Tag Archives: Church and State

Bank and Gevers, “Churches and Religion in the Second World War”

In March, Bloomsbury Publishing will release “Churches and Religion in the Second World War,” by Jan Bank (University of Leiden) and Lieve Gevers (Catholic University Leuven).  The publisher’s description follows:

Despite the wealth of historical literature on the Second World War, the subject of religion and churches in occupied Europe has been undervalued –9781472504807 until now. This critical European history is unique in delivering a rich and detailed analysis of churches and religion during the Second World War, looking at the Christian religions of occupied Europe: Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Orthodoxy.

The authors engage with key themes such as relations between religious institutions and the occupying forces; religion as a key factor in national identity and resistance; theological answers to the Fascist and National Socialist ideologies, especially in terms of the persecution of the Jews; Christians as bystanders or protectors in the Holocaust; and religious life during the war. Churches and Religion in the Second World War will be of great value to students and scholars of European history, the Second World War and religion and theology.

“Christianity and Freedom: Historical Perspectives” (Shah & Hertzke eds.)

In March, Cambridge University Press will release “Christianity and Freedom: Volume 1. Historical Perspectives” edited by Timothy Samuel Shah (Georgetown University) and Allen D. Hertzke (University of Oklahoma). The publisher’s description follows:

In Volume 1 of Christianity and Freedom, leading historians uncover the unappreciated role of Christianity in the development of basic human rights and freedoms from antiquity through today. These include radical notions of dignity and equality, religious freedom, liberty of conscience, limited government, consent of the governed, economic liberty, autonomous civil society, and church-state separation, as well as more recent advances in democracy, human rights, and human development. Acknowledging that the record is mixed, scholars document how the seeds of freedom in Christianity antedate and ultimately undermine later Christian justifications and practices of persecution. Drawing from history, political science, and sociology, this volume will become a standard reference work for historians, political scientists, theologians, students, journalists, business leaders, opinion shapers, and policy makers.

The Play of Daniel

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James Ruff as Daniel in the Trinity Production (NYT)

Earlier this month, I had a chance to see the Gotham Early Music Scene’s production of The Play of Daniel, a medieval Christmas pageant, performed as part of the annual Twelfth Night Festival at New York’s Trinity Church. The festival, which the church started several years ago, revives the idea of Christmas as a twelve-day holiday beginning on December 25 and running until Epiphany, January 6. It includes concerts and plays at Trinity and nearby St. Paul’s. I hope the organizers include this production of Daniel every year.

Students at Beauvais Cathedral in the north of France wrote Daniel, a drama based on episodes in the Old Testament book, around the year 1200. The text is a mix of Latin and Old French. The music, without rhythmical notation, survives in a manuscript at the British Library; the Trinity production rendered many of the numbers as dances. Interpolated within the biblical story are non-biblical texts, including songs that foretell the coming of Christ and even a Christmas carol of sorts, Congaudemus celebremus natalis sollempnia—“Let us together joyfully celebrate the Feast of the Nativity.” The presence of these songs, as well as some other internal evidence, suggests Daniel is meant to be performed at Christmastime.

The Trinity production was a lot of fun—the music; the costumes, inspired by pictures at the Cloisters in upper Manhattan; the acting, everything. Trinity’s Gothic Revival setting worked perfectly. Early music isn’t everyone’s thing, I know, but I think everyone would enjoy this production, including kids. There are even some laughs.

For people interested in church and state, the play has additional meaning. In the Old Testament book, King Darius’s courtiers urge him to issue an order providing that “whoever prays to anyone, divine or human, for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions.” Darius issues the order, but Daniel refuses to comply. “He continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open toward Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously.” The courtiers find out and haul Daniel before Darius, who cannot take back his order, as the laws of the Medes and Persians, once proclaimed, are irrevocable. Daniel goes off to the lions, but God sends an angel to protect him. Moved, Darius frees Daniel and orders the courtiers thrown to the lions instead. They don’t fare as well.

The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is pretty well known, even in our age of biblical illiteracy. But there is another church and state allusion in Daniel, more obscure today, but which contemporary audiences would surely have recognized. Daniel was written at the height of the investiture crisis, a centuries-long struggle for control of the Catholic Church that pitted the Holy Roman Emperor and other sovereigns against the papacy. Harold Berman famously dated the origins of the Western legal system, particularly legal pluralism, to the investiture crisis and what he called “the papal revolution” of the late Middle Ages. When Daniel was written, Becket’s murder was still in living memory, and the outcome of the investiture crisis was far from certain. Surely those students of Beauvais had current events in mind when they staged a drama showing what happens to courtiers who try to impose the power of the state against believers.

If you can, go and see Daniel next Christmas. Meanwhile, to tide you over, here is a video of this year’s performance from Trinity’s website.

Smidt, “Pastors and Public Life”

In March, the Oxford University Press will release “Pastors and Public Life: The Changing Face of American Protestant Clergy,” by Corwin E. Smidt (Calvin College).  The publisher’s description follows:

America’s clergy are not just religious leaders. Their influence extends far beyond church doors. Houses of worship stand at the center of 9780190455491American civic life-one of the few spheres in which relatively diverse individuals gather together regularly. And the moral authority granted to pastors means that they are uniquely positioned to play a role in public debates.

Based on data gathered through national surveys of clergy across four mainline Protestant (the Disciples of Christ; the Presbyterian Church, USA; the Reformed Church in America; and the United Methodist Church) and three evangelical Protestant denominations (the Assemblies of God; the Christian Reformed Church; and, the Southern Baptist Convention), Pastors and Public Life examines the changing sociological, theological, and political characteristics of American Protestant clergy over the past twenty-plus years. Smidt focuses on the relationship between clergy and politics-clergy positions on issues of American public policy, norms on what is appropriate for clergy to do politically, as well as the clergy’s political cue-giving, their pronouncements on public policy, and political activism-and the impact these changes have on congregations and on American society as a whole.

Pastors and Public Life is the first book to systematically examine such changes and continuity over time. It will be invaluable to scholars, students, pastors, and churchgoers.

Winter, “Divine Honours for the Caesars”

In October, Eerdmans released Divine Honours for the Caesars: The First Winter_Divine Honors for the Caesars_wrk03.inddChristians’ Response, by historian Bruce Winter. The publisher’s description follows:

Though the first century A.D. saw the striking rise and expansion of Christianity throughout the vast Roman Empire, ancient historians have shown that an even stronger imperial cult spread far more rapidly at the same time. How did the early Jesus-followers cope with the all-pervasive culture of emperor worship?

This authoritative study by Bruce Winter explores the varied responses of first-century Christians to imperial requirements to render divine honours to the Caesars. Winter first examines the significant primary evidence of emperor worship, particularly analysing numerous inscriptions in public places and temples that attributed divine titles to the emperors, and he then looks at specific New Testament evidence in light of his findings.

“Faith in the New Millennium” (eds. Sutton & Dochuk)

In January, the Oxford University Press will release “Faith in the New Millennium: The Future of Religion and American Politics,” edited by Matthew Avery Sutton (Washington State University) and Darren Dochuk (Washington University in St. Louis). The publisher’s description follows:

The Statue of Liberty–depicted on a roadside billboard–did not carry her customary torch and tablet. Instead, she shielded her eyes from 41xwbyzr3ol-_sx329_bo1204203200_words that towered beside her, words that highway drivers could not possibly avoid: “We are no longer a Christian nation.” Underneath was the name of the man who spoke them, the nation’s president, Barack Obama. He had made the original statement–“Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation, at least not just”–four years earlier. Since then those words had appeared, in one form or another, not just on billboards but in a host of other venues, a visible symbol of America’s divide over religion and politics.

In Faith in the New Millennium, a group of leading historians explores the shifting role of religion in American politics in the age of Obama, shedding new and fascinating light on the interplay of faith and politics. Each of the sixteen contributors examines a contemporary issue, controversy, or policy through a historical lens. In an age of the 24-hour-news-cycle, where complexity is often buried under bluster, these essays make a powerful case for understanding the stories behind the news. They tackle such topics as immigration reform, racial turmoil, drone wars, foreign policy, and the unstoppable rise of social media. Taken together, they reveal how faith is shaping modern America, and how modern America is shaping faith.

Venter, “Constitutionalism and Religion”

In December, Edward Elgar Publishing will release “Constitutionalism and Religion” by Francois Venter (North-West University, South Africa). The publisher’s description follows:

This topical book examines how the goals of constitutionalism – good and fair government – are addressed at a time when the multi-religious composition of countries’ populations has never before been so pronounced. How should governments, courts and officials deal with this diversity? The widely accepted principle of treating others as you wish them to treat you and the universal recognition of human dignity speak against preferential treatment of any religion. Faced with severe challenges, this leads many authorities to seek refuge in secular neutrality. Set against the backdrop of globalized constitutionalism in a post-secular era, Francois Venter proposes engaged objectivity as an alternative to unachievable neutrality.

Bringing together the history of church and state, the emergence of contemporary constitutionalism, constitutional comparison and the realities of globalization, this book offers a fresh perspective on the direction in which solutions to difficulties brought about by religious pluralism might be sought. Its wide-ranging comparative analyses and perspectives based on materials published in various languages provide a clear exposition of the range of religious issues with which the contemporary state is increasingly being confronted.

“God and the EU” (Chaplin & Wilton, eds.)

In January, Routledge will release “God and the EU: Faith in the European Project,” edited by Jonathan Chaplin (Cambridge University) and Gary Wilton (Wilton Park-Executive Agency of FCO).  The publisher’s description follows:

The current political, economic and financial crises facing the EU reveal a deeper cultural, indeed spiritual, malaise – a crisis in ‘the soul of Europe’. Many observers are concluding that the EU cannot be restored to health without a new appreciation of the contribution of religion to its past and future, and especially that of its hugely important but widely neglected Christian heritage, which is alive today even amidst advancing European secularization.

God and the EU offers a fresh, constructive and critical understanding of Christian contributions to the origin and development of the EU from a variety of theological, national and political perspectives. It explains the Christian origins of the EU; documents the various ways in which it has been both affirmed and critiqued from diverse theological perspectives; offers expert, theologically-informed assessments of four illustrative policy areas of the EU (religion, finance, environment, science); and also reports on the place of religion in the EU, including how religious freedom is framed and how contemporary religious actors relate to EU institutions and vice versa.

This book fills a major gap in the current debate about the future of the European project and will be of interest to students and scholars of religion, politics and European studies.

Pin, “The Legal Treatment of Muslim Minorities in Italy: Islam and the Neutral State”

In January, Ashgate will release “The Legal Treatment of Muslim Minorities in Italy: Islam and the Neutral State” by Andrea Pin (University of Padua). The publisher’s description follows:

Islam is a growing presence practically everywhere in Europe. In Italy,Unknown
however, Islam has met a unique model of state neutrality, religious freedom and church and state collaboration. This book gives a detailed description of the legal treatment of Muslims in Italy, contrasting it with other European states and jurisprudence, and with wider global tendencies that characterize the treatment of Islam. Through focusing on a series of case studies, the author argues that the relationship between church and state in Italy, and more broadly in Europe, should be reconsidered both to secure religious freedom and general welfare.

Working on the concepts of religious freedom, state neutrality, and relationship between church and state, Andrea Pin develops a theoretical framework that combines the state level with the supranational level in the form of the European Convention of Human Rights, which ultimately shapes a unitary but flexible understanding of pluralism. This approach should better accommodate not just Muslims’ needs, but religious needs in general in Italy and elsewhere.

Greene, “No Depression in Heaven: The Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Transformation of Religion in the Delta”

Next month, Oxford University Press will release “No Depression in Heaven: The Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Transformation of Religion in the Delta” by Alison Collis Greene (Mississippi State University). The publisher’s description follows:

In No Depression in Heaven, Alison Collis Greene demonstrates how the Great Depression and New Deal transformed the relationship between church and state. Grounded in Memphis and the Delta, this book traces the collapse of voluntarism, the link between southern religion and the New Deal, and the gradual alienation of conservative Christianity from the state.

At the start of the Great Depression, churches and voluntary societies provided the only significant source of aid for those in need in the South. Limited in scope, divided by race, and designed to control the needy as much as to support them, religious aid collapsed under the burden of need in the early 1930s. Hungry, homeless, and out-of-work Americans found that they had nowhere to turn at the most desolate moment of their lives.

Religious leaders joined a chorus of pleas for federal intervention in the crisis and a permanent social safety net. They celebrated the New Deal as a religious triumph. Yet some complained that Franklin Roosevelt cut the churches out of his programs and lamented their lost moral authority. Still others found new opportunities within the New Deal. By the late 1930s, the pattern was set for decades of religious and political realignment.

More than a study of religion and politics, No Depression in Heaven uncovers the stories of men and women who endured the Depression and sought in their religious worlds the spiritual resources to endure material deprivation. Its characters are rich and poor, black and white, mobile sharecroppers and wealthy reformers, enamored of the federal government and appalled by it. Woven into this story of political and social transformation are stories of southern men and women who faced the greatest economic disaster of the twentieth century and tried to build a better world than the one they inhabited.