Tag Archives: Religion and Society

Baker and Smith, “American Secularism”

In September, the New York University Press will release “American Secularism: Cultural Contours of Nonreligious Belief Systems,” by Joseph O. Baker (East Tennessee State University) and Buster G. Smith (Catawba College). The publisher’s description follows:

A rapidly growing number of Americans are embracing life outside the bounds of organized religion. Although America has long been viewed as a fervently religious Christian nation, survey data shows that more and more Americans are identifying as “not religious.” There are more non-religious Americans than ever before, yet social scientists have not adequately studied or typologized secularities, and the lived reality of secular individuals in America has not been astutely analyzed. American Secularism documents how changes to American society have fueled these shifts in the non-religious landscape and examines the diverse and dynamic world of secular Americans.

This volume offers a theoretical framework for understanding secularisms. It explores secular Americans’ thought and practice to understand secularisms as worldviews in their own right, not just as negations of religion. Drawing on empirical data, the authors examine how people live secular lives and make meaning outside of organized religion. Joseph O. Baker and Buster G. Smith link secularities to broader issues of social power and organization, providing an empirical and cultural perspective on the secular landscape. In so doing, they demonstrate that shifts in American secularism are reflective of changes in the political meanings of “religion” in American culture.

American Secularism addresses the contemporary lived reality of secular individuals, outlining forms of secular identity and showing their connection to patterns of family formation, sexuality, and politics, providing scholars of religion with a more comprehensive understanding of worldviews that do not include traditional religion.

Markofski, “New Monasticism and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism”

In June, Oxford University Press releases “New Monasticism and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism” by Wes Markofski (University of Wisconsin-Madison). The publisher’s description follows:

For most of the last century, popular and scholarly common sense has equated American evangelicalism with across-the-board social, economic, and political conservatism. However, if a growing chorus of evangelical leaders, media pundits, and religious scholars is to be believed, the era of uncontested evangelical conservatism is on the brink of collapse-if it hasn’t collapsed already. Combining vivid ethnographic storytelling and incisive theoretical analysis, New Monasticism and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism introduces readers to the fascinating and unexplored terrain of neo-monastic evangelicalism. Often located in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods, new monastic communities pursue religiously inspired visions of racial, social, and economic justice-alongside personal spiritual transformation-through diverse and creative expressions of radical community.

In this account, Wes Markofski has immersed himself in the paradoxical world of evangelical neo-monasticism, focusing on the Urban Monastery-an influential neo-monastic community located in a gritty, racially diverse neighborhood in a major Midwestern American city. The resulting account of the way in which this movement reflects and is contributing to the transformation of American evangelicalism challenges entrenched stereotypes and calls attention to the dynamic diversity of religious and political points of view which vie for supremacy in the American evangelical subculture. New Monasticism and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism is the first sociological analysis of new monastic evangelicalism and the first major work to theorize the growing theological and political diversity within twenty-first-century American evangelicalism.

Jütte, “The Age of Secrecy: Jews, Christians, and the Economy of Secrets, 1400–1800″

In May, Yale University Press released “The Age of Secrecy: Jews, Christians, and the Economy of Secrets, 1400–1800” by Daniel Jütte (Harvard University). The publisher’s description follows:

The fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries were truly an Age of Secrecy in Europe, when arcane knowledge was widely believed to be positive knowledge that extended into all areas of daily life, from the economic, scientific, and political spheres to the general activities of ordinary people.

So asserts Daniel Jütte in this engrossing, vivid, and award-winning work. He maintains that the widespread acceptance and even reverence for this “economy of secrets” in premodern Europe created a highly complex and sometimes perilous space for mutual contact between Jews and Christians. Surveying the interactions between the two religious groups in a wide array of secret sciences and practices—including alchemy, cryptography, medical arcana, technological and military secrets, and intelligence—the author relates true stories of colorful “professors of secrets” and clandestine encounters. In the process Jütte examines how our current notion of secrecy is radically different in this era of WikiLeaks, Snowden, et al., as opposed to centuries earlier when the truest, most important knowledge was generally considered to be secret by definition.

“Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History” (Thomas & Chesworth, eds.)

In July, Brill will release “Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History” edited by David Thomas (University of Birmingham) and John Chesworth (University of Birmingham). The publisher’s description follows:

Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History, volume 7 (CMR 7), 84784
covering Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and South America in the period 1500-1600, is a continuing volume in a general history of relations between the two faiths from the seventh century to the early 20th century. It comprises introductory essays and the main body of detailed entries which treat all the works, surviving or lost, that have been recorded. These entries provide biographical details of the authors, descriptions and assessments of the works themselves, and complete accounts of manuscripts, editions, translations and studies. The result of collaboration between numerous leading scholars, CMR 7, along with the other volumes in this series, is intended as a basic tool for research in Christian-Muslim relations.

Rios Oyola, “Religion, Social Memory and Conflict”

In June, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Religion, Social Memory and Conflict: The Massacre of Bojayá in Colombia” by Sandra Milena Rios Oyola (Utrecht University, Netherlands). The publisher’s description follows:

The field of transitional justice and reconciliation considers social memory 9781137461834
to be an important mechanism for acknowledging the violation of victims’ rights and a step toward building peace. Societies in conflict, such as Colombia, challenge our current understanding of using memory in the construction of social peace processes, which in turn question the impossibility of forgiving violence that is still to come. Drawing on original ethnographical research, Rios analyses strategies of memorialization after the massacre of Bojayá, Colombia, as an arena of political contention but also of grassroots resistance to persistent and diverse forms of violence. The book focuses on the work of the local grassroots Catholic Church and of the victims’ association ten years after the massacre of Bojayá. It explores the role of religion in the management of victims’ emotions and in supporting claims of transitional justice from a grassroots perspective in a context of thin political transition.

Vahed & Waetjen, “Schooling Muslims in Natal”

This June, the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press will release “Schooling Muslims in Natal: Identity, State and the Orient Islamic Educational Institute” by Goolam Vahed (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and Thembisa Waetjen (Durban University of Technology).  The publisher’s description follows:

Schooling Muslims in NatalThe history of Muslim education in the east coast region of South Africa is the story of ongoing struggles by an immigrant religious minority under successive, exclusionary forms of state. Schooling Muslims in Natal traces the labours and fortunes of a set of progressive idealists who, mobilising merchant capital, transoceanic networks and informal political influence, established the Orient Islamic Educational Institute in 1943 to found schools and promote a curriculum inclusive of secular subjects and Islamic teaching. Through the story of their Durban flagship project – the Orient Islamic School – this book recounts the changing politics of religious identity, education and citizenship in South Africa.

From the late nineteenth century, Gujarati Muslim traders settling in the colony of Natal built mosques and madressas; their progeny carried on the strong traditions of community patronage and leadership. Aligned to Gandhi’s Congress initiatives for Indian civic recognition, they worked across differences of political strategy, economic class, ethnicity and religion to champion modern education for a ghettoised Indian diaspora. In common was the threat of a state that, long before the legal formation of apartheid, managed diversity in deference to white racial hysteria over ‘Indian penetration’ and an ‘Asiatic menace’.

This is the story of confrontation, cooperation and compromise by an officially marginalised but still powerful set of ‘founding fathers’ who shaped education and urban space as they integrated this region of Africa into the Indian Ocean world.

Rosemont, “Against Individualism: A Confucian Rethinking of the Foundations of Morality, Politics, Family, and Religion”

In March, Rowman & Littlefield released “Against Individualism: A Confucian Rethinking of the Foundations of Morality, Politics, Family, and Religion” by Henry Rosemont Jr. (Brown University). The publisher’s description follows:

The first part of Against Individualism: A Confucian Rethinking of the Foundations of Morality, Politics, Family, and Religion is devoted to showing how and why the vision of human beings as free, independent and autonomous individuals is and always was a mirage that has served liberatory functions in the past, but has now become pernicious for even thinking clearly about, much less achieving social and economic justice, maintaining democracy, or addressing the manifold environmental and other problems facing the world today.

In the second and larger part of the book Rosemont proffers a different vision of being human gleaned from the texts of classical Confucianism, namely, that we are first and foremost interrelated and thus interdependent persons whose uniqueness lies in the multiplicity of roles we each live throughout our lives. This leads to an ethics based on those mutual roles in sharp contrast to individualist moralities, but which nevertheless reflect the facts of our everyday lives very well. The book concludes by exploring briefly a number of implications of this vision for thinking differently about politics, family life, justice, and the development of a human-centered authentic religiousness. This book will be of value to all students and scholars of philosophy, political theory, and Religious, Chinese, and Family Studies, as well as everyone interested in the intersection of morality with their everyday and public lives.

Papademetriou, “Render unto the Sultan”

This April, Oxford University Press will release “Render unto the Sultan: Power, Authority, and the Greek Orthodox Church in the Early Ottoman Centuries” by Tom Papademetriou (Richard Stockton College, New Jersey).  The publisher’s description follows:

Render Unto the SultanThe received wisdom about the nature of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Ottoman Empire is that Sultan Mehmed II reestablished the Patriarchate of Constantinople as both a political and a religious authority to govern the post-Byzantine Greek community. However, relations between the Church hierarchy and Turkish masters extend further back in history, and closer scrutiny of these relations reveals that the Church hierarchy in Anatolia had long experience dealing with Turkish emirs by focusing on economic arrangements. Decried as scandalous, these arrangements became the modus vivendi for bishops in the Turkish emirates.

Primarily concerned with the economic arrangements between the Ottoman state and the institution of the Greek Orthodox Church from the mid-fifteenth to the sixteenth century,Render Unto the Sultan argues that the Ottoman state considered the Greek Orthodox ecclesiastical hierarchy primarily as tax farmers (multezim) for cash income derived from the church’s widespread holdings. The Ottoman state granted individuals the right to take their positions as hierarchs in return for yearly payments to the state. Relying on members of the Greek economic elite (archons) to purchase the ecclesiastical tax farm (iltizam), hierarchical positions became subject to the same forces of competition that other Ottoman administrative offices faced. This led to colorful episodes and multiple challenges to ecclesiastical authority throughout Ottoman lands.

Tom Papademetriou demonstrates that minority communities and institutions in the Ottoman Empire, up to now, have been considered either from within the community, or from outside, from the Ottoman perspective. This new approach allows us to consider internal Greek Orthodox communal concerns, but from within the larger Ottoman social and economic context.

Render Unto the Sultan challenges the long established concept of the ‘Millet System’, the historical model in which the religious leader served both a civil as well as a religious authority. From the Ottoman state’s perspective, the hierarchy was there to serve the religious and economic function rather than the political one.

Olsson, “Preaching Islamic Revival”

In June, I.B.Tauris will release “Preaching Islamic Revival: Amr Khaled, Mass Media and Social Change in Egypt” by Susanne Olsson (Stockholm University, Sweden). The publisher’s description follows:

Amr Khaled is an Egyptian Muslim activist and television preacher based in Egypt who encourages both social commitment and individual self-fulfilment. Chosen by Time Magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people, his prominence in the Arabic-speaking world is unparalleled. During the Mubarak era, his message seemed for the most part apolitical, but after the events of January 2011, he started using more explicitly political language. Susanne Olsson examines the differences between Amr Khaled’s pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary messages and looking in-depth at how he deals with the concepts of Islam and modernity. By examining issues such as Amr Khaled’s use of mass media, his views on gender role and the nature of political and religious rule, Susanne Olsson offers a book which will appeal to those interested in the changes that Egypt has experienced over the last century.

Kidd & Hankins, “Baptists in America”

This May, Oxford University Press will release “Baptists in America” by Thomas S. Kidd (Baylor University) and Barry Hankins (Baylor University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Baptists in AmericaThe Puritans called Baptists “the troublers of churches in all places” and hounded them out of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Four hundred years later, Baptists are the second-largest religious group in America, and their influence matches their numbers. They have built strong institutions, from megachurches to publishing houses to charities to mission organizations, and have firmly established themselves in the mainstream of American culture. Yet the historical legacy of outsider status lingers, and the inherently fractured nature of their faith makes Baptists ever wary of threats from within as well as without.

In Baptists in America, Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins explore the long-running tensions between church, state, and culture that Baptists have shaped and navigated. Despite the moment of unity that their early persecution provided, their history has been marked by internal battles and schisms that were microcosms of national events, from the conflict over slavery that divided North from South to the conservative revolution of the 1970s and 80s. Baptists have made an indelible impact on American religious and cultural history, from their early insistence that America should have no established church to their place in the modern-day culture wars, where they frequently advocate greater religious involvement in politics. Yet the more mainstream they have become, the more they have been pressured to conform to the mainstream, a paradox that defines–and is essential to understanding–the Baptist experience in America.

Kidd and Hankins, both practicing Baptists, weave the threads of Baptist history alongside those of American history. Baptists in America is a remarkable story of how one religious denomination was transformed from persecuted minority into a leading actor on the national stage, with profound implications for American society and culture.