Next month, Oxford University Press will publish Dissent and the Bible in Britain, c.1650-1950 by Scott Mandelbrote (University of Cambridge) and Michael Ledger-Lomas (King’s College). The publisher’s description follows.
The claim that the Bible was “the Christian’s only rule of faith and practice” has been fundamental to Protestant dissent. Dissenters first braved persecution and then justified their adversarial status in British society with the claim that they alone remained true to the biblical model of Christ’s Church. They produced much of the literature that guided millions of people in their everyday reading of Scripture, while the voluntary societies that distributed millions of Bibles to the British and across the world were heavily indebted to Dissent. Yet no single book has explored either what the Bible did for dissenters or what dissenters did to establish the hegemony of the Bible in British culture. The protracted conflicts over biblical interpretation that resulted from the bewildering proliferation of dissenting denominations have made it difficult to grasp their contribution as a whole. This volume evokes the great variety in the dissenting study and use of the Bible while insisting on the factors that gave it importance and underlying unity. Its ten essays range across the period from the later seventeenth to the mid-twentieth century and make reference to all the major dissenting denominations of the United Kingdom. The essays are woven together by a thematic introduction which places the Bible at the center of dissenting ecclesiology, eschatology, public worship, and “family religion,” while charting the political and theological divisions that made the cry of “the Bible only” so divisive for dissenters in practice.
Next month, NYU Press will publish The Divided Mind of the Black Church: Theology, Piety, and Public Witness by Raphael Warnock (Ebenezer Baptist Church). The publisher’s description follows.
What is the true nature and mission of the church? Is its proper Christian purpose to save souls, or to transform the social order? This question is especially fraught when the church is one built by an enslaved people and formed, from its beginning, at the center of an oppressed community’s fight for personhood and freedom. Such is the central tension in the identity and mission of the black church in the United States.
For decades the black church and black theology have held each other at arm’s length. Black theology has emphasized the role of Christian faith in addressing racism and other forms of oppression, arguing that Jesus urged his disciples to seek the freedom of all peoples. Meanwhile, the black church, even when focused on social concerns, has often emphasized personal piety rather than social protest. With the rising influence of white evangelicalism, biblical fundamentalism, and the prosperity gospel, the divide has become even more pronounced.
In Piety or Protest, Raphael G. Warnock, Senior Pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,traces the historical significance of the rise and development of black theology as an important conversation partner for the black church. Calling for honest dialogue between black and womanist theologians and black pastors, this fresh theological treatment demands a new look at the church’s essential mission.
This month, Fordham University Press published Empowering the People of God: Catholic Action Before and After Vatican II, edited by Jeremy Bonner, Christopher D. Denny, and Mary Beth Fraser Connolly. The publisher’s description follows:
The early 1960s were a heady time for Catholic laypeople. Pope Pius XII’s assurance “You do not belong to the Church. You are the Church” emboldened the laity to challenge Church authority in ways previously considered unthinkable. Empowering the People of God offers a fresh look at the Catholic laity and its relationship with the hierarchy in the period immediately preceding the Second Vatican Council and in the turbulent era that followed. This collection of essays explores a diverse assortment of manifestations of Catholic action, ranging from genteel reform to radical activism, and an equally wide variety of locales, apostolates, and movements.
This month, Edinburgh University Press will publish Twelver Shi’ism: Unity and Diversity in the Life of Islam, 632 to 1722 by Andrew Newman (University of Edinburgh). The publisher’s description follows.
As many as 40 different Shi`i groups existed in the ninth and tenth centuries yet only 3 forms have survived. Why is Twelver Shi`ism one of them?
As the established faith in modern Iran, the majority faith in Iraq and areas in the Gulf and with its adherents forming sizeable minorities elsewhere in the region, it is arguably the most successful branch of Shi’ism. This book charts its history and the development of the key distinctive doctrines and practices which ensured its survival in the face of repeated challenges. It argues that the key to the faith’s endurance has been its ability to institutionalise responses to the changing, often localised circumstances in which the community has found itself, thereby remaining remarkably resilient in the face of both internal disagreements and external opposition.
Next month, the University Press of Colorado will publish The Neo-Indians: A Religion for the Third Millenium by Jacques Galinier (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense) and Antoinette Molinie (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense). The publisher’s description follows.
The Neo-Indians is a rich ethnographic study of the emergence of the neo-Indian movement—a new form of Indian identity based on largely reinvented pre-colonial cultures and comprising a diverse group of people attempting to re-create purified pre-colonial indigenous beliefs and ritual practices without the contaminating influences of modern society.
There is no full-time neo-Indian. Both indigenous and non-indigenous practitioners assume Indian identities only when deemed spiritually significant. In their daily lives, they are average members of modern society, dressing in Western clothing, working at middle-class jobs, and retaining their traditional religious identities. As a result of this part-time status the neo-Indians are often overlooked as a subject of study, making this book the first anthropological analysis of the movement.
Galinier and Molinié present and analyze four decades of ethnographic research focusing on Mexico and Peru, the two major areas of the movement’s genesis. They examine the use of public space, describe the neo-Indian ceremonies, provide analysis of the ceremonies’ symbolism, and explore the close relationship between the neo-Indian religion and tourism. The Neo-Indians will be of great interest to ethnographers, anthropologists, and scholars of Latin American history, religion, and cultural studies.
Next month, Georgetown University Press will publish The Future of Ethics: Sustainability, Social Justice, and Religious Creativity by Willis Jenkins (University of Virginia). The publisher’s description follows.
The Future of Ethics interprets the big questions of sustainability and social justice through the practical problems arising from humanity’s increasing power over basic systems of life. What does climate change mean for our obligations to future generations? How can the sciences work with pluralist cultures in ways that will help societies learn from ecological change?
Traditional religious ethics examines texts and traditions and highlights principles and virtuous behaviors that can apply to particular issues. Willis Jenkins develops lines of practical inquiry through “prophetic pragmatism,” an approach to ethics that begins with concrete problems and adapts to changing circumstances. This brand of pragmatism takes its cues from liberationist theology, with its emphasis on how individuals and communities actually cope with overwhelming problems.
Can religious communities make a difference when dealing with these issues? By integrating environmental sciences and theological ethics into problem-based engagements with philosophy, economics, and other disciplines, Jenkins illustrates the wide understanding and moral creativity needed to live well in the new conditions of human power. He shows the significance of religious thought to the development of interdisciplinary responses to sustainability issues and how this calls for a new style of religious ethics.
This month, Indiana University Press published Judaism, Liberalism, and Political Theology, edited by Randi Rashkover (George Mason University) and Martin Kavka (Lehigh University). The publisher’s description follows.
Judaism, Liberalism, and Political Theology provides the first broad encounter between modern Jewish thought and recent developments in political theology. In opposition to impetuous associations of Judaism and liberalism and charges that Judaism cannot engender a universal political order, the essays in this volume propose a new and richly detailed engagement between Judaism and the political. The vexed status of liberalism in Jewish thought and Judaism in political theology is interrogated with recourse to thinking from across the Continental tradition.
Next month, Cambridge University Press will publish The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Mediterranean Religions, edited by Barbette Spaeth (College of William and Mary). The publisher’s description follows.
In antiquity, the Mediterranean region was linked by sea and land routes that facilitated the spread of religious beliefs and practices among the civilizations of the ancient world. The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Mediterranean Religions provides an introduction to the major religions of this area and explores current research regarding the similarities and differences among them. The period covered is from the prehistoric period to late antiquity, that is, ca. 4000 BCE to 600 CE. Nine essays providing an overview of the characteristics and historical developments of the major religions of the region, including those of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria-Canaan, Israel, Anatolia, Iran, Greece, Rome, and early Christianity. Five essays dealing with key topics in current research on these religions, including violence, identity, the body, gender, and visuality, taking an explicitly comparative approach and presenting recent theoretical and methodological advances in contemporary scholarship.
At Mirror of Justice, my friend Rick Garnett has an interesting post about Guy Fawkes Day, which, for those of you who don’t know, was yesterday. The day commemorates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a conspiracy by British Catholics to blow up Parliament and end the Protestant Stuart dynasty. (Amusing, in its way, because the Protestantism of the Stuarts was always a little suspect). Guy Fawkes was one of the conspirators–the one in charge of the explosives–and for centuries Britons commemorated the day by burning effigies of Guy and the Pope. Nowadays, the holiday has morphed into Bonfire Night, in which Britons across the country light huge fires and set off fireworks. Probably the whole thing will morph into Halloween one of these days.
As an American, I’ve always thought knowing about Guy Fawkes Day was a mark of anglophile eccentricity, rather like reading P.D. James or renting Elizabeth R on Netflix. But here comes Rick, who writes that his public school celebrated Guy Fawkes Day as a holiday. And Rick comes from Alaska! Obviously, this great country is more than I know.
Next month, the University of Michigan Press will publish Politics, Faith, and the Making of American Judaism by Peter Adams (Montgomery Community College). The publisher’s description follows.
In 1862, in the only instance of a Jewish expulsion in America, General Ulysses S. Grant banished Jewish citizens from the region under his military command. Although the order was quickly revoked by President Lincoln, it represented growing anti-Semitism in America. Convinced that assimilation was their best defense, Jews sought to Americanize by shedding distinctive dress, occupations, and religious rituals.
American Jews recognized the benefit and urgency of bridging the divide between Reform and Orthodox Judaism to create a stronger alliance to face the challenges ahead. With Grant’s 1868 presidential campaign, they also realized they could no longer remain aloof from partisan politics. As they became a growing influence in American politics, both political parties courted the new Jewish vote.
Once in office, Grant took notice of the persecution of Jews in Romania and Russia, and he appointed more Jews to office than any president before him. Indeed, Simon Wolf, a Washington lawyer who became one of Grant’s closest advisers, was part of a new generation of Jewish leaders to emerge in the post–Civil War era—thoroughly Americanized, politically mature, and committed to the modernized Judaism of the Reform movement.