Tag Archives: Religion and Society

Froese, “California Mennonites”

In October, John Hopkins University Press will release “California Mennonites” by Brian Froese (Canadian Mennonite University). The publisher’s description follows:

Books about Mennonites have centered primarily on the East Coast and the Midwest, where the majority of Mennonite communities in the United States are located. But these narratives neglect the unique history of the multitude of Mennonites living on the West Coast. In California Mennonites, Brian Froese relies on archival church records to examine the Mennonite experience in the Golden State, from the nineteenth-century migrants who came in search of sunshine and fertile soil to the traditionally agrarian community that struggled with issues of urbanization, race, gender, education, and labor in the twentieth century to the evangelically oriented, partially assimilated Mennonites of today.

Froese places Mennonite experiences against a backdrop of major historical events, including World War II and Vietnam, and social issues, from labor disputes to the evolution of mental health care. California Mennonites include people who embrace a range of ideologies: many are historically rooted in the sixteenth-century Reformation ideals of the early Anabaptists (pacifism, congregationalism, discipleship); some embrace twentieth-century American evangelicalism (missions, Billy Graham); and others are committed to a type of social justice that involves forging practical ties to secular government programs while maintaining a quiet connection to religion.

Through their experiences of religious diversity, changing demographics, and war, California Mennonites have wrestled with complicated questions of what it means to be American, Mennonite, and modern. This book—the first of its kind—will appeal to historians and religious studies scholars alike.

“Religious Education and the Challenge of Pluralism” (Seligman ed.)

This October, Oxford University Press will release “Religious Education and the Challenge of Pluralism” edited by Adam B. Seligman (Boston University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religious Education and the Challenge of PluralismThe essays in this volume offer a groundbreaking comparative analysis of religious education, and state policies towards religious education in seven different countries and in the European Union as a whole. They pose a crucial question: can religious education contribute to a shared public sphere and foster solidarity across different ethnic and religious communities?

In many traditional societies and even in what are largely secular European societies, our place in creation, the meaning of good and evil, and the definition of the good life, virtue, and moral action, are all primarily addressed in religious terms. It is in fact hard to come to grips with these issues without recourse to religious language, traditions, and frames of reference. Yet, religious languages and identities divide as much as unite, and provide a site of contestation and strife as much as a sense of peace and belonging Not surprisingly, different countries approach religious education in dramatically different ways. Religious Education and the Challenge of Pluralism addresses a pervasive problem: how can religious education provide a framework of meaning, replete with its language of inclusion and community, without at the same time drawing borders and so excluding certain individuals and communities from its terms of collective membership and belonging?

The authors offer in-depth analysis of such pluralistic countries as Bulgaria, Israel, Malaysia, and Turkey, as well as Cyprus – a country split along lines of ethno-religious difference. They also examine the connection between religious education and the terms of citizenship in the EU, France, and the USA, illuminating the challenges of educating our citizenry in an age of religious resurgence and global politics.

Lapidus, “A History of Islamic Societies”

This September, Cambridge University Press will release a new edition of “A History of Islamic Societies” by Ira M. Lapidus (University of California, Berkeley).  The publisher’s description follows:

A History of Islamic SocietiesThis new edition of one of the most widely used course books on Islamic civilizations around the world has been substantially revised to incorporate the new scholarship and insights of the last twenty-five years. Ira Lapidus’ history explores the beginnings and transformations of Islamic civilizations in the Middle East and details Islam’s worldwide diffusion. The history is divided into four parts. Part I is a comprehensive account of pre-Islamic late antiquity; the beginnings of Islam; the early Islamic empires; and Islamic religious, artistic, legal and intellectual cultures. Part II deals with the construction in the Middle East of Islamic religious communities and states to the fifteenth century. Part III includes the history to the nineteenth century of Islamic North Africa and Spain; the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires; and other Islamic societies in Asia and Africa. Part IV accounts for the impact of European commercial and imperial domination on Islamic societies and traces the development of the modern national state system and the simultaneous Islamic revival from the early nineteenth century to the present.

Gonzalez, “A Critical Introduction to Religion in the Americas: Bridging the Liberation Theology and Religious Studies Divide”

Last month, NYU Press released “A Critical Introduction to Religion in the Americas: Bridging the Liberation Theology and Religious Studies Divide” by Michelle A. Gonzalez (University of Miami). The publisher’s description follows:

A Critical Introduction to Religion in the Americas argues that we cannot understand religion in the Americas without understanding its marginalized communities. Despite frequently voiced doubts among religious studies scholars, it makes the case that theology, and particularly liberation theology, is still useful, but it must be reframed to attend to the ways in which religion is actually experienced on the ground. That is, a liberation theology that assumes a need to work on behalf of the poor can seem out of touch with a population experiencing huge Pentecostal and Charismatic growth, where the focus is not on inequality or social action but on individual relationships with the divine.

By drawing on a combination of historical and ethnographic sources, this volume provides a basic introduction to the study of religion and theology in the Latino/a, Black, and Latin American contexts, and then shows how theology can be reframed to better speak to the concerns of both religious studies and the real people the theologians’ work is meant to represent. Informed by the dialogue partners explored throughout the text, this volume presents a hemispheric approach to discussing lived religious movements. While not dismissive of liberation theologies, this approach is critical of their past and offers challenges to their future as well as suggestions for preventing their untimely demise. It is clear that the liberation theologies of tomorrow cannot look like the liberation theologies of today.

Trigg, “Religious Diversity”

This past June, Cambridge University Press released “Religious Diversity: Philosophical and Religious Dimensions” by Roger Trigg (University of Oxford).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religious DiversityShould we merely celebrate diversity in the sphere of religion? What of the social cohesion of a country? There is a constant tug between belief in religious truth and the need for respect for other religions. Religious Diversity: Philosophical and Political Dimensions examines how far a firm faith can allow for toleration of difference and respect the need for religious freedom. It elucidates the philosophical credentials of different approaches to truth in religion, ranging from a dogmatic fundamentalism to a pluralism that shades into relativism. Must we resort to a secularism that treats all religion as a personal and private matter, with nothing to contribute to discussions about the common good? How should law approach the issue of religious freedom? Introducing the relevance of central discussions in modern philosophy of religion, the book goes on to examine the political implications of increasing religious diversity in a democracy.

Abou El Fadl, “Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari‘ah in the Modern Age”

In October, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers will release “Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari‘ah in the Modern Age” by Khaled Abou El Fadl (University of California, Los Angeles School of Law). The publisher’s description follows:

In light of recent concern over Shari’ah, such as proposed laws to prohibit it in the United States and conflict over the role it should play in the new Egyptian constitution, many people are confused about the meaning of Shari‘ah in Islam and its role in the world today. In Reasoning with God, renowned Islamic scholar Khaled Abou El Fadl explains not only what Shari‘ah really means, but also the way it can revitalize and reengage contemporary Islam.After a prologue that provides an essential overview of Shari‘ah, Abou El Fadl explores the moral trajectory of Islam in today’s world. Weaving powerful personal stories with broader global examples, he shows the ways that some interpretations of Islam today have undermined its potential in peace and love. Rather than simply outlining challenges, however, the author provides constructive suggestions about how Muslims can reengage the ethical tradition of their faith through Shari‘ah.As the world’s second largest religion, Islam remains an important force on the global stage. Reasoning with God takes readers—both Muslim and non-Muslim—beyond superficial understandings of Shari‘ah to a deeper understanding of its meaning and potential.

“Modes of Engagement: Muslim Minorities in Asia” (Dossani, ed.)

In June, Brookings Institution Press released “Modes of Engagement: Muslim Minorities in Asia” edited by Rafiq Dossani (RAND Corporation). The publisher’s description follows:

Of Asia’s 800 million Muslims, 215 million are minorities within their countries. These Muslim minorities have experienced a persistent decline in their socioeconomic and political status. Along with this decline, they are increasingly identified by their faith and largely accorded no other identity for civic relations. Why have these Muslim minorities been particularly affected during a time of unprecedented opportunities for the mainstream in Asia’s unprecedented era of growth and rising freedoms?

Using detailed analyses of China, India, and the Philippines, Modes of Engagement argues that key factors in this phenomenon include the linkage between socioeconomic decline, loss of political power, and narrowing of identity; nationalism and its associated connotations of the assimilation of minorities; the weakness of civil society generally in Asia; and the rise in regional and global alliances for security and trade.

Contributors include Wajahat Habibullah (National Commission for Minorities and National Institute of Technology, India), Rakesh Basant (Indian Institute of Management), Dru C. Gladney (Pomona College), and Joseph Chinyong Liow (Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore).

Rabil, “Salafism in Lebanon”

In October, Georgetown University Press will release “Salafism in Lebanon: From Apoliticism to Transnational Jihadism” by Robert G. Rabil (Florida Atlantic University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Salafism in LebanonSalafism, comprised of fundamentalist Islamic movements whose adherents consider themselves the only “saved” sect of Islam, has been little studied, remains shrouded in misconceptions, and has provoked new interest as Salafists have recently staked a claim to power in some Arab states while spearheading battles against “infidel” Arab regimes during recent rebellions in the Arab world. Robert G. Rabil examines the emergence and development of Salafism into a prominent religious movement in Lebanon, including the ideological and sociopolitical foundation that led to the three different schools of Salafism in Lebanon: quietist Salafists, Haraki (active) Salafists; and Salafi Jihadists.

Emphasizing their manhaj (methodology) toward politics, the author surveys Salafists’ ideological transformation from opponents of to supportive of political engagement. Their antagonism to Hezbollah, which they denounce as the party of Satan, has risen exponentially following the party’s seizure of Beirut in 2008 and support of the tyrannical Syrian regime. Salafism in Lebanon also demonstrates how activists and jihadi Salafists, in response to the political weakness of Sunni leadership, have threatened regional and international security by endorsing violence and jihad.

Drawing on field research trips, personal interviews, and Arabic primary sources, the book explores the relationship between the ideologies of the various schools of Salafism and their praxis in relation to Lebanese politics. The book should interest students and scholars of Islamic movements, international affairs, politics and religion, and radical groups and terrorism.

Bruzelius, “Preaching, Building, and Burying: Friars in the Medieval City”

This week, Yale University Press released “Preaching, Building, and Burying: Friars in the Medieval City” by Caroline Bruzelius (Duke University). The publisher’s description follows:

Friars transformed the relationship of the church to laymen by taking religion outside to public and domestic spaces. Mendicant commitment to apostolic poverty bound friars to donors in an exchange of donations in return for intercessory prayers and burial: association with friars was believed to reduce the suffering of purgatory. Mendicant convents became urban cemeteries, warehouses filled with family tombs, flags, shields, and private altars.

As mendicants became progressively institutionalized and sought legitimacy, friars adopted the architectural structures of monasticism: chapter houses, cloisters, dormitories, and refectories.  They also created piazzas for preaching and burying outside their churches. Construction depended on assembling adequate funding from communes, confraternities, and private individuals; it was also sometimes supported by the expropriation of property from heretics.  Because of irregular funding, construction was episodic, with substantial changes in scale and design. Choir screens served as temporary west façades while funds were raised for completion. This is the first book to analyze the friars’ influence on the growth and transformation of medieval buildings and urban spaces.

Siedentop, “Inventing the Individual”

In October, Harvard University Press will release “Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism” by Larry Siedentop (Emeritus Fellow of Keble College, Oxford).  The publisher’s description follows:

Inventing the IndividualHere, in a grand narrative spanning 1,800 years of European history, a distinguished political philosopher firmly rejects Western liberalism’s usual account of itself: its emergence in opposition to religion in the early modern era. Larry Siedentop argues instead that liberal thought is, in its underlying assumptions, the offspring of the Church. Beginning with a moral revolution in the first centuries CE, when notions about equality and human agency were first formulated by St. Paul, Siedentop follows these concepts in Christianity from Augustine to the philosophers and canon lawyers of the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, and ends with their reemergence in secularism—another of Christianity’s gifts to the West.

Inventing the Individual tells how a new, equal social role, the individual, arose and gradually displaced the claims of family, tribe, and caste as the basis of social organization. Asking us to rethink the evolution of ideas on which Western societies and government are built, Siedentop contends that the core of what is now the West’s system of beliefs emerged earlier than we commonly think. The roots of liberalism—belief in individual freedom, in the fundamental moral equality of individuals, in a legal system based on equality, and in a representative form of government befitting a society of free people—all these were pioneered by Christian thinkers of the Middle Ages who drew on the moral revolution carried out by the early Church. These philosophers and canon lawyers, not the Renaissance humanists, laid the foundation for liberal democracy in the West.