Shedding critical light on a vital yet neglected chapter in the history of Zionism, Jabotinsky’s Children provides invaluable perspective on the origins of right-wing Zionist beliefs and their enduring allure in Israel today.

 

Kaveny, “Ethics at the Edges of Law”

Later this year, Oxford University Press will publish a new book by lawyer and theologian Cathleen Kaveny, the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor of Law and Theology at Boston College. Professor Kavey presented her work at the inaugural session of our Center’s Colloquium in Law and Religion in 2012, and her new book, Ethics at the Edges of Law: Christian Moralists and American Legal Thought, looks very interesting indeed. Here’s the description from the Oxford website:

9780190612290Ethics at the Edges of Law makes the case that religious moralists should treat the discipline of law as a valuable conversation partner, rather than reducing it to a vehicle for enforcing judgments about morality and public policy. Religious moralists should treat the secular law as a source of moral wisdom and conceptual insight, in the same way that they treat the discipline of philosophy. Cathleen Kaveny develops her argument by showing how the work of a range of important contemporary figures in Christian ethics, including John Noonan, Stanley Hauerwas, and Margaret Farley, can be enriched and illuminated by engagement with particular aspects of the American legal tradition. The book is divided into three parts: Part I, “Narratives and Norms,” examines how the workings of the legal tradition can shed light on the development of religious and moral traditions. Part II, “Love, Justice, and Law,” uses particular legal cases and controversies to advance questions about the relationship of love and justice in Christian ethics. Part III, “Legal Categories and Theological Problems,” shows how legal categories and concepts can help reframe and even resolve particular moral controversies within religious communities. Ethics at the Edges of Law jumpstarts a fruitful, mutually engaged conversation between the American legal tradition and the tradition of Christian ethics.

 

Montefiore, “The Romanovs”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, a self-conscious attempt to break the hold of Christianity and establish an enlightened, secular, egalitarian state. Secular, it was, anyway. Before establishing their state, the Bolsheviks had to overthrow a self-consciously Orthodox Christian regime and remove and then eliminate the ruling Romanov dynasty–the last step, as Omar Sharif’s character explains in Doctor Zhivago, “to show there’s no going back.” Historian Samuel Sebag Montefiore has written a new book on that dynasty, The Romanovs, published in May by Penguin Random House. Here is the description from the publisher’s website:

9780307280510The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world’s surface for three centuries. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world’s greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?

This is the intimate story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence, and wild extravagance.

Drawing on new archival research, Montefiore delivers an enthralling epic of triumph and tragedy, love and murder, that is both a universal study of power and a portrait of empire that helps define Russia today.

Bishop Suriel, “Habib Girgis”

The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt is today suffering one of the worst periods of persecution in its long history. Few in the West realize, though, that this period of trial follows a renaissance in Coptic identity and spirituality in the last century. A central figure in that renaissance was scholar Habib Girgis, leader of the Sunday School Movement, which relied on religious education as the foundation for a revived community. A new book from Bishop Suriel of the Coptic Church, Habib Girgis: Coptic Orthodox Educator and a Light in the Darkness, explores Girgis’s life and legacy. Here is the description from the publisher, the St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press:

GurgisPaperFINAL41__44909.1491341742.300.300This is the first comprehensive work published on the life of Habib Girgis. By the mid-nineteenth century, the Coptic Orthodox Church was in a state of deep vulnerability that tore at the very fabric of Coptic identity. In response, Girgis dedicated his life to advancing religious and theological education.

This book follows Girgis’ six-decade-long career as an educator, reformer, dean of a theological college, and pioneer of the Sunday School Movement in Egypt—including his publications and a cache of newly discovered texts from the Coptic Orthodox Archives in Cairo. It traces his agenda for educational reform in the Coptic Church from youth to old age, as well as his work among the villagers of Upper Egypt. It details his struggle to implement his vision of a Coptic identity forged through education, and in the face of a hostile milieu.

The pain and strength of Girgis are seen most clearly near the end of his career, when he said, “Despite efforts that sapped my health and crushed my strength, I did not surrender for one day to anyone who resisted or envied me…. Birds peck only at ripe fruits. I thank God Almighty that, through his grace, despair never penetrated my soul for even one day, but in fact I constantly smile at the resistances…. It is imperative that we do not fail in doing good, for we shall reap the harvest in due time, if we do not weary.”

Habib Girgis remains a pioneer of Coptic religious and theological education—a Copt whose vision and legacy continue to shape his community to this very day.

“Into All the World” (Nobbs & Harding, eds.)

Most legal scholarship on church-and-state focuses on the here and now. Occasionally, legal scholars focus on the history of church-state relations, but rarely further back than the post-Reformation settlement in the West. (Harold Berman was a notable exception). But the relationship between the Christian Church and the state goes back millennia. Here is a new book from Eerdmans which, among other topics, addresses the relationship between Christians and the Roman Empire in the apostolic and sub-apostolic eras, Into All the World: Emergent Christianity in Its Jewish and Greco-Roman Context, edited by Australian scholars Alanna Nobbs (Macquarie University) and Mark Harding (Australian College of Theology). The description from the publisher’s website follows:

9780802875150.jpgInto All the World—the third volume from editors Mark Harding and Alanna Nobbs on the content and social setting of the New Testament—brings together a team of eminent Australian scholars in ancient history, New Testament, and the early church to take the story of Christianity into the Jewish and Greco- Roman world of the first century.

In thirteen chapters, the contributors discuss all the post- Pauline New Testament writings, devoting attention to both their content and their context. They examine the impact of the growth of the church on both Jews and Gentiles, exploring issues such as the diaspora, minorities, the Book of Acts, and the Fourth Gospel. The book then proceeds to a discussion of the impact of Christianity on the Roman state, including consideration of the book of Revelation and the imperial cult. A final chapter investigates how the church was perceived by Clement of Rome at the end of the first century.

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