Tag Archives: Secularism

Bowman, “Cosmoipolitan Justice”

This January, Springer Press will release “Cosmoipolitan Justice: The Axial Age, Multiple Modernities, and the Postsecular Turn” by Jonathan Bowman.  The publisher’s description follows:

Cosmoipolitan JusticeThis book assesses the rapid transformation of the political agency of religious groups within transnational civil society under conditions of globalization weakening sovereign nation-states. It offers a synthesis of the resurgence of Jasper’s axial thesis from distinct lines of research initiated by Eisenstadt, Habermas, Taylor, Bellah, and others. It explores the concept of cosmoipolitanism from the combined perspectives of sociology of religion, critical theory, secularization theory, and evolutionary cultural anthropology. At the theoretical level, cosmoipolitanism prescribes how local, national, transnational, global, and virtual spaces ought publically to engage in transcivilizational discourse without presuming the secular assumptions tied to cosmopolitanism. Employing insights of critical theory, this book offers a micro-level analysis of the pragmatics of discourse of each axial tradition contributing to the role of religion within multiple modernities. While circumscribing the particular historical limits of each tradition, the book extends their internal claims to species universality in light of the potential for boundless communication Jaspers saw initiated with the Axial Age.

Ford, “Jesus Master of Law”

This January, Xlibris Publishing released “Jesus Master of Law: A Juridical Science of Christianity and the Law of Equity” by Roderick Ford (The Labor Ministry).  The publisher’s description follows:

Jesus Master of LawHere, Jesus of Nazareth is presented as we have never witnessed him before—as a legal advocate, as a jurist, and as an interpreter of the Law of Moses. This bold book is an original and revolutionary conceptualization of Jesus as not only a profound religious thinker but also as a preeminent legal theorist. Here we find in Jesus’s teachings and parables the analytical and moral reasoning, which is the foundation of Anglo-American common law, Western civilization, and modern, worldwide, and secular jurisprudence. Jesus Master of Law reminds us that laws, both secular and sacred, can be applied to achieve justice only when they are interpreted through the proverbial prism of righteous and moral objectives.

“The Oxford Handbook of Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding” (Omer et al., eds.)

This March, Oxford University Press will release “The Oxford Handbook of Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding” edited by Atalia Omer (University of Notre Dame), R. Scott Appleby (University of Notre Dame), and David Little (Harvard Divinity School).  The publisher’s description follows:

Oxford HandbookThis volume provides a comprehensive and interdisciplinary account of the scholarship on religion, conflict, and peacebuilding. Looking far beyond the traditional parameters of the field, the contributors engage deeply with the legacies of colonialism, missionary activism, secularism, orientalism, and liberalism as they relate to the discussion of religion, violence, and nonviolent transformation and resistance.

Featuring numerous case studies from various contexts and traditions, the volume is organized thematically into five different parts. It begins with an up-to-date mapping of scholarship on religion and violence, and religion and peace. The second part explores the challenges related to developing secularist theories on peace and nationalism, broadening the discussion of violence to include an analysis of cultural and structural forms. In the third section, the chapters explore controversial topics such as religion and development, religious militancy, and the freedom of religion as a keystone of peacebuilding. The fourth part locates notions of peacebuilding in spiritual practice by focusing on constructive resources within various traditions, the transformative role of rituals, youth and interfaith activism in American university campuses, religion and solidarity activism, scriptural reasoning as a peacebuilding practice, and an extended reflection on the history and legacy of missionary peacebuilding. The volume concludes by looking to the future of peacebuilding scholarship and the possibilities for new growth and progress.

Bringing together a diverse array of scholars, this innovative handbook grapples with the tension between theory and practice, cultural theory, and the legacy of the liberal peace paradigm, offering provocative, elastic, and context-specific insights for strategic peacebuilding processes.

“The Catholic Church in Ireland Today” (Cochran & Waldmeir eds.)

This February, Lexington Books  will release “The Catholic Church in Ireland Today” edited by David Carroll Cochran (Loras College) and John C. Waldmeir (Loras College).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Catholic Church in Ireland TodayFrom a Church that once enjoyed devotional loyalty, political influence, and institutional power unrivaled in Europe, the Catholic Church in Ireland now faces collapse. Devastated by a series of reports on clerical sexual abuse, challenged publicly during several political battles, and painfully aware of plunging Mass attendance, the Irish Church today is confronted with the loss of its institutional legitimacy. This study is the first international and interdisciplinary attempt to consider the scope of the problem, analyze issues that are crucial to the Irish context, and identify signs of both resilience and renewal. In addition to an overview of the current status and future directions of Irish Catholicism, The Catholic Church in Ireland Today examines specific issues such as growing secularism, the changing image of Irish bishops, generational divides, Catholic migrants to Ireland, the abuse crisis and responses in Ireland and the United States, Irish missionaries, the political role of Irish priests, the 2012 Dublin Eucharistic Congress, and contemplative strands in Irish identity. This book identifies the key issues that students of Irish society and others interested in Catholic culture must examine in order to understand the changing roles of religion in the contemporary world.

Walzer, “The Paradox of Liberation”

In March, Yale University Press will release “The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions” by Michael Walzer (Emeritus Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study).  The publisher’s description follows:

Paradox of LiberationMany of the successful campaigns for national liberation in the years following World War II were initially based on democratic and secular ideals. Once established, however, the newly independent nations had to deal with entirely unexpected religious fierceness. Michael Walzer, one of America’s foremost political thinkers, examines this perplexing trend by studying India, Israel, and Algeria, three nations whose founding principles and institutions have been sharply attacked by three completely different groups of religious revivalists: Hindu militants, ultra-Orthodox Jews and messianic Zionists, and Islamic radicals.

In his provocative, well-reasoned discussion, Walzer asks why these secular democratic movements have failed to sustain their hegemony: Why have they been unable to reproduce their political culture beyond one or two generations? In a postscript, he compares the difficulties of contemporary secularism to the successful establishment of secular politics in the early American republic—thereby making an argument for American exceptionalism but gravely noting that we may be less exceptional today.

Engelhardt, “Singing the Right Way”

This past December, Oxford University Press released “Singing the Right Way: Orthodox Christians and Secular Enchantment in Estonia” by Jeffers Engelhardt (Amherst College).  The publisher’s description follows:

Singing the Right WaySinging the Right Way enters the world of Orthodox Christianity in Estonia to explore musical style in worship, cultural identity, and social imagination. Through both ethnographic and historical chapters, author Jeffers Engelhardt reveals how Orthodox Estonians give voice to the religious absolute in secular society. Based on a decade of fieldwork, Singing the Right Way traces the sounds of Orthodoxy in Estonia through the Russian Empire, interwar national independence, the Soviet-era, and post-Soviet integration into the European Union. Approaching Orthodoxy through local understandings of correct practice and correct belief, Engelhardt shows how religious knowledge, national identity, and social transformation illuminate how to “sing the right way” and thereby realize the fullness of Estonians’ Orthodox Christian faith in context of everyday, secular surroundings. Singing the Right Way is an innovative model of how the musical poetics of contemporary religious forms are rooted in both consistent sacred tradition and contingent secular experience. This landmark study is sure to be an essential text for scholars studying the ethnomusicology of religion.

Clements, “Religion and Public Opinion in Britain”

This March, Palgrave Macmillan Press will release “Religion and Public Opinion in Britain: Continuity and Change” by Ben Clements (University of Leicester).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion and Public OpinionBased on extensive analysis of social surveys and opinion polls conducted over recent decades, this book provides a detailed study of the social and political attitudes of religious groups in Britain. It covers a period when religion has declined in significance as a social force in Britain, with falling levels of identity, belief, attendance and of the traditional rites of passage. It looks at group attitudes based on religious affiliation, attendance and other indicators of personal engagement with faith. It details the main areas of attitudinal continuity and change in relation to party support, ideology, abortion, homosexuality and gay rights, and foreign policy. It also examines wider changes in public opinion towards the role of religion in public life, charting the decline in religious authority, a key indicator of secularisation. It provides an important ‘bottom-up’ perspective on the historical and contemporary linkages between religion and politics in Britain.

Subway Ads and Mental Maps

Many thanks to Mark Movsesian and Marc DeGirolami for letting me return with a couple of guest posts.

I’ve been intrigued by some recent posts on this blog and how they confirm my long-held view that the normative decisions we make with respect to the law’s treatment of religion are deeply intermeshed with cognitive choices we make — how we “see” and understand religion.  Religious phenomena don’t fit easily or self-evidently into the mental maps by which we divide the pieces of the secular world.  All we can do is approximate, and those approximations matter.

subway1Let’s begin with Mark’s fascinating and wonderfully observant recent post about an ad for the Marble Collegiate Church that he recently saw in a New York City subway.  The ad itself was unremarkable, touting Marble Collegiate as “Church the way you always hoped it could be.”  (Marble Collegiate itself is more remarkable, founded in 1628 as a Dutch Reformed congregation and serving in the 20th century as Norman Vincent Peale’s pulpit for some 50 years.)  But the ad included a prominent disclaimer form the MTA (the local transit agency) taking up the bottom third of its precious space: “This is a paid advertisement sponsored by Marble Collegiate Church.  The display of this advertisement does not imply MTA’s endorsement of any views expressed.”  What gives? Continue reading

Disapproving Religion in the NYC Subway

Here’s a post about two advertisements I happened to see while riding the New York City subway this past weekend. The ads reveal much about the subtle disparagement churches and other religious organizations sometimes experience from government agencies in the Big Apple.

subwayTake a look at the photo on the left. It shows an ad for Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. As far as I can tell from its website, Marble is a mainline, Protestant congregation, committed to progressive causes like diversity and same-sex marriage. Marble, the ad proclaims, is “church the way you always hoped it would be.”

Pay particular attention to the bottom of the ad, which contains a disclaimer added by the MTA, the government agency that runs the subway. The disclaimer is in bold type and takes up about 25% of the ad space. It is unsightly, in a different font and format from the rest of the ad, and definitely distracts the reader. It says: “This is a paid advertisement sponsored by Marble Collegiate Church. The display of this advertisement does not imply MTA’s endorsement of any views expressed.”

This is very odd. True, the Supreme Court’s “endorsement test” provides that government may not take actions a reasonable observer could understand, in the circumstances, as an endorsement of religion. (This explains why local governments are so careful about Christmas decorations on public property). The MTA presumably insisted on the disclaimer to make clear to subway riders that, by posting Marble’s ad, it did not endorse the church’s underlying religious message.

But the endorsement test does not require a disclaimer here. No reasonable observer could think the MTA had endorsed Marble’s message by posting its ad. There are ads in subway cars for a variety of businesses and nonprofit organizations. Nobody thinks the MTA vouches for the truth of those ads, or even the good faith of the sponsors. Will cosmetic surgery “change your life?” Will Foursquare “lead you to places you’ll love?” Who knows? But the MTA doesn’t think it necessary to attach disclaimers. No one would expect it to do so.

For example, here’s an ad my brother pointed out to me, for a company boozecalled delivery.com. The ad says the company will deliver beer, wine and liquor on demand, thereby allowing customers to “Booze Wisely.” There’s no MTA disclaimer in this ad. But why not? If reasonable people could think the MTA had endorsed Christianity by posting Marble’s ad, why couldn’t they think the MTA had endorsed drinking by posting delivery.com’s? If anything, the danger of misunderstanding is higher. The delivery.com ad offers a 30% discount to people who include the word “SUBWAY” with their orders. Marble didn’t trade on the name “subway” or offer special treatment for straphangers.

Now, supporters of the MTA’s disclaimer policy might argue there’s no real harm here. The disclaimer merely reminds people of an important constitutional principle, namely, that civil government does not take positions on the truth of religious propositions–like whether Marble really is, as its ad claims, what people would hope from a church. At worst, the disclaimer is a bit unnecessary. What’s the cause for complaint?

It’s this: Requiring church ads–and only church ads–to include disclaimers is a kind of disparagement that places churches at an unfair disadvantage in the marketplace of ideas. The inescapable implication is that there is something uniquely impolite and dangerous about religion–more than doubtful cosmetic treatments, consumer fantasies, and boozing it up at home–and that government must keep its distance. The MTA’s policy doesn’t suggest state neutrality respecting religion, but disapproval. For the record, the endorsement test prohibits that as well.

UPDATE: Perry Dane points me to the MTA policy, which actually extends to ads with “political” and “moral” content as well as “religious.” I’m surprised, because I’ve seen plenty of ads with political and moral messages that don’t carry disclaimers, but maybe the MTA just hasn’t gotten around to labeling everything. Still, the differential impact on religious messages has implications under the endorsement test.

Guerres de Noël

US-LIFESTYLE-HOLIDAY-DECORATIONS

I used to think that the annual Christmas Wars were strictly an American thing, like corn dogs and and attorneys’ contingency fees. Only in America, I thought, do people seriously argue about whether to allow Christmas trees in public parks or to permit public school choirs to sing “Silent Night” at holiday concerts. The issues become more and more bizarre. This year, a Maryland school district decided to remove even a reference to “Christmas” in the school calendar–as though the reference amounted to religious oppression and removal would make people forget what holiday comes round every 25th of December.

Our Supreme Court, whose Establishment Clause jurisprudence focuses on factors like the presence of plastic reindeer and talking wishing wells, bears much blame for this state of affairs. But judges in other countries seem eager to replicate our model. Last week, a French administrative court ruled that the town of La Roche-sur-Yon–located, appropriately, in the historically royalist, counter-revolutionary region of the Vendee–must remove a Christmas crèche from its city hall. The court held that the crèche violates the 1905 French Law on the Separation of Church and State, which, according to the court, forbids religious displays like crèches on public property. According to news reports (in French), the court concluded the display was incompatible with the principle of state religious neutrality, or laïcité.

I don’t know enough about French administrative law to evaluate the decision. What I find fascinating, as an outsider, is how closely the French debate tracks the American. The lawsuit seeking removal of the crèche was brought by a secularist group called the “Fédération de la Libre Pensée,” which, I gather, is analogous to American groups like the Freedom from Religion Foundation and American Atheists. The group argues that the crèche “fails to respect the conscience of the citizen” by “imposing” on him a religious display whenever he enters city hall. In response, the town’s supporters evoke cultural traditions more than Christianity. Religious neutrality, they say, does not require abandoning longstanding French customs. What’s next, they ask? Church bells and Christmas lights? They’ve started a popular hashtag campaign, #TouchePasAMaCreche.

Each side has to live with its ironies. Notwithstanding the rhetorical commitment to laïcité, French law allows a great deal of entanglement between church and state–more, in some respects, than we would tolerate in the US. (Guess who owns Notre Dame and all other church buildings that existed as of 1905? Hint: it’s not the Church). On the other hand, the defense of tradition in this case rings somewhat hollow. La Roche-sur-Yon only began displaying the crèche 22 years ago.

The city has vowed to appeal the decision. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, here’s a thought. If France has adopted the Christmas Wars, can Black Friday be far behind?

Photo: Le Figaro