Tag Archives: Christianity

Where the Queen Prays in Scotland

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Crathie Kirk

As everyone knows, Scotland votes tomorrow on whether to remain part of the United Kingdom. In Scotland last Sunday, Queen Elizabeth made a statement most have interpreted as a commentary on the situation. Scots should think very carefully about the future, she said.

I’m sure the Queen meant that Scots should vote “No.” How could she have meant otherwise? What interests me, though, is that she made the statement after services at Crathie Kirk, a parish of the Church of Scotland. In fact, she regularly worships at Crathie Kirk when she’s in Scotland, at her Balmoral estate.

Now, Queen Elizabeth is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican communion. The Church of Scotland is not Anglican, but Presbyterian. Relations between the two churches are cordial (though they have not always been so), but the Queen is not a Presbyterian. She’s an Anglican. So why does she regularly worship in the Scottish Kirk? Are there no Church of England parishes near Balmoral? Couldn’t she fly in a vicar from London?

As far as I can tell, this arrangement is one of those historical accommodations that have ripened into custom. The Treaty of Union of 1707 — the treaty Scots may overturn tomorrow — requires the British Monarch to preserve the Church of Scotland. The Monarch takes an oath to that effect upon accession to the throne. Sometimes the Monarch attends meetings of the Church’s General Assembly. Usually she sends a representative.

It’s thus quite natural for British Monarchs to feel that, whatever their official role in the Church of England, they have a place in the Church of Scotland as well. In the nineteenth century, Queen Victoria caused a scandal when she received communion in the Church of Scotland, but she maintained that as the country’s — that is, Scotland’s — Queen, she had every right to do so. Since then, every reigning Monarch has worshiped at Crathie Kirk.

So, there it is. In England, the Monarch is an Anglican; in Scotland, she prays with the Presbyterians. How very British. I mean that in a good way, and I use the term advisedly. After tomorrow, it may mean something else.

Lynerd, “Republican Theology”

This September, Oxford University Press released “Republican Theology: The Civil Religion of American Evangelicals” by Benjamin T. Lynerd (Roosevelt University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Republican TheologyWhite evangelicals occupy strange property on the ideological map in America, exhibiting a pronounced commitment to the principle of limited government, and yet making a significant exception for issues relating to personal morality – an exception many observers take to be paradoxical at best. Explanations of this phenomenon usually point to the knotty political alliance evangelicals built with free-market types in the late twentieth century, but sermonic evidence suggests a deeper and longer intellectual thread, one that has pervaded evangelical thought all the way back to the American founding.

In Republican Theology, Benjamin Lynerd offers an historical and theological account of the hybrid position evangelicals have long affected to hold in American culture – as champions of individual liberty and as guardians of American morality. Lynerd documents the development of a resilient, if problematic, tradition in American political thought, one that sees a free republic, a virtuous people, and an assertive Christianity as mutually dependent. Situating the recent rise of the “New Right” within this larger framework, Republican Theology traces the contentious political journey of evangelicals from its earliest moments, laying bare the conceptual tensions built into their civil religion.

Anderson, “Conservative Christian Politics in Russia and the United States”

This October, Routledge Press will release “Conservative Christian Politics in Russia and the United States: Dreaming of Christian Nations” by John Anderson (University of St. Andrews).  The publisher’s description follows:

Conservative Christian PoliticsThis book explores the politics of conservative Christian churches and social movements in Russia and the United States, focusing on their similar concerns but very different modes of political engagement.

Whilst secularisation continues to chip away at religious adherence and practice in Europe, religion is often, quite rightly, seen as an influential force in the politics of the United States, and, more questionably, as a significant influence in contemporary Russia. This book looks at the broad social movement making up the US Christian Right and the profoundly hierarchical leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church as socially conservative actors, and some of the ways they have engaged in contemporary politics. Both are seeking to halt the perceived drift towards a more secular political order; both face significant challenges in handling the consequences of secularism, pluralism and liberal individualism; and both believe that their nations can only be great if they remain true to their religious heritage. In exploring their experience, the book focuses on shared and different elements in their diagnosis of what is wrong with their societies and how this affects their policy intervention over issues such as religious and ethnic belonging, sexual orientation and education.

Drawing on political, sociological and religious studies, this work will be a useful reference for students and scholars of religion and politics, Russian politics and American politics.

Yancey & Williamson, “So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States?”

In November, Rowman & Littlefield will release “So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States?” by George Yancey (University of North Texas) and David A. Williamson (University of North Texas). The publisher’s description follows:

So Many Christians, So Few Lions is a provocative look at anti-Christian sentiments in America. Drawing on both quantitative and qualitative research, authors George Yancey and David A. Williamson show that even though (or perhaps because) Christianity is the dominant religion in the United States, bias against Christians also exists—particularly against conservative Christians—and that this bias is worth understanding.

 The book does not attempt to show the prevalence of anti-Christian sentiments—called Christianophobia—but rather to document it, to dig into where and how it exists, to explore who harbors these attitudes, and to examine how this bias plays itself out in everyday life. Excerpts from the authors’ interviews highlight the fear and hatred that some people harbor towards Christians, especially the Christian right, and the ways these people exhibit elements of bigotry, prejudice, and dehumanization. The authors argue that understanding anti-Christian bias is important for understanding some social dynamics in America, and they offer practical suggestions to help reduce religious intolerance of all kinds.

Kefeli, “Becoming Muslim in Imperial Russia”

This November, Cornell University Press will release “Becoming Muslim in Imperial Russia: Conversion, Apostasy, and Literacy” by Agnes Nilufer Kefeli (Arizona State University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Becoming Muslim in Imperial RussiaIn the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire’s Middle Volga region (today’s Tatarstan) was the site of a prolonged struggle between Russian Orthodoxy and Islam, each of which sought to solidify its influence among the frontier’s mix of Turkic, Finno-Ugric, and Slavic peoples. The immediate catalyst of the events that Agnes Nilufer Kefeli chronicles in Becoming Muslim in Imperial Russia was the collective turn to Islam by many of the region’s Krashens, the Muslim and animist Tatars who converted to Russian Orthodoxy between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.

The traditional view holds that the apostates had really been Muslim all along or that their conversions had been forced by the state or undertaken voluntarily as a matter of convenience. In Kefeli’s view, this argument vastly oversimplifies the complexity of a region where many participated in the religious cultures of both Islam and Orthodox Christianity and where a vibrant Krashen community has survived to the present. By analyzing Russian, Eurasian, and Central Asian ethnographic, administrative, literary, and missionary sources, Kefeli shows how traditional education, with Sufi mystical components, helped to Islamize Finno-Ugric and Turkic peoples in the Kama-Volga countryside and set the stage for the development of modernist Islam in Russia.

Of particular interest is Kefeli’s emphasis on the role that Tatar women (both Krashen and Muslim) played as holders and transmitters of Sufi knowledge. Today, she notes, intellectuals and mullahs in Tatarstan seek to revive both Sufi and modernist traditions to counteract new expressions of Islam and promote a purely Tatar Islam aware of its specificity in a post-Christian and secular environment.

Kim & Kim, “A History of Korean Christianity”

In November, SUNY University Press will release “A History of Korean Christianity” by Sebastian C. H. Kim (York St. John University) and Kirsteen Kim (Leeds Trinity University). The publisher’s description follows:

With a third of South Koreans now identifying themselves as Christian, Christian churches play an increasingly prominent role in the social and political events of the Korean peninsula. Sebastian Kim and Kirsteen Kim’s comprehensive and timely history of different Christian denominations in Korea includes surveys of the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions as well as new church movements. They examine the Korean Christian diaspora and missionary movements from South Korea and also give cutting-edge insights into North Korea. This book, the first recent one-volume history and analysis of Korean Christianity in English, highlights the challenges faced by the Christian churches in view of Korea’s distinctive and multireligious cultural heritage, South Korea’s rapid rise in global economic power and the precarious state of North Korea, which threatens global peace. This History will be an important resource for all students of world Christianity, Korean studies and mission studies.

Phelan, “The Formation of Christian Europe”

This October, Oxford University Press will release “The Formation of Christian Europe: The Carolingians, Baptism, and the Imperium Christianum” by Owen Phelan (Mount Saint Mary’s University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Formation of Christian EuropeThe Formation of Christian Europe analyzes the Carolingians’ efforts to form a Christian Empire with the organizing principle of the sacrament of baptism. Owen M. Phelan argues that baptism provided the foundation for this society, and offered a medium for the communication and the popularization of beliefs and ideas, through which the Carolingian Renewal established the vision of an imperium christianum in Europe. He analyzes how baptism unified people theologically, socially, and politically and helped Carolingian leaders order their approaches to public life. It enabled reformers to think in ways which were ideologically consistent, publicly available, and socially useful.
Phelan also examines the influential court intellectual, Alcuin of York, who worked to implement a sacramental society through baptism. The book finally looks at the dissolution of Carolingian political aspirations for an imperium christianum and how, by the end of the ninth century, political frustrations concealed the deeper achievement of the Carolingian Renewal.

BBC Essay on the Armenian Church in Myanmar

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Photo from the BBC

From the BBC’s News Magazine, here’s a lovely essay, “The Last Armenians of Myanmar,” about a small Armenian parish church, St. John the Baptist, in the capital city of Yangon. The Armenian community built the church in 1862, when the country was still known as Burma, and the city as Rangoon.The Armenians had come to Rangoon in the 18th century from Iran, by way of British India, following the trade routes.They established close ties to the Burmese monarchy, which donated the land for the church in the center of the city.

As its title suggests, the essay has a wistful, elegiac tone. Hardly any Armenians remain in Myanmar today– most departed for Australia after World War II – and the parish gets only a handful of worshipers on Sundays. But the situation is not altogether grim. Faithful parishioners continue to maintain the church lovingly– photos of the interior make it look Victorian and vaguely Episcopalian – and the liturgy is said every Sunday by Fr. John Felix, a South Indian convert from Anglicanism. The choir continues to sing the hymns in classical Armenian.

There is hope that two things will work to preserve the building. First, as Myanmar opens to the world, international tourism is increasing. As one of the the city’s principal historic landmarks, the church should benefit. Second, the church has become the focal point for the small Orthodox community in Yangon, not just Armenians:

Already diplomats, business visitors and tourists from a range of Orthodox countries and churches – Russian, Greek, Serbian – occasionally swell the numbers at St John the Baptist, the only Orthodox church in Myanmar’s biggest city.

A new worshiper here, Ramona Tarta, is Romanian, a globetrotting business woman, publisher and events organizer who has lived in Yangon for the last few months.

“My faith is very important to me. Wherever I am in the world, I seek out an Orthodox church. But I was about to give up on Yangon. I thought it was the only city I’d ever lived in which had no Orthodox place of worship,” she complains.

She chanced across the Armenian church when driving past, and believes that with a little promotion, this historic building – and the tradition to which it bears testimony – could have a more secure future.

There’s a lesson here. Many of these Orthodox Churches have been out of communion for thousands of years. Formally, they are not supposed to worship together. But at the ends of the earth, and surrounded by people for whom these sectarian differences mean nothing, Christians somehow manage to cooperate. A hopeful example of practical ecumenism that Christians everywhere should keep in mind.

Fisher, Lemons & Mason-Brown, “Decoding Roger Williams”

This month, Baylor University Press releases “Decoding Roger Williams: The Lost Essay of Rhode Island’s Founding Father” by Linford D. Fisher (Brown University), J. Stanley Lemons (Emeritus Professor at Rhode Island College) and Lucas Mason-Brown (Graduate Student at Trinity College, Dublin).  The publisher’s description follows:

Decoding Roger WilliamsNear the end of his life, Roger Williams, Rhode Island founder and father of American religious freedom, scrawled an encrypted essay in the margins of a colonial-era book. For more than 300 years those shorthand notes remained indecipherable…

…until a team of Brown University undergraduates led by Lucas Mason-Brown cracked Williams’ code after the marginalia languished for over a century in the archives of the John Carter Brown Library. At the time of Williams’ writing, a trans-Atlantic debate on infant versus believer’s baptism had taken shape that included London Baptist minister John Norcott and the famous Puritan “Apostle to the Indians,” John Eliot. Amazingly, Williams’ code contained a previously undiscovered essay, which was a point-by-point refutation of Eliot’s book supporting infant baptism.

History professors Linford D. Fisher and J. Stanley Lemons immediately recognized the importance of what turned out to be theologian Roger Williams’ final treatise. Decoding Roger Williams reveals for the first time Williams’ translated and annotated essay, along with a critical essay by Fisher, Lemons, and Mason-Brown and reprints of the original Norcott and Eliot tracts.

Cole, “Just War and the Ethics of Espionage”

This month, Routledge Publishing releases “Just War and the Ethics of Espionage” by Darrell Cole (Drew University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Just War and the Ethics of EspionageThe War on Terror has raised many new, thorny issues of how we can determine acceptable action in defense of our liberties. Western leaders have increasingly used spies to execute missions unsuitable to the military. These operations, which often result in the contravening of international law and previously held norms of acceptable moral behavior, raise critical ethical questions—is spying limited by moral considerations? If so, what are they and how are they determined? Cole argues that spying is an act of force that may be a justifiable means to secure order and justice among political communities. He explores how the just war moral tradition, with its roots in Christian moral theology and Western moral philosophy, history, custom and law might help us come to grips with the moral problems of spying. This book will appeal to anyone interested in applied religious ethics, moral theology and philosophy, political philosophy, international law, international relations, military intellectual history, the War on Terror, and Christian theological politics.