Tag Archives: History of Religion

Songulashvili, “Evangelical Christian Baptists of Georgia”

This month, Baylor University Press releases “Evangelical Christian Baptists of Georgia: The History and Transformation of a Free Church Tradition,” by Malkhaz Songulashvili (Ilia State University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Malkhaz Songulashvili, former Archbishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia (EBCG), provides a pioneering, exacting, and
sweeping history of Georgian Baptists. Utilizing archival sources in Georgian, Russian, German, and English—translating many of these crucial documents for the first time into English—he recounts the history of the EBCG from its formation in 1867 to the present.

While the particular story of Georgian Baptists merits telling in its own right, and not simply as a feature of Russian religious life, Songulashvili employs Georgian Baptists as a sustained case study on the convergence of religion and culture. The interaction of Eastern Orthodox, Western Protestant, and Russian dissenting religious traditions—mixed into the political cauldron of Russian occupation of a formerly distinct eastern European culture—led to a remarkable experiment in Christian free-church identity.  Evangelical Christian Baptists of Georgia allows readers to peer through the lens of intercultural studies to see the powerful relationships among politics, religion, and culture in the formation of Georgian Baptists, and their blending of Orthodox tradition into Baptist life to craft a unique ecclesiology, liturgy, and aesthetics.

Valentine, “Force and Fanaticism: Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia and Beyond”

In August, Hurst Publishing released “Force and Fanaticism: Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia and Beyond” by Simon Ross Valentine (Leeds University and Bradford University). The publisher’s description follows:

Wahhabism is an Islamic reform movement found mainly in Saudi Arabia. Closely linked to the Saudi monarchy, it enforces a strict code of morality and conduct monitored by mutawa (religious police), and governs every facet of Saudi life according to its own strict interpretation of Shariah, including gender segregation. Wahhabism also prohibits the practice of any other faith (even other forms of Islam) in Saudi Arabia, which is also the only country that forbids women from driving.

But what exactly is Wahhabism? This question had long occupied Valentine, so he lived in the Kingdom for three years, familiarizing himself with its distinct interpretation of Islam. His book defines Wahhabism and Wahhabi beliefs and considers the life and teaching of Muham-mad ibn Abd’al Wahhab and the later expansion of his sect. Also discussed are the rejection of later developments in Islam such as bid’ah; harmful innovations, among them celebrating the prophet’s birthday and visiting the tombs of saints; the destruction of holy sites due to the fear of idolatry; Wahhabi law, which imposes the death sentence for crimes as archaic as witch-craft and sorcery, and the connection of Wahhabism with militant Islam globally.

Drawing on interviews with Saudis from all walks of life, including members of the feared mutawa, this book appraises of one of the most significant movements in contemporary Islam.

Roby, “The Mizrahi Era of Rebellion”

In November, the Syracuse University Press releases “The Mizrahi Era of Rebellion: Israel’s Forgotten Civil Rights Struggle, 1948–1966,” by Bryan K. Roby (New York University). The publisher’s description follows:

During the postwar period of 1948–56, over 400,000 Jews from the Middle East and Asia immigrated to the newly established state ofIsrael. By the end of the 1950s, Mizrahim, also known as Oriental Jewry, represented the ethnic majority of the Israeli Jewish population. Despite their large numbers, Mizrahim were considered outsiders because of their non-European origins. Viewed as foreigners who came from culturally backward and distant lands, they suffered decades of socioeconomic, political, and educational injustices.

In this pioneering work, Roby traces the Mizrahi population’s struggle for equality and civil rights in Israel. Although the daily “bread and work” demonstrations are considered the first political expression of the Mizrahim, Roby demonstrates the myriad ways in which they agitated for change. Drawing upon a wealth of archival sources, many only recently declassified, Roby details the activities of the highly ideological and politicized young Israel. Police reports, court transcripts, and protester accounts document a diverse range of resistance tactics, including sit-ins, tent protests, and hunger strikes. Roby shows how the Mizrahi intellectuals and activists in the 1960s began to take note of the American civil rights movement, gaining inspiration from its development and drawing parallels between their experience and that of other marginalized ethnic groups. The Mizrahi Era of Rebellion shines a light on a largely forgotten part of Israeli social history, one that profoundly shaped the way Jews from African and Asian countries engaged with the newly founded state of Israel.

Luehrmann, “Religion in Secular Archives”

In August, the Oxford University Press releases “Religion in Secular Archives: Soviet Atheism and Historical Knowledge,” by Sonja Luehrmann (Simon Fraser University).  The publisher’s description follows:

What can atheists tell us about religious life? Russian archives contain a wealth of information on religiosity during the Soviet era, but most of it is written from the hostile perspective of officials and scholars charged with promoting atheism. Based on archival research in locations as diverse as the multi-religious Volga region, Moscow, and Texas, Sonja Luehrmann argues that we can learn a great deal about Soviet religiosity when we focus not just on what documents say but also on what they did. Especially during the post-war decades (1950s-1970s), the puzzle of religious persistence under socialism challenged atheists to develop new approaches to studying and theorizing religion while also trying to control it. Taking into account the logic of filing systems as well as the content of documents, the book shows how documentary action made religious believers firmly a part of Soviet society while simultaneously casting them as ideologically alien. When juxtaposed with oral, printed, and samizdat sources, the records of institutions such as the Council of Religious Affairs and the Communist Party take on a dialogical quality. In distanced and carefully circumscribed form, they preserve traces of encounters with religious believers. By contrast, collections compiled by western supporters during the Cold War sometimes lack this ideological friction, recruiting Soviet believers into a deceptively simple binary of religion versus communism. Through careful readings and comparisons of different documentary genres and depositories, this book opens up a difficult set of sources to students of religion and secularism.

Moore, “Founding Sins”

In September, the Oxford University Press will release “Founding Sins: How a Group of Antislavery Radicals Fought to Put Christ into the Constitution,” by Joseph S. Moore (Gardner-Webb University). The publisher’s description follows:

The Covenanters, now mostly forgotten, were America’s first Christian nationalists. For two centuries they decried the fact that, in their view, the United States was not a Christian nation because slavery was in the Constitution but Jesus was not. Having once ruled Scotland as a part of a Presbyterian coalition, they longed to convert America to a holy Calvinist vision in which church and state united to form a godly body politic. Their unique story has largely been submerged beneath the histories of the events in which they participated and the famous figures with whom they interacted, making them the most important religious movement in American history that no one remembers.

Despite being one of North America’s smallest religious sects, the Covenanters found their way into every major revolt. They were God’s rebels–just as likely to be Patriots against Britain as they were to be Whiskey Rebels against the federal government. As the nation’s earliest and most avowed abolitionists, they had a significant influence on the fight for emancipation. In Founding Sins, Joseph S. Moore examines this forgotten history, and explores how Covenanters profoundly shaped American’s understandings of the separation of church and state.

While modern arguments about America’s Christian founding usually come from the right, the Covenanters have a more complicated legacy. They fought for an explicitly Christian America in the midst of what they saw as a secular state that failed the test of Christian nationhood. But they did so on behalf of a cause–abolition–that is traditionally associated with the left. Though their attempts to insert God into the Constitution ultimately failed, Covenanters set the acceptable limits for religion in politics for generations to come.

Lifshitz, “Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg and the Foundation of Jewish Political Thought”

In October, Cambridge University Press will release “Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg and the Foundation of Jewish Political Thought” by Joseph Isaac Lifshitz (Shalem Center, Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows:

This book is a scholarly examination of the political thought of Rabbi Meir (Maharam) of Rothenburg, the most important thirteenth century German Rabbi who was associated with the Pietist movement of the period. From the Maharam’s responsa on community matters, a coherent political thought emerges that exercised nearly unprecedented influence on European Jewish communities up to the Jewish Emancipation. Rabbi Meir’s extremely sophisticated attempt to balance the demands of the community against those of the individual was facilitated by a characteristic three-tiered structure to his political thought: concrete legal rules supported by value-laden legal principles built upon his general religious ideology. Through a systematic analysis of the Maharam’s political thought, Isaac Lifshitz offers an original contribution to Jewish studies, political theory, and the study of legal philosophy. By considering the legal and theological underpinnings of one of Medieval Jewry’s most influential figures, it also makes a contribution to the history of ideas in the Medieval period.

Katz, “The Burdens of Brotherhood”

In November, the Harvard University Press will release “The Burdens of Brotherhood: Jews and Muslims from North Africa to France” by Ethan B. Katz (University of Cincinnati). The publisher’s description follows:

Headlines from France suggest that Muslims have renewed an age-old struggle against Jews and that the two groups are once more inevitably at odds. But the past tells a different story. The Burdens of Brotherhood is a sweeping history of Jews and Muslims in France from World War I to the present. Here Ethan Katz introduces a richer and more complex world that offers fresh perspective for understanding the opportunities and challenges in France today.

Focusing on the experiences of ordinary people, Katz shows how Jewish–Muslim relations were shaped by everyday encounters and by perceptions of deeply rooted collective similarities or differences. We meet Jews and Muslims advocating common and divergent political visions, enjoying common culinary and musical traditions, and interacting on more intimate terms as neighbors, friends, enemies, and even lovers and family members. Drawing upon dozens of archives, newspapers, and interviews, Katz tackles controversial subjects like Muslim collaboration and resistance during World War II and the Holocaust, Jewish participation in French colonialism, the international impact of the Israeli–Arab conflict, and contemporary Muslim antisemitism in France.

We see how Jews and Muslims, as ethno-religious minorities, understood and related to one another through their respective relationships to the French state and society. Through their eyes, we see colonial France as a multiethnic, multireligious society more open to public displays of difference than its postcolonial successor. This book thus dramatically reconceives the meaning and history not only of Jewish–Muslim relations but ultimately of modern France itself.

Pope, “Seeking God’s Kingdom”

In November, the University of Wales Press will release “Seeking God’s Kingdom: The Nonconformist Social Gospel in Wales 1906-1939,” by Robert Pope (University of Wales). The publisher’s description follows:

The years between 1906 and 1939 in Europe were characterized by a concern, expressed in political, economic, social and religious terms, about the social conditions which had resulted from more than a century of industrialization. Seeking God’s Kingdom examines the work of Welsh Nonconformity’s four main protagonists of social thinking: David Miall Edwards, Thomas Rees, Herbert Morgan and John Morgan Jones. It explores the ways in which they were influenced by European intellectual and philosophical ideas, showing how religion was reinterpreted by them to promote social improvement, and the book assesses the strengths and weaknesses of their approach. Archetypal theological liberals rather than specifically social gospellers, their conclusions were undermined towards the end of the period by changes and developments in the current of European religious thought. This is a comprehensive and fascinating study of liberal theology’s attempt to come to terms with the demands and challenges of an industrialized society.

Brinton, “Preaching Islamic Renewal”

In October, the University of California Press will release “Preaching Islamic Renewal: Religious Authority and Media in Contemporary Egypt,” by Jacquelene Brinton (University of Kansas). The publisher’s description follows:

Preaching Islamic Renewal examines the life and work of Muhammad Mitwalli Sha‘rawi, one of Egypt’s most beloved and successful Islamic  preachers. His wildly popular TV program aired every Friday for years until his death in 1998. At the height of his career, it was estimated that up to 30 million people tuned in to his show each week. Yet despite his pervasive and continued influence in Egypt and the wider Muslim world, Sha‘rawi was for a long time neglected by academics. While much of the academic literature that focuses on Islam in modern Egypt repeats the claim that traditionally trained Muslim scholars suffered the loss of religious authority, Sha‘rawi is instead an example of a well-trained Sunni scholar who became a national media sensation. As an advisor to the rulers of Egypt as well as the first Arab television preacher, he was one of the most important and controversial religious figures in late-twentieth-century Egypt. Thanks to the repurposing of his videos on television and on the Internet, Sha‘rawi’s performances are still regularly viewed. Jacquelene Brinton uses Sha‘rawi and his work as a lens to explore how traditional Muslim authorities have used various media to put forth a unique vision of how Islam can be renewed and revived in the contemporary world. Through his weekly television appearances he popularized long held theological and ethical beliefs and became a scholar-celebrity who impacted social and political life in Egypt.

Cook, “Understanding Jihad”

In September, the University of California Press will release “Understanding Jihad,” by David Cook (Rice University). The publisher’s description follows:

First published in 2005, Understanding Jihad unravels the tangled historical, intellectual, and political meanings of jihad within the context of Islamic life. In this revised and expanded second edition, author David Cook has included new material in light of pivotal developments such as the extraordinary events of the Arab Spring, the death of Usama b. Ladin, and the rise of new Islamic factions such as ISIS.

Jihad is one of the most loaded and misunderstood terms in the news today. Contrary to popular understanding, the term does not mean “holy war.” Nor does it simply refer to an inner spiritual struggle. This judiciously balanced, accessibly written, and highly relevant book looks closely at a range of sources from sacred Islamic texts to modern interpretations, opening a critically important perspective on the role of Islam in the contemporary world.

David Cook cites from scriptural, legal, and newly translated texts to give readers insight into the often ambiguous information that is used to construct Islamic doctrine. He sheds light on legal developments relevant to fighting and warfare and places the internal, spiritual jihad within the larger context of Islamic religion. He describes some of the conflicts that occur in radical groups and shows how the more mainstream supporters of these groups have come to understand and justify violence. He has also included a special appendix of relevant documents including materials related to the September 11 attacks and published manifestos issued by Usama b. Ladin and Palestinian suicide-martyrs.