This has been another exciting and productive year for the Center for Law and Religion. We co-hosted a conference in Rome on international religious freedom that opened with an address by Pope Francis, as well as events in Manhattan and Queens on the persecution of Mideast Christians. We continued to host our award-winning blog, the Center for Law and Religion Forum, which you are now reading. And Center faculty published articles and book chapters, and participated in numerous academic conferences and panels.
Our annual report for 2013-2014 is available here. Please take a look. Thanks to our friends for their continuing support, and please let us know if you have any suggestions for future activities.
I’ve always thought of James Boswell simply as the biographer of Samuel Johnson. Apparently, he had an interior life himself. A new book from Harvard University Press, Boswell’s Enlightenment, seems interesting as an intellectual history of his attempt to reconcile Christianity and the Enlightenment–an attempt with which many of Boswell’s contemporaries, including some Framers of the American Constitution, were well acquainted. The author, Robert Zaretsky, is a professor at the University of Houston. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Throughout his life, James Boswell struggled to fashion a clear account of himself, but try as he might, he could not reconcile the truths of his era with those of his religious upbringing.Boswell’s Enlightenment examines the conflicting credos of reason and faith, progress and tradition that pulled Boswell, like so many eighteenth-century Europeans, in opposing directions. In the end, the life of the man best known for writing Samuel Johnson’s biography was something of a patchwork affair. As Johnson himself understood: “That creature was its own tormentor, and I believe its name was BOSWELL.”
Few periods in Boswell’s life better crystallize this internal turmoil than 1763–1765, the years of his Grand Tour and the focus of Robert Zaretsky’s thrilling intellectual adventure. From the moment Boswell sailed for Holland from the port of Harwich, leaving behind on the beach his newly made friend Dr. Johnson, to his return to Dover from Calais a year and a half later, the young Scot was intent on not just touring historic and religious sites but also canvassing the views of the greatest thinkers of the age. In his relentless quizzing of Voltaire and Rousseau, Hume and Johnson, Paoli and Wilkes on topics concerning faith, the soul, and death, he was not merely a celebrity-seeker but—for want of a better term—a truth-seeker. Zaretsky reveals a life more complex and compelling than suggested by the label “Johnson’s biographer,” and one that 250 years later registers our own variations of mind.
This month, Random House releases On Slavery and Abolitionism, a new collection of writings by the Grimké Sisters, Sarah and Angelica, with an introduction by Mark Perry. The publisher’s description follows:
Sarah and Angelina Grimké’s portrayal in Sue Monk Kidd’s latest novel, The Invention of Wings, has brought much-deserved new attention to these inspiring Americans. The first female agents for the American Anti-Slavery Society, the sisters originally rose to prominence after Angelina wrote a rousing letter of support to renowned abolitionist William Garrison in the wake of Philadelphia’s pro-slavery riots in 1935. Born into Southern aristocracy, the Grimkés grew up in a slave-holding family. Hetty, a young house servant, whom Sarah secretly taught to read, deeply influenced Sarah Grimké’s life, sparking her commitment to anti-slavery activism. As adults, the sisters embraced Quakerism and dedicated their lives to the abolitionist and women’s rights movements. Their appeals and epistles were some of the most eloquent and emotional arguments against slavery made by any abolitionists. Their words, greeted with trepidation and threats in their own time, speak to us now as enduring examples of triumph and hope.
In March, Routledge released its new Routledge Handbook of Law and Religion, edited by Silvio Ferrari (University of Milan). The publisher’s description follows:
The field of law and religion studies has undergone a profound transformation over the last thirty years, looking beyond traditional relationships between State and religious communities to include rights of religious liberty and the role of religion in the public space.
This handbook features new, specially commissioned papers by a range of eminent scholars that offer a comprehensive overview of the field of law and religion. The book takes on an interdisciplinary approach, drawing from anthropology, sociology, theology and political science in order to explore how laws and court decisions concerning religion contribute to the shape of the public space.
Key themes within the book include:
- Religions symbols in the public space;
- Religion and security;
- Freedom of religion and cultural rights;
- Defamation and hate speech;
- Gender, religion and law;
This advanced level reference work is essential reading for students, researchers and scholars of law and religion, as well as policy makers in the field.
Last month, Basic Books released The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, by Eugene Rogan (St. Antony’s College-Oxford). The publisher’s description follows:
In 1914 the Ottoman Empire was depleted of men and resources after years of war against Balkan nationalist and Italian forces. But in the aftermath of the assassination in Sarajevo, the powers of Europe were sliding inexorably toward war, and not even the Middle East could escape the vast and enduring consequences of one of the most destructive conflicts in human history. The Great War spelled the end of the Ottomans, unleashing powerful forces that would forever change the face of the Middle East.
In The Fall of the Ottomans, award-winning historian Eugene Rogan brings the First World War and its immediate aftermath in the Middle East to vivid life, uncovering the often ignored story of the region’s crucial role in the conflict. Bolstered by German money, arms, and military advisors, the Ottomans took on the Russian, British, and French forces, and tried to provoke Jihad against the Allies in their Muslim colonies. Unlike the static killing fields of the Western Front, the war in the Middle East was fast-moving and unpredictable, with the Turks inflicting decisive defeats on the Entente in Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, and Gaza before the tide of battle turned in the Allies’ favor. The great cities of Baghdad, Jerusalem, and, finally, Damascus fell to invading armies before the Ottomans agreed to an armistice in 1918.
The postwar settlement led to the partition of Ottoman lands between the victorious powers, and laid the groundwork for the ongoing conflicts that continue to plague the modern Arab world. A sweeping narrative of battles and political intrigue from Gallipoli to Arabia, The Fall of the Ottomans is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the Great War and the making of the modern Middle East.
Just a quick note to say thanks and goodbye-for-now to Nate Oman of William & Mary, who blogged with us for the month of April. Nate’s very interesting posts covered markets, same-sex marriage, and the British monarchy, among other topics. We were delighted to have you with us, Nate, and hope you come back soon!
In March, Princeton University Press released They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else': A History of the Armenian Genocide, by Ronald Grigor Suny (University of Michigan). The publisher’s description follows:
Starting in early 1915, the Ottoman Turks began deporting and killing hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the first major genocide of the twentieth century. By the end of the First World War, the number of Armenians in what would become Turkey had been reduced by ninety percent—more than a million people. A century later, the Armenian Genocide remains controversial but relatively unknown, overshadowed by later slaughters and the chasm separating Turkish and Armenian versions of events. In this definitive narrative history, Ronald Suny cuts through nationalist myths, propaganda, and denial to provide an unmatched account of when, how, and why the atrocities of 1915–16 were committed.
As it lost territory during the war, the Ottoman Empire was becoming a more homogenous Turkic-Muslim state, but it still contained large non-Muslim communities, including the Christian Armenians. The Young Turk leaders of the empire believed that the Armenians were internal enemies secretly allied to Russia and plotting to win an independent state. Suny shows that the great majority of Armenians were in truth loyal subjects who wanted to remain in the empire. But the Young Turks, steeped in imperial anxiety and anti-Armenian bias, became convinced that the survival of the state depended on the elimination of the Armenians. Suny is the first to explore the psychological factors as well as the international and domestic events that helped lead to genocide.
Drawing on archival documents and eyewitness accounts, this is an unforgettable chronicle of a cataclysm that set a tragic pattern for a century of genocide and crimes against humanity.
This month, Complutense University (Madrid) has released an updated version of Religion and the Secular State: National Reports, edited by Javier Martínez-Torrón (Complutense) and W. Cole Durham, Jr. (BYU). The publisher’s description follows:
Recent years have seen religion assume an increasingly visible place in public life, with mixed results that have been aptly described in terms of the “ambivalence of the sacred”. Every state adopts some posture toward the religious life existing among its citizens. That posture is typically contested, leading to constant adjustments at the level of constitutional and statutory law, as well as constantly evolving judicial and administrative decisions. While some states continue to maintain a particular religious (i.e., non-secular) orientation, most have adopted some type of secular system. Among secular states, there are a range of possible positions with respect to secularity, ranging from regimes with a very high commitment to secularism to more accommodationist regimes to regimes that remain committed to neutrality of the state but allow high levels of cooperation with religions. The attitude toward secularity has significant implications for implementation of international and constitutional norms protecting freedom of religion or belief, and more generally for the co-existence of different communities of religion and belief within society. Not surprisingly, comparative examination of the secularity of contemporary states yields significant insights into the nature of pluralism, the role of religion in modern society, the relationship between religion and democracy, and more generally, into fundamental questions about the relationship of religion and the state.
This book contains national reports on the topic “Religion and the Secular State” from 58 reporters representing 43 countries, plus a general report written by Professors Javier Martínez-Torrón and W. Cole Durham, Jr. The reports, originally prepared for the 18th World Congress of the International Academy of Comparative Law, were published in Interim form in 2010. This final volume, with updated and sometimes extensively modified reports, was prepared to coincide with the 19th Congress in Vienna in July 2014.
In June, Oxford University Press will release “Canon Law and Episcopal Authority: The Canons of Antioch and Serdica” by Christopher Stephens (University of Roehampton). The publisher’s description follows:
Christopher W. B. Stephens focuses on canon law as the starting point for a new interpretation of divisions between East and West in the Church after the death of Constantine the Great. He challenges the common assumption that bishops split between “Nicenes” and “non-Nicenes,” “Arians” or “Eusebians.” Instead, he argues that questions of doctrine took second place to disputes about the status of individual bishops and broader issues of the role of ecclesiastical councils, the nature of episcopal authority, and in particular the supremacy of the bishop of Rome.
Canon law allows the author to offer a fresh understanding of the purposes of councils in the East after 337, particularly the famed Dedication Council of 341 and the western meeting of the council of Serdica and the canon law written there, which elevated the bishop of Rome to an authority above all other bishops. Investigating the laws they wrote, the author describes the power struggles taking place in the years following 337 as bishops sought to elevate their status and grasp the opportunity for the absolute form of leadership Constantine had embodied.
Combining a close study of the laws and events of this period with broader reflections on the nature of power and authority in the Church and the increasingly important role of canon law, the book offers a fresh narrative of one of the most significant periods in the development of the Church as an institution and of the bishop as a leader.