Grem, “The Blessings of Business”

In May, Oxford University Press will release “The Blessings of Business: How Corporations Shaped Conservative Christianity” by Darren E. Grem (University of Mississippi). The publisher’s description follows:

The Book of Matthew cautions readers that “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” But for at least a century conservative American Protestants have been trying to prove that adage wrong. In The Blessings of Business, Darren E. Grem argues that while preachers, activists, and politicians have all helped spread the gospel, American evangelicalism owes its enduring strength in a large part to private enterprise.

Grem argues for a new history of American evangelicalism, demonstrating how its adherents strategically used corporate America–its leaders, businesses, money, ideas, and values–to advance their religious, cultural, and political movement. Beginning before the First World War, conservative evangelicals were able to use businessmen and business methods to retain and expand their public influence in a secularizing, diversifying, and liberalizing age. In the process they became beholden to pro-business stances on matters of theology, race, gender, taxation, trade, and the state, transforming evangelicalism itself into as much of an economic movement as a religious one.

The Blessings of Business tells the story of unlikely partnerships between well-known champions of the evangelical movement such as Billy Graham and largely forgotten businessmen like Herbert Taylor, J. Howard Pew, and R.G. LeTourneau. Grem also shows how evangelicals set up their own pro-business organizations and linked the quarterly and yearly growth of “Christian” businesses to their social, religious, and political aspirations. Fascinating and provocative, The Blessings of Business uncovers the strong ties that conservative Christians have forged between the Almighty and the almighty dollar.

Ellingson, “To Care for Creation”

In June, the University of Chicago Press will release “To Care for Creation: The Emergence of the Religious Environmental Movement” by Stephen Ellingson (Hamilton College). The publisher’s description follows:

Controversial megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll proclaimed from a conference stage in 2013, “I know who made the environment and he’s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.” The comment, which Driscoll later explained away as a joke, highlights what has been a long history of religious anti-environmentalism. Given how firmly entrenched this sentiment has been, surprising inroads have been made by a new movement with few financial resources, which is deeply committed to promoting green religious traditions and creating a new environmental ethic.

To Care for Creation chronicles this movement and explains how it has emerged despite institutional and cultural barriers, as well as the hurdles posed by logic and practices that set religious environmental organizations apart from the secular movement. Ellingson takes a deep dive into the ways entrepreneurial activists tap into and improvise on a variety of theological, ethical, and symbolic traditions in order to issue a compelling call to arms that mobilizes religious audiences. Drawing on interviews with the leaders of more than sixty of these organizations, Ellingson deftly illustrates how activists borrow and rework resources from various traditions to create new meanings for religion, nature, and the religious person’s duty to the natural world.

Around the Web This Week

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

Paramore, “Japanese Confucianism”

This month, Cambridge University Press releases “Japanese Confucianism: A Cultural History” by Kiri Paramore (Leiden University). The publisher’s description follows:

For more than 1500 years, Confucianism has played a major role in shaping Japan’s history – from the formation of the first Japanese states during the first millennium AD, to Japan’s modernization in the nineteenth century, to World War II and its still unresolved legacies across East Asia today. In an illuminating and provocative new study, Kiri Paramore analyses the dynamic history of Japanese Confucianism, revealing its many cultural manifestations, as religion and as a political tool, as social capital and public discourse, as well as its role in international relations and statecraft. The book demonstrates the processes through which Confucianism was historically linked to other phenomenon, such as the rise of modern science and East Asian liberalism. In doing so, it offers new perspectives on the sociology of Confucianism and its impact on society, culture and politics across East Asia, past and present.

 

Lloyd, “Black Natural Law”

Next month, Oxford University Press will release “Black Natural Law” by Vincent W. Lloyd (Villanova University). The publisher’s description follows:

Black Natural Law offers a new way of understanding the African American political tradition. Iconoclastically attacking left (including James Baldwin and Audre Lorde), right (including Clarence Thomas and Ben Carson), and center (Barack Obama), Vincent William Lloyd charges that many Black leaders today embrace secular, white modes of political engagement, abandoning the deep connections between religious, philosophical, and political ideas that once animated Black politics. By telling the stories of Frederick Douglass, Anna Julia Cooper, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Martin Luther King, Jr., Lloyd shows how appeals to a higher law, or God’s law, have long fueled Black political engagement. Such appeals do not seek to implement divine directives on earth; rather, they pose a challenge to the wisdom of the world, and they mobilize communities for collective action. Black natural law is deeply democratic: while charismatic leaders may provide the occasion for reflection and mobilization, all are capable of discerning the higher law using our human capacities for reason and emotion.

At a time when continuing racial injustice poses a deep moral challenge, the most powerful intellectual resources in the struggle for justice have been abandoned. Black Natural Law recovers a rich tradition, and it examines just how this tradition was forgotten. A Black intellectual class emerged that was disconnected from social movement organizing and beholden to white interests. Appeals to higher law became politically impotent: overly rational or overly sentimental. Recovering the Black natural law tradition provides a powerful resource for confronting police violence, mass incarceration, and today’s gross racial inequities.

Black Natural Law will change the way we understand natural law, a topic central to the Western ethical and political tradition. While drawing particularly on African American resources, Black Natural Law speaks to all who seek politics animated by justice.

 

“Religious Activism in the Global Economy” (Dreher & Smith, eds.)

In June, Rowman & Littlefield will release “Religious Activism in the Global Economy: Promoting, Reforming, or Resisting Neoliberal Globalization?” edited by Sabine Dreher (Glendon College, York University, Canada) and Peter J. Smith (Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada). The publisher’s description follows:

Protests of neoliberal globalization have proliferated in recent years, not least in response to the financial crisis, austerity and increasing inequality. But how do religious groups organize themselves in response to these issues?

This book systematically studies the relationship of religious activism towards neoliberal globalization. It considers how religious organizations often play a central role in the resistance against global capitalism, endeavouring to offer alternatives and developments for reform. But it also examines the other side of the coin, showing how many religious groups help to diffuse neoliberal values, promote and reinforce practices of capitalism. Drawing on a unique set of case studies from around the world, the chapters examine a range of groups and their practices in order to provide a thorough examination of the relationship between religion and the global political economy.

Mudrov, “Christian Churches in European Integration”

In June, Routledge will release “Christian Churches in European Integration” by Sergei A. Mudrov (Baranovichi State University). The publisher’s description follows:

All too often religion is largely ignored as a driver of identity formation in the European context, whereas in reality Christian Churches are central players in European identity formation at the national and continental level. Christian Churches in European Integration challenges this tendency, highlighting the position of churches as important identity formers and actors in civil society. Analysing the role of Churches in engaging with two specific EU issues—that of EU treaty reform and ongoing debates about immigration and asylum policy—the author argues that Churches are unique participants in European integration. Establishing a comprehensive view of Christian Churches as having a vital role to play in European integration, this book offers a substantial and provocative contribution both to our understanding of the European Union and the broader question of how religious and state institutions interact with each another.

Cohen, “The Unique Judicial Vision of Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk”

In May, Academic Stuies Press will release “The Unique Judicial Vision of Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk: Selected Discourses in Meshekh Hokhmah and Or Sameah” by Yitshak Cohen (Ono Academic College Faculty of Law). The publisher’s description follows:

This book analyzes the exceptional normative impact of R. Meir Simcha Hacohen’s Biblical commentary, Meshekh Hokhmah, and his halakhic commentary, Or Sameah. It examines the reliance of the poskim on R. Meir Simcha’s innovations and hermeneutic methods as well as their view of his interpretations that broadened or narrowed the scope of Maimonides’ rulings. The book explores the broad-based judicial principles underlying R. Meir Simcha’s legal decisions and approach to Jewish law. It further examines how his legal creativity was impacted by metahalakhic principles that guided him in addressing changing historical and social realities. The book also considers R. Meir Simcha’s unique attitudes toward gentiles. His approach attests to his innovativeness and his halakhic moderation, as he tried to rule as leniently as possible on matters concerning non-Jews. In this book, R. Meir Simcha is shown to be a truly influential rabbi whose contributions will long be a source of study and discussion.

Eberstadt, “It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies”

In June, Harper Collins will release “It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies” by Mary Eberstadt. The publisher’s description follows:

Mary Eberstadt, “one of the most acute and creative social observers of our time,” (Francis Fukuyama) shines a much-needed spotlight on a disturbing trend in American society: discrimination against traditional religious belief and believers, who are being aggressively pushed out of public life by the concerted efforts of militant secularists.

In It’s Dangerous to Believe, Mary Eberstadt documents how people of faith—especially Christians who adhere to traditional religious beliefs—face widespread discrimination in today’s increasingly secular society. Eberstadt details how recent laws, court decisions, and intimidation on campuses and elsewhere threaten believers who fear losing their jobs, their communities, and their basic freedoms solely because of their convictions. They fear that their religious universities and colleges will capitulate to aggressive secularist demands. They fear that they and their families will be ostracized or will have to lose their religion because of mounting social and financial penalties for believing. They fear they won’t be able to maintain charitable operations that help the sick and feed the hungry.

Is this what we want for our country?

Religious freedom is a fundamental right, enshrined in the First Amendment. With It’s Dangerous to Believe, Eberstadt calls attention to this growing bigotry and seeks to open the minds of secular liberals whose otherwise good intentions are transforming them into modern inquisitors. Not until these progressives live up to their own standards of tolerance and diversity, she reminds us, can we build the inclusive society America was meant to be.

Soleimani, “Islam and Competing Nationalisms in the Middle East, 1876-1926”

In June, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Islam and Competing Nationalisms in the Middle East, 1876-1926” by Kamal Soleimani (historian of the Modern Middle East and Islamic world). The publisher’s description follows:

Opposing a binary perspective that consolidates ethnicity, religion, and Unknownnationalism into separate spheres, this book demonstrates that neither nationalism nor religion can be studied in isolation in the Middle East. Religious interpretation, like other systems of meaning-production, is affected by its historical and political contexts, and the processes of interpretation and religious translation bleed into the institutional discourses and processes of nation-building. This book calls into question the foundational epistemologies of the nation-state by centering on the pivotal and intimate role Islam played in the emergence of the nation-state, showing the entanglements and reciprocities of nationalism and religious thought as they played out in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Middle East.

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