Paul, “From Tolerance to Equality”

5999Here is a forthcoming book from Baylor University Press that offers what looks to be a new and perhaps provocative treatment of the same-sex marriage debate. In From Tolerance to Equality: How Elites Brought America to Same-Sex Marriage, Williams College Professor Darel E. Paul (political science) employs class analysis and argues that same-sex marriage was an elite project that allowed America’s professional class to assert cultural and political domination over the rest of the country. Readers can judge for themselves. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

Over the last twenty-five years, a dramatic transformation in the American public’s view of homosexuality has occurred, symbolized best by the movement of same-sex marriage from the position of a fringe few to the pinnacle of morality and a cornerstone of establishment thought. From Tolerance to Equality explores how this seismic shift of social perspective occurred and why it was led by the country’s educational and business elite. Rejecting claims of a commitment to toleration or a heightened capacity for moral sympathy, author Darel E. Paul argues that American elites use opinion on homosexuality as a mark of social distinction and thus as a tool for accumulating cultural authority and political power.

Paul traces this process through its cultural pathways as first professionals and, later, corporate managers took up the cause. He marshals original data analysis and chapters on social class and the family, the ideology of diversity, and the waning status of religious belief and authority to explore the factors behind the cultural changes he charts. Paul demonstrates the high stakes for same-sex marriage’s mostly secular proponents and mostly religious opponents—and explains how so many came to fight so vigorously on an issue that directly affects so few. In the end, From Tolerance to Equality is far more than an explanation of gay equality and same-sex marriage. It is a road map to the emerging American political and cultural landscape.

 

Barton & Bibas, “Rebooting Justice”

Rebooting-Justice-310x460This is not a law-and-religion book, but it is co-written by one of the participants in our Center’s Tradition Project, Stephanos Bibas, who recently left his position at the University of Pennsylvania Law school for a seat on the Third Circuit, and it looks to be of interest to anyone concerned about our legal system and the potential for technology to improve it. Tradition doesn’t mean stagnation, and there’s no reason why traditionalists must in principle oppose new technologies. As long as those new technologies don’t displace law professors, that is. The book is Rebooting Justice: More Technology, Fewer Lawyers, and the Future of Law, co-written by Bibas and law professor Benjamin Barton (Tennessee). Here is the description from the publisher, Encounter Books:

America is a nation founded on justice and the rule of law. But our laws are too complex, and legal advice too expensive, for poor and even middle-class Americans to get help and vindicate their rights. Criminal defendants facing jail time may receive an appointed lawyer who is juggling hundreds of cases and immediately urges them to plead guilty. Civil litigants are even worse off; usually, they get no help at all navigating the maze of technical procedures and rules. The same is true of those seeking legal advice, like planning a will or negotiating an employment contract.

Rebooting Justice presents a novel response to longstanding problems. The answer is to use technology and procedural innovation to simplify and change the process itself. In the civil and criminal courts where ordinary Americans appear the most, we should streamline complex procedures and assume that parties will not have a lawyer, rather than the other way around. We need a cheaper, simpler, faster justice system to control costs. We cannot untie the Gordian knot by adding more strands of rope; we need to cut it, to simplify it.

Amanat, “Iran”

eb374ed35a2bef6b09d45e9c84080a42Looking back from the perspective of forty years, the Iranian Revolution appears more and more as a turning point in world history. The Shia political resurgence encouraged similar Islamist movements in the Sunni world as well; and those movements have shaped the politics of the Mideast, and the world, ever since. A new history from Yale University Press, Iran: A Modern History, discusses the Revolution and other aspects of Iranian culture and history since the 16th century. The author is Yale historian Abbas Amanat. Here’s a description from the Yale website:

A masterfully researched and compelling history of Iran from 1501 to 2009

This history of modern Iran is not a survey in the conventional sense but an ambitious exploration of the story of a nation. It offers a revealing look at how events, people, and institutions are shaped by currents that sometimes reach back hundreds of years. The book covers the complex history of the diverse societies and economies of Iran against the background of dynastic changes, revolutions, civil wars, foreign occupation, and the rise of the Islamic Republic.

Abbas Amanat combines chronological and thematic approaches, exploring events with lasting implications for modern Iran and the world. Drawing on diverse historical scholarship and emphasizing the twentieth century, he addresses debates about Iran’s culture and politics. Political history is the driving narrative force, given impetus by Amanat’s decades of research and study. He layers the book with discussions of literature, music, and the arts; ideology and religion; economy and society; and cultural identity and heritage.

Carron, “Disarming Beauty”

P03345My friend, Professor Andrea Pin of the University of Padua, notes this new collection of essays by Fr. Julián Carrón, the leader of the Catholic lay movement, “Communion and Liberation”: Disarming Beauty: Essays on Faith, Truth, and Freedom (Notre Dame Press). Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

In 2005, Father Julián Carrón became the leader of the global ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation, following the death of the movement’s founder, Father Luigi Giussani. Disarming Beauty is the English translation of an engaging and thought-provoking collection of essays by one of the principal Catholic leaders and intellectuals in the world today. Adapted from talks given by Fr. Carrón, these essays have been thoroughly reworked by the author to offer an organic presentation of a decade-long journey. They present the content of his elaboration of the gospel message in light of the tradition of Fr. Giussani, the teachings of the popes, and the urgent needs of contemporary people.

Carrón offers a broad diagnosis of challenges in society and then introduces their implications in contexts such as families, schools, workplaces, and political communities. In a dialogue with his listeners, he inspires and encourages them to lay out a new path for the Catholic Church and the world. Throughout his essays, Carrón addresses the most pressing questions facing theologians today and provides insights that will interest everyone, from the most devout to the firm nonbeliever. Grappling with the interaction of Christian faith and modern culture, Carrón treats in very real and concrete ways what is essential to maintaining and developing Christian faith, and he invites an ongoing conversation about the meaning of faith, truth, and freedom.

Manne, “The Rise of the Islamic State”

9781633883710From Prometheus, here is a new study of ISIS’s motivating ideology by Australian scholar Robert Manne (La Trobe University): The Mind of the Islamic State: ISIS and the Ideology of the Caliphate. Manne, a political scientist at La Trobe University in Melbourne, traces the roots of ISIS to earlier Islamic groups like al-Qaeda. Here’s the description from the Penguin Random House, the distributor:

In the ongoing conflict with ISIS, military observers and regional experts have noted that it is just as important to understand its motivating ideology as to win battles on the ground. This book traces the evolution of this ideology from its origins in the prison writings of the revolutionary jihadist Sayyid Qutb, through the thinking of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who planned the 9/11 terrorist attack, to today’s incendiary screeds that motivate terrorism via the Internet.

Chief among these recent texts are two documents that provide the foundation for ISIS terrorism. One is called The Management of Savagery, essentially a handbook for creating mayhem through acts of violence. The other is the online magazine of horror called Dabiq, which combines theological justifications with ultraviolent means, apocalyptic dreams, and genocidal ambitions. Professor Manne provides close, original, and lucid readings of these important documents. He introduces readers to a strange, cruel, but internally coherent and consistent political ideology, which has now entered the minds of very large numbers of radicalized Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, and the West.

However disturbing and unsettling, this book is essential reading for anyone concerned about terrorist violence.

 

Crane, “The Meaning of Belief”

9780674088832-lgAmerican progressives increasingly argue that religion is simply a type of ideology, and that, as a result, it should receive no more respect in our law than other sorts of ideological commitments. But religion, as the West traditionally has understood it, is something more than ideology, especially in its corporate, identitarian aspects. The law traditionally has given special protection to religion exactly because it is not an ideology like any other. A new book from Harvard University Press, The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View, by Tim Crane (Central European University) attempts to explain the unique aspects of religion to atheists, who otherwise might fail to understand the force of the worldview they reject. Here’s the description from the Harvard website:

Contemporary debate about religion seems to be going nowhere. Atheists persist with their arguments, many plausible and some unanswerable, but these make no impact on religious believers. Defenders of religion find atheists equally unwilling to cede ground. The Meaning of Belief offers a way out of this stalemate.

An atheist himself, Tim Crane writes that there is a fundamental flaw with most atheists’ basic approach: religion is not what they think it is. Atheists tend to treat religion as a kind of primitive cosmology, as the sort of explanation of the universe that science offers. They conclude that religious believers are irrational, superstitious, and bigoted. But this view of religion is almost entirely inaccurate. Crane offers an alternative account based on two ideas. The first is the idea of a religious impulse: the sense people have of something transcending the world of ordinary experience, even if it cannot be explicitly articulated. The second is the idea of identification: the fact that religion involves belonging to a specific social group and participating in practices that reinforce the bonds of belonging. Once these ideas are properly understood, the inadequacy of atheists’ conventional conception of religion emerges.

The Meaning of Belief does not assess the truth or falsehood of religion. Rather, it looks at the meaning of religious belief and offers a way of understanding it that both makes sense of current debate and also suggests what more intellectually responsible and practically effective attitudes atheists might take to the phenomenon of religion.

Happy Labor Day

ora

Hope everyone’s enjoying the day off.

Metaxas, “Martin Luther”

9781101980019As my colleague Marc pointed out last week, 2017 is a very important anniversary for law and religion scholars, and a number of new works on Luther and the Protestant Reformation have appeared throughout the year. Not least of these is Eric Metaxas’s much awaited biography of Luther, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Penguin Random House), which appears next month. OK, the title is a bit over the top. But Metaxas’s biography of Bonhoeffer was very well received, and this book promises to be an important one as well. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Eric Metaxas comes a brilliant and inspiring biography of the most influential man in modern history, Martin Luther, in time for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation

On All Hallow’s Eve in 1517, a young monk named Martin Luther posted a document he hoped would spark an academic debate, but that instead ignited a conflagration that would forever destroy the world he knew. Five hundred years after Luther’s now famous Ninety-five Theses appeared, Eric Metaxas, acclaimed biographer of the bestselling Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, paints a startling portrait of the wild figure whose adamantine faith cracked the edifice of Western Christendom and dragged medieval Europe into the future. Written in riveting prose and impeccably researched, Martin Luther tells the searing tale of a humble man who, by bringing ugly truths to the highest seats of power, caused the explosion whose sound is still ringing in our ears. Luther’s monumental faith and courage gave birth to the ideals of liberty, equality, and individualism that today lie at the heart of all modern life.

 

Murray, “The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam”

Sure to be provocative and insightful, this book by Douglas Murray is a study of the Death of Europevarious demographic and identitarian problems that Western Europe is now facing. Note in particular his travels to Lampedusa in Sicily, the site of the famous novel, Il Gattopardo. The publisher is Bloomsbury and the description is below.

The Strange Death of Europe is a highly personal account of a continent and culture caught in the act of suicide. Declining birth-rates, mass immigration and cultivated self-distrust and self-hatred have come together to make Europeans unable to argue for themselves and incapable of resisting their own comprehensive change as a society. This book is not only an analysis of demographic and political realities, but also an eyewitness account of a continent in self-destruct mode. It includes reporting from across the entire continent, from the places where migrants land to the places they end up, from the people who appear to welcome them in to the places which cannot accept them.

Told from this first-hand perspective, and backed with impressive research and evidence, the book addresses the disappointing failure of multiculturalism, Angela Merkel’s U-turn on migration, the lack of repatriation and the Western fixation on guilt. Murray travels to Berlin, Paris, Scandinavia, Lampedusa and Greece to uncover the malaise at the very heart of the European culture, and to hear the stories of those who have arrived in Europe from far away. In each chapter he also takes a step back to look at the bigger issues which lie behind a continent’s death-wish, answering the question of why anyone, let alone an entire civilisation, would do this to themselves? He ends with two visions of Europe – one hopeful, one pessimistic – which paint a picture of Europe in crisis and offer a choice as to what, if anything, we can do next.

Bray & Hobbins, “Genesis 1-11”

One of the first conferences that Mark and I put together several years ago concerned Genesis“religious legal theory”–the nature of religious law and comparative approaches within and among religious traditions. The study of religious law remains a focus of our Center. Here’s a wonderful new translation of Genesis 1-11 authored in part by UCLA law professor Samuel Bray (a participant in the first leg of our Tradition Project last year) and Hebrew scholar John F. Hobbins, whose subtitle is “A New Old Translation for Readers, Scholars, and Translators.”

How does this new translation relate to law? Principally because law is all about words and their uses to convey meaning. But for more, you should check out Sam’s wonderfully interesting posts at the Volokh Conspiracy, which cover issues ranging from the Tower of Babel to those of “double translation” and its pitfalls. And the translation itself has something that should appeal to textualists–great faithfulness to the original. The publisher’s description is below.

This translation of Genesis 1-11 follows the Hebrew text closely and leaves in what many translations leave out: physicality, ambiguity, repetition, even puns. Bray and Hobbins also draw deeply from the long history of Jewish and Christian interpretation. Their translation and notes offer the reader wisdom and delight.

%d bloggers like this: