Ten Napel, “Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom”

In May, Routledge will release “Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom: To be Fully Human,” by Hans-Martien ten Napel (Leiden University).  The publisher’s description follows:

In both Europe and North America it can be argued that the associational and institutional dimensions of the right to freedom of religion or belief are increasingly 9781138647152coming under pressure. This book demonstrates why a more classical understanding of the idea of a liberal democracy can allow for greater respect for the right to freedom of religion or belief.

The book examines the major direction in which liberal democracy has developed over the last fifty years and contends that this is not the most legitimate type of liberal democracy for religiously divided societies. Drawing on theoretical developments in the field of transnational constitutionalism, Hans-Martien ten Napel argues that redirecting the concept and practice of liberal democracy toward the more classical notion of limited, constitutional government, with a considerable degree of autonomy for civil society organizations would allow greater religious pluralism. The book shows how, in a postsecular and multicultural context, modern sources of constitutionalism and democracy, supplemented by premodern, transcendental legitimation, continue to provide the best means of legitimating Western constitutional and political orders.

Mack, “The Rise and Fall of the Christian Myth”

In February, Yale University Press will release The Rise and Fall of the Christian Myth:
Restoring Our Democratic Ideals by Burton L. Mack (Claremont School of Theology). The publisher’s description follows:

rise-and-fall-of-the-christian-mythA preeminent scholar explores the evolution of the Christian worldview and argues that it no longer offers a satisfactory vision for our democratic, multicultural society

This book is the culmination of a lifelong scholarly inquiry into Christian history, religion as a social institution, and the role of myth in the history of religions. Mack shows that religions are essentially mythological and that Christianity in particular has been an ever-changing mythological engine of social formation, from Roman times to its distinct American expression in our time.

The author traces the cultural influence of the Christian myth that has persisted for sixteen hundred years but now should be much less consequential in our social and cultural life, since it runs counter to our democratic ideals. We stand at a critical impasse: badly splintered by conflicting groups pursuing their own social interests, a binding common myth needs to be established by renewing a truly cohesive national and international story rooted in our democratic and egalitarian origins, committed to freedom, equality, and vital human values.

The Revival of Nationalism in 2016

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At the Library of Law and Liberty site this morning, I have a post on the elections of 2016. Across the West this year, the unthinkable has occurred again and again: Brexit; the election of Donald Trump; the popularity of the National Front in France and Euroskeptic parties like Lega Nord and the Five Star Movement in Italy. What explains these developments?

Although traditional conservatism, including religious conservatism, has had a role, I argue that the most important factor has been the revival of nationalism across the West:

In short, although traditional conservatism has been on the winning side in recent political contests, it has been a junior partner in a larger project: the revival of nationalism. Nationalism is a complicated phenomenon that takes different forms. A good working definition is the following: a political program that unites a people with a common ancestry or culture together with a sovereign state. Nationalism rejects attempts to subordinate the state to outside governance. Often, it seeks to protect local traditions from being diluted by an aggressive global culture. In its present iteration, it sets the nation-state against supranational, liberal regimes like the EU or NAFTA, and local customs and traditions, including religious traditions, against alien, outside trends….

One can easily perceive nationalism’s role in the politics of 2016. Repeatedly, the side advocating a recovery of sovereignty from supranational bodies and a limit on immigration prevailed. In the Brexit campaign, the “Leave” supporters argued that Britain must take back control from EU bureaucrats and assert authority over its borders. Here, Trump famously called for withdrawal from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty and for renegotiation of other free-trade agreements, including NAFTA; for a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants; and for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.

In France, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen has proudly declared that “the time of the nation state is back” and calls for restrictions on immigration and an end to multiculturalism. She maintains that the EU should be reconceived as a loose collection of sovereign states and that France should withdraw from the common currency. The ideology of Italy’s Euroskeptics is more fluid; nationalism is weaker in Italy, too. But important elements within Lega Nord and the Five Star Movement express skepticism about the EU and seek to withdraw from the euro, and also disfavor allowing large numbers of immigrants into the country.

The rise of nationalism upsets the conventional wisdom, which for some time has been predicting its demise. But, in times of crisis, people return to the nation state. I explain more here.

“Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine” (Demacopoulos & Papanikolaou, eds.)

From Fordham University Press, a new collection on Orthodox perspectives on the relationship between Christianity and liberal democracy: Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine, edited by Fordham professors George Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou. The publisher’s description follows:

9780823274208_10The collapse of communism in eastern Europe has forced traditionally Eastern Orthodox countries to consider the relationship between Christianity and liberal democracy. Contributors examine the influence of Constantinianism in both the post-communist Orthodox world and in Western political theology. Constructive theological essays feature Catholic and Protestant theologians reflecting on the relationship between Christianity and democracy, as well as Orthodox theologians reflecting on their tradition’s relationship to liberal democracy. The essays explore prospects of a distinctively Christian politics in a post-communist, post-Constantinian age.

ICLARS Conference: “Religion, Democracy, and Equality” (August 21-23)

The International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ICLARS) will host a conference, “Religion, Democracy, and Equality” next month in Virginia. The conference will be split among Richmond, Williamsburg, and Charlottesville. Seventy law and religion scholars from around the world, including CLR faculty Mark Movsesian and Marc DeGirolami, will participate. The most recent version of the conference program is here.

ICLARS is an international network of scholars and experts of law and religion begun in 2007. Its purpose is to provide a forum for exchange of information, data, and opinions among members, which are then made available to the broader academic community. Currently, ICLARS has members from more than 40 countries.

Conference: “Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine” (June 11-13)

Fordham’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center will host a conference, “Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine,” on June 11-13:

Perhaps the two most enduring legacies of Hellenism are Platonic philosophy and democracy. Yet the two are seemingly antithetical–Plato denied that democracy could lead a population to truth and, consequently, rejected the notion that democracy was good for the state. This conference explores the modern relationship between Christianity–with its Platonic roots–and democracy, and the extent to which it was shaped by the Constantinian revolution.

Details are here.

Call for Papers: “Religion, Democracy, and Equality”

The International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) will host its third annual conference, “Religion, Democracy, and Equality,” in Richmond this coming August and has issued a call for papers on the following themes:

  • Religious pluralism and treatment of religious minorities
  • Religion and anti-discrimination norms
  • Hate speech, hate crimes, and religious minorities
  • Religion and gender issues.

Details are here.

Krishna-Hensel (ed.), “Religion, Education and Governance in the Middle East”

This month, Ashgate Publishing will publish Religion, Education and Governance in the Middle East: Between Tradition and Modernity edited by Sai Felicia Krishna-Hensel (Auburn University at Montgomery).  The publisher’s description follows.

The Middle East is a key geopolitical strategic region in the international system but its distinctive cultural and political divisions present a mosaic of states that do not lend themselves to simplistic interpretations. A thoughtful analysis of the Middle East requires an understanding of the synergism between tradition and modernity in the region as it adapts to a globalizing world. Religious education and activism continue to remain a significant factor in the modernization process and the development of modern governance in the states of the Middle East.

This interdisciplinary book explores the historical and contemporary role of religious tradition and education on political elites and governing agencies in several major states as well as generally in the region. The relationship between democracy and authority is examined to provide a better understanding of the complexity underlying the emergence of new power configurations. As the region continues to respond to the forces of change in the international system it remains an important and intriguing area for analysts.

Diouf (ed.), “Tolerance, Democracy, and Sufis in Senegal”

In January, Columbia University Press will publish Tolerance, Democracy, and Sufis in Senegal edited by Mamadou Diouf (Columbia University).  The publisher’s description follows.

This collection critically examines “tolerance,” “secularism,” and respect for religious “diversity” within a social and political system dominated by Sufi brotherhoods. Through a detailed analysis of Senegal’s political economy, essays trace the genealogy and dynamic exchange among these concepts while investigating public spaces and political processes and their reciprocal engagement with the state, Sunni reformist and radical groups, and non-religious organizations.

Through a rich and nuanced historical ethnography of the formation of Senegalese democracy, this anthology illuminates the complex trajectory of the Senegalese state and its reflection of similar postcolonial societies. Offering rare perspectives on the country’s “successes” since liberation, this collection identifies the role of religion, gender, culture, ethnicity, globalization, politics, and migration in the reconfiguration of the state and society, and it makes an important contribution to democratization theory, Islamic studies, and African studies. Scholars of comparative politics and religious studies will also appreciate the volume’s treatment of Senegal as both an exceptional and universal example of postcolonial development.

Sherwood, “Biblical Blaspheming”

Last month, Cambridge University Press published Biblical Blaspheming: Trials of the Sacred for the Secular Age by Yvonne Sherwood (University of Glasgow).  The publisher’s description follows.

This book explores the strange persistence of ‘blasphemy’ in modern secular democracies by examining how accepted and prohibited ways of talking and thinking about the Bible and religion have changed over time. In a series of wide-ranging studies engaging disciplines such as politics, literature and visual theory, Yvonne Sherwood brings the Bible into dialogue with a host of interlocutors including John Locke, John Donne and the 9/11 hijackers, as well as artists such as Sarah Lucas and René Magritte. Questions addressed include:  What is the origin of the common belief that the Bible, as opposed to the Qur’an, underpins liberal democratic values?  What kind of artworks does the biblical God specialise in?  If pre-modern Jewish, Christian and Islamic responses to scripture can be more ‘critical’ than contemporary speech about religion, how does this affect our understanding of secularity, modernity and critique?

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