“Religious Dynamics under the Impact of Imperialism and Colonialism” (Bentlage et al, eds.)

In October, Brill Publishers will release “Religious Dynamics under the Impact of Imperialism and Colonialism,” edited by Bjorn Bentlage (Martin-Luther University), Marion Eggert (Ruhr University Bochum), Hans Martin Krämer (Heidelberg University), and Stefan Reichmuth (Ruhr University Bochum). The publisher’s description follows:

This sourcebook offers rare insights into a formative period in the modern history of religions. TBrill_logohroughout the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, when commercial, political and cultural contacts intensified worldwide, politics and religions became ever more entangled. This volume offers a wide range of translated source texts from all over Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, thereby diminishing the difficulty of having to handle the plurality of involved languages and backgrounds. The ways in which the original authors, some prominent and others little known, thought about their own religion, its place in the world and its relation to other religions, allows for much needed insight into the shared and analogous challenges of an age dominated by imperialism and colonialism.

Arjmand, “Public Urban Space, Gender and Segregation”

In September, Routledge will release “Public Urban Space, Gender and Segregation: Women-only Urban Parks in Iran,” by Reza Arjmand (Lund University). The publisher’s description follows:

Public spaces are the renditions of the power symmetry within the social setting it resides in, and is both controlling and confining of power. In an ideologically-laden 9781472473370context, urban design encompasses values and meanings and is utilized as a means to construct the identity and perpetuate visible and invisible boundaries. Hence, gendered spatial dichotomy based on a biological division of sexes is often employed systematically to evade the transgression of women into the public spaces.

The production of modern urban space in the Middle East is formed in the interplay between modernity, tradition and religion. Examining women in public spaces and patterns of interaction with gender -segregated and -mixed space, this book argues that gendered spaces are far from a static physical spatial division and produce a complex and dynamic dichotomy of men/public and women/private. Taking the example of Iran, normative and ideologically-laden gender segregated public spaces have been used as a tool for the Islamization of everyday life. The most recent government effort includes women-only parks, purportedly designed and administered through women’s contributions, as well as to accommodate their needs and provide space for social interaction and activities. Combining research approaches from urban planning and social sciences, this book analyses both technical and social aspects of women-only parks. Addressing the relationships between ideology, urban planning and gender, the book interprets power relations and how they are used to define and plan public and semi-public urban spaces.

Lack of communication across disciplinary boundaries as result of complexities of urban life has been one of the major hindrances in studying urban spaces in the Middle East. Addressing the concern, the cross-disciplinary approach employed in this volume is an amalgamation of methods informed by urban planning and social sciences, which includes an in-depth analysis of the morphological, perceptual, social, visual, functional, and temporal dimensions of the public space, the women-only parks in Iran. Based on critical ethnography, this volume uses a phenomenological approach to understating women in gendered spaces. Interaction of women in women-only parks in Iran, a gendered space which is growing in popularity across the Muslim world is discussed thoroughly and compared vis-à-vis gender-neutral public spaces. The book targets scholars and students within a wide range of academic disciplines including urban studies, urban planning, gender studies, political science, Middle Eastern studies, cultural studies, urban anthropology, urban sociology, Iranian studies and Islamic studies.

Conversations: R.R. Reno

r.r.-reno-web_1R.R. “Rusty” Reno (left) is the editor of First Things and an influential commentator on religion in American public life. He has written an interesting and provocative new book, Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society (Regnery 2016), in which he argues for reviving Christianity’s role in American society. The book doesn’t call for a theocracy, but a return to Christian ideas and commitments which, Reno says, can prevent a slide into greater social dysfunction. The book considers, among other things, the proper definition of freedom, the absence of the transcendent in contemporary culture, and America’ s growing economic and social inequality.

In the latest edition in our Conversations series, I ask Rusty some questions about his new book. Among other things, we discuss whether a Christian society is compatible with contemporary notions of pluralism, how Christianity might promote a more secure understanding of freedom and lessen the gap in social capital between rich and poor, and why Reno thinks President Obama personifies our new “post-Protestant WASP elite.”

Rusty, what inspired you to write this book?

Reno: Over the last few years I’ve become convinced that our Christian witness in public life has become too crimped, too focused on hot button issues. Defending innocent life remains vitally important, of course. We need to affirm truths about men, women, sex, and marriage, truths that are now taboos! Religious liberty is also crucial. But important as these issues may be, we’ve got to think more deeply about what’s at stake.

This sent me back to T.S. Eliot’s Idea of a Christian Society, lectures he gave in 1939 when Europe faced a dramatic cultural crisis. Nazism, Fascism, and Communism were ascendant. Many thought liberal democratic culture had no future. Eliot’s contribution—and this clarified my thinking—was to see that the crisis of Western civilization was spiritual. Fascism and Communism were pagan, organizing society around the gods of Nation, Race, Power, History, the Proletariat, and so forth. The answer could not be a liberalism understood as neutrality or tolerance. A Neutral Society, as he put it, could not stand on its own. A Pagan Society could only be countered by a Christian Society, not because Christianity is the only religion capable of sustaining justice and decency, but because Christianity has been the source of the West’s liberalism.

To my mind that remains true. Our paganism is soft and small, not hard and grandiose. We worship the hearth gods of health, wealth, and pleasure. But it’s a cruel paganism and in the book I detail the ways in which it’s especially hard on the poor and vulnerable. I want readers to see that a concern about traditional morality isn’t “moralistic.” It reflects a desire to defend the weak and vulnerable—a crucial biblical imperative.

In the book, you advocate recovering Christian influence in American culture—restoring a Christian society. Yet you recognize that your goals of increased solidarity, return to more limited government, and a renewed sense of the transcendent are consistent with other sorts of societies as well. Why not advocate the goals themselves, rather than a particular faith? Does the answer have to do with the historic role Christianity has in American society?

Reno:  It is true that we could have a Jewish society that embodied many of the qualities I advocate. Perhaps a Muslim or Buddhist society would as well, though I’m less sure. I even imagine that a Neoplatonic Society or Stoic Society would have at least some of the qualities I argue for in the book. But the fact of the matter is that Christianity has been and remains the overwhelmingly predominant “community of transcendence” in the West. Thus, if we want to escape the idols of health, wealth, and pleasure, it’s going to require the resurrection of the idea of a Christian society.

Your question raises the further point of whether we can isolate spiritual-cultural values from living “communities of transcendence.” Why not promote solidarity, argue for Continue reading

Balmer, “Evangelicalism in America”

In October, Baylor University Press will release “Evangelicalism in America,” by Randall Balmer (Dartmouth). The publisher’s description follows:

Baylor Logo.pngEvangelicalism has left its indelible mark on American history, politics, and culture. It is also true that currents of American populism and politics have shaped the nature and character of evangelicalism.

This story of evangelicalism in America is thus riddled with paradox. Despite the fact that evangelicals, perhaps more than any other religious group, have benefited from the First Amendment and the separation of church and state, several prominent evangelical leaders over the past half century have tried to abrogate the establishment clause of the First Amendment. And despite evangelicalism’s legacy of concern for the poor, for women, and for minorities, some contemporary evangelicals have repudiated their own heritage of compassion and sacrifice stemming from Jesus’ command to love the least of these.

In Evangelicalism in America Randall Balmer chronicles the history of evangelicalism—its origins and development as well as its diversity and contradictions. Within this lineage Balmer explores the social varieties and political implications of evangelicalism’s inception as well as its present and paradoxical relationship with American culture and politics. Balmer debunks some of the cherished myths surrounding this distinctly American movement while also prophetically speaking about its future contributions to American life.

Holmes, “The Church of England and Divorce in the Twentieth Century”

In October, Routledge will release The Church of England and Divorce in the Twentieth Century: Legalism and Grace by Ann Sumner Holmes (Louisiana State University). The publisher’s description follows:The Church of England and Divorce in the Twentieth Century

Attitudes towards divorce have changed considerably over the past two centuries. As society has moved away from a Biblical definition of marriage as an indissoluble union, to that of an individual and personal relationship, secular laws have evolved as well. Using unpublished sources and previously inaccessible private collections, Holmes explores the significant role the Church of England has played in these changes, as well as the impact this has had on ecclesiastical policies. This timely study will be relevant to ongoing debates about the meaning and nature of marriage, including the theological doctrines and ecclesiastical policies underlying current debates on same-sex marriage.

 

Event at the Newseum: “Community Forum for Christian Leaders”

On September 27, the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Center will host a forum entitled “Community Forum for Christian Leaders.” The Religious Freedom Center’s description of the event follows:

During this election year, our politics have further divided our country. Policies and systems reinforce inequities across communities—in education, the economy, human rights, poor neighborhoods and families. A government of the people, for the people and by the people does not always reflect “liberty and justice for all.”

In this Washington, D.C. Community Forum organized by the Forum for Theological Exploration, we will bring together a diverse, intergenerational group of Christian leaders to discuss these questions and others related to faith and politics. This isn’t just about a conversation—it’s also about igniting and inspiring action.

Register today to participate in a conversation and develop next steps on the impact you can make as a Christian leader. Join FTE and a diverse, intergenerational group of Christian leaders to discuss faith and politics in Washington, D.C. Ask questions, share challenges, exchange ideas, listen to one another’s wisdom and discover how you might be a catalyst for change.

“Multireligious Society” (González & D’Amato, eds.)

In October, Routledge will release Multireligious Society: Dealing with Religious Diversity in Theory and Practice edited by Francisco Colom González (Spanish National Research Council) and Gianni D’Amato (University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland). The publisher’s description follows: Multireligious Society

With the theory of secularization increasingly contested as a plausible development at a global scale, this book focuses on the changing significance of the religious element within a context of complex diversity. This concept reflects the rationale behind the deep transformations that have taken place in the dynamics of social change, giving way to a recombination of social, political and cultural cleavages that overlap and compete for legitimacy at a national and supranational level. Far from disappearing with modernization, new forms of religious diversity have emerged that continue to demand specific policies from the state, putting pressure on the established practices of religious governance while creating a series of normative dilemmas. European societies have been a testing ground for many of these changes, but for decades Canada has been viewed as a pioneering country in the management of diversity, thus offering some interesting similarities and contrasts with the former. Accordingly, the book deals with the diverging routes that political secularization has followed in Europe and Canada, the patterns of religious governance that can be recognized in each region, and the practices for accommodating the demands of religious minorities concerning their legal regulation, the management of public institutions, and the provision of social services.

Baugh, “God and the Green Divide”

In October, the University of California Press will release God and the Green Divide: Religious Environmentalism in Black and White by Amanda J. Baugh (California State University, Northridge). The publisher’s description follows:

God and the Green DivideAmerican environmentalism historically has been associated with the interests of white elites. Yet religious leaders in the twenty-first century have helped instill concern about the earth among groups diverse in religion, race, ethnicity, and class. How did that happen and what are the implications? Building on scholarship that provides theological and ethical resources to support the “greening” of religion, God and the Green Divide examines religious environmentalism as it actually happens in the daily lives of urban Americans. Baugh demonstrates how complex dynamics related to race, ethnicity, and class factor into decisions to “go green.” By carefully examining negotiations of racial and ethnic identities as central to the history of religious environmentalism, this work complicates assumptions that religious environmentalism is a direct expression of theology, ethics, or religious beliefs.

Around the Web this Week

Here are some interesting law and religion news stories from around the web this week:

 

Sharma, “Nation, Ethnicity and the Conflict in Afghanistan”

This month, Routledge releases “Nation, Ethnicity and the Conflict in Afghanistan: Political Islam and the rise of ethno-politics 1992–1996,” by Raghav Sharma (O.P. Jindal Global University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Ethnic and tribal loyalties in Afghanistan provided the lethal cocktail for the violent conflict that engulfed the country following the collapse of the Soviet9781472471475 backed government in 1992. The ensuing fighting between mujahideen groups paved the way for the tectonic social and political shifts, which continue to shape events today. What accounts for the emergence of ethnicity, as the main cause of conflict in Afghanistan? What moved people to respond with such fervour and intensity to calls for ethnic solidarity? This book attempts to make sense of ethnicity’s decisive role in Afghanistan through a comprehensive exploration of its nature and perception. Based on new data, generated through interviews, field notes and participant observations, Sharma maps the increased role of ethnicity in Afghan national politics. Key social, political and historical processes that facilitated its emergence as the pre-dominant fault-line of conflict are explored, moving away from grand political and military narrative to instead engage with zones of conflict as social spaces. This book will be of interest to students and scholars working in politics, ethnic studies and security studies.

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