In March, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release “Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror: Christianity, Violence, and the West” by Philippe Buc (University of Vienna). The publisher’s description follows:
Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror examines the ways that Christian theology has shaped centuries of conflict from the Jewish-Roman War of late antiquity through the First Crusade, the French Revolution, and up to the Iraq War. By isolating one factor among the many forces that converge in war—the essential tenets of Christian theology—Philippe Buc locates continuities in major episodes of violence perpetrated over the course of two millennia. Even in secularized societies or explicitly non-Christian societies, such as the Soviet Union of the Stalinist purges, social and political projects are tied to religious violence, and religious conceptual structures have influenced the ways violence is imagined, inhibited, perceived, and perpetrated.
The patterns that emerge from this sweeping history upend commonplace assumptions about historical violence, while contextualizing and explaining some of its peculiarities. Buc addresses the culturally sanctioned logic that might lead a sane person to kill or die on principle, traces the circuitous reasoning that permits contradictory political actions such as coercing freedom or pardoning war atrocities, and locates religious faith at the backbone of nationalist conflict. He reflects on the contemporary American ideology of war—one that wages violence in the name of abstract notions such as liberty and world peace and that he reveals to be deeply rooted in biblical notions. A work of extraordinary breadth, Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror connects the ancient past to the troubled present, showing how religious ideals of sacrifice and purification made violence meaningful throughout history.
This October, Cornell University Press will publish Violence and Vengeance: Religious Conflict and Its Aftermath in Eastern Indonesia by Christopher R. Duncan (Arizona State University). The publisher’s description follows.
Between 1999 and 2000, sectarian fighting fanned across the eastern Indonesian province of North Maluku, leaving thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. What began as local conflicts between migrants and indigenous people over administrative boundaries spiraled into a religious war pitting Muslims against Christians and continues to influence communal relationships more than a decade after the fighting stopped. Christopher R. Duncan spent several years conducting fieldwork in North Maluku, and in Violence and Vengeance, he examines how the individuals actually taking part in the fighting understood and experienced the conflict.
Rather than dismiss religion as a facade for the political and economic motivations of the regional elite, Duncan explores how and why participants came to perceive the conflict as one of religious difference. He examines how these perceptions of religious violence altered the conflict, leading to large-scale massacres in houses of worship, forced conversions of entire communities, and other acts of violence that stressed religious identities. Duncan’s analysis extends beyond the period of violent conflict and explores how local understandings of the violence have complicated the return of forced migrants, efforts at conflict resolution and reconciliation.
The University of California Press has announced a collection of essays, edited by theologian John Renard (St. Louis), on religious justifications for violence, Fighting Words: Religion, Violence, and the Interpretation of Sacred Texts (2012). The publisher’s description follows:
One of the critical issues in interreligious relations today is the connection, both actual and perceived, between sacred sources and the justification of violent acts as divinely mandated. Fighting Words makes solid text-based scholarship accessible to the general public, beginning with the premise that a balanced approach to religious pluralism in our world must build on a measured, well-informed response to the increasingly publicized and sensationalized association of terrorism and large-scale violence with religion.
In his introduction, Renard provides background on the major scriptures of seven religious traditions—Jewish, Christian (including both the Old and New Testaments), Islamic, Baha’i, Zoroastrian, Hindu, and Sikh. Eight chapters then explore the interpretation of select facets of these scriptures, focusing on those texts so often claimed, both historically and more recently, as inspiration and justification for every kind of violence, from individual assassination to mass murder. With its nuanced consideration of a complex topic, this book is not merely about the religious sanctioning of violence but also about diverse ways of reading sacred textual sources.
This November, Georgetown University Press will publish Between Terror and Tolerance: Religious Leaders, Conflict, and Peacemaking edited by Timothy D. Sisk (University of Denver). The publisher’s description follows.
Civil war and conflict within countries is the most prevalent threat to peace and security in the opening decades of the twenty-first century. A pivotal factor in the escalation of tensions to open conflict is the role of elites in exacerbating tensions along identity lines by giving the ideological justification, moral reasoning, and call to violence. Between Terror and Tolerance examines the varied roles of religious leaders in societies deeply divided by ethnic, racial, or religious conflict. The chapters in this book explore cases when religious leaders have justified or catalyzed violence along identity lines, and other instances when religious elites have played a critical role in easing tensions or even laying the foundation for peace and reconciliation.
Posted in Jordan Hummel, Scholarship Roundup
Tagged Books, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Politics in the Middle East, Religion and Politics, Religious Conflict, Religious Violence, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan
On September 3, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion published Violence in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyana : Just War Criteria in an Ancient Indian Epic by Raj Balkaran (University of Calgary) and A. Walter Dorn (Royal Military College of Canada and Canadian Forces College). The abstract follows.
When is armed force considered justified in Hinduism? How do Hindu legitimizations of warfare compare with those of other religions? The Just War framework, which evolved from Roman and early Christian thought, stipulates distinct criteria for sanctioning the use of force. Are those themes comparable to the discourse on violence of ancient India? This article examines the influential Sanskrit epic Vālmıki Rāmāyana in order to broach these questions. This analysis demonstrates the presence in the ancient work of all seven modern Just War criteria—namely (1) Just Cause, (2) Right Intent, (3) Net Benefit, (4) Legitimate Authority, (5) Last Resort, (6) Proportionality of Means, and (7) Right Conduct. This study also shows the extent to which the criteria and the larger discourse in the Vālmıki Rāmāyana are distinctly couched within Indic ethical parameters, drawing particularly upon the moral precept of ahimsā (nonviolence). This article identifies both similarities and differences between the epic’s criteria for warfare and those of the Just War framework. By comparing representations of violence in the Vālmıki Rāmāyana to modern Western legitimizations of force, this study advances the inclusion of Hindu thought into the global discourse on the ethics of war and peace.
This December, the University of California Press will publish Fighting Words: Religion, Violence, and the Interpretation of Sacred Texts edited by John Renard (Saint Louis University). The publisher’s description follows.
One of the critical issues in inter-religious relations today is the connection, both actual and perceived, between sacred sources and the justification of violent acts as divinely mandated. Fighting Words makes solid text-based scholarship accessible to the general public, beginning with the premise that a balanced approach to religious pluralism in our world must build on a measured, well-informed response to the increasingly publicized and sensationalized association of terrorism and large-scale violence with religion. An Introduction provides background on the major scriptures of seven religious traditions. Eight main chapters then explore aspects of the interpretation of selected facets of scripture in seven traditions: Jewish, Christian (including chapters on Old as well as New Testaments), Islamic, Baha’i, Zoroastrian, Hindu and Sikh. Focus is on sacred texts so often claimed, both historically and more recently, as inspiration for and justification of every kind of violence from individual assassination to mass murder. A balanced approach to this complex topic also means that this is not merely a book about the religious sanctioning of violence, but about diverse ways of reading sacred textual sources.