Biblical Studies as a Secular Discipline: The Role of Faith and Theology
Ronald A. Simkins, Creighton University [ Essay PDF ]
Too Hard to Believe? A Reading of Religious Eclecticism in Yann Martel's Life of Pi
Jeffrey W. Robbins, Lebanon Valley College [ Essay PDF ]
There have been a number of accounts of Christianity as a "global" religion: in terms of its rapid growth (Jenkins), its extensive media network and cultural hegemony (James and Shoesmith), the momentum of its cultural legacy in terms of mission schools, hospitals, and their knock-on effects, its alignment with a self-reinforcing Anglophone culture, and other factors. While there is considerable cultural data to support this claim, there also needs to be counterbalancing arguments about the costs and limitations of global Christianity in order to arrive at a more nuanced theory of Christianity as a global religion, and thence of other religions in the context of globalization. In particular, we need to consider the relationship between global/transnational Christianity and the "ethnos" – which is the root word of "nation" as well as "ethnicity" or "race." While the Bible's "Great Commission" commands Christians to "Go . . . and teach all nations (ethne), baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19), it does not say what becomes of the "ethne" as a consequence of their being taught or disciplined into the faith. This paper will examine the dialectical pull of Christianity as a global religion: its simultaneously unifying/homogenizing as well as segregating/compartmentalizing tendencies. The paper will go on to illustrate this in relation to the case of Indian Christians in the diaspora, and finally to extrapolate this account of transnational Christianity to a comparative view of other religions like Hinduism and Islam.
This article uses ethnographic fieldwork to investigate the intersection of American liberal values with traditional religious ideals. Members of a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender synagogue develop a local congregational culture that integrates identity politics into Judaism as a way of counteracting their exclusion from both religious and secular institutions in American society. Congregants reformulate their practice of Judaism to accommodate liberal ideals in ways sometimes contradictory to both sets of beliefs; these contradictions, although perhaps detrimental to the maintenance of traditional forms of Judaism, are a reasonable and necessary congregational response to contemporary attitudes among Jews in the United States in the early 21st century that emphasize disaffiliation with organized religion.
This paper explores the phenomenological and metaphysical implications of the increasing abstraction of online religion away from place into space within techgnosis – a form of Gnosticism inherent in modernity. In the phenomenon of "virtual pilgrimages" the location of the religious is transposed from its location in "body and place" to the "mind in space." Drawing on theology and philosophy, the author concludes that this phenomenon is a consequence of capitalist modernity. While pilgrimage has traditionally been fastened to a "center," the virtual pilgrimage emerges, from utility-driven space. Echoing Marx's critique, the solid sacred center (place) melts into air (space).
The word "martyr" was widely applied in the later nineteenth century to a number of Anglican "ritualist" clergy who had been prosecuted for performing overtly "Catholic" liturgical practices. The focal point for such usage occurred when several individuals were imprisoned for having flouted the Public Worship Regulation Act (1874). Supporters of this legislation accused their opponents of being fakes in that their "modern martyrdom" consisted of little more than short spells in prison. However, Anglo-Catholics connected acts of contemporary defiance with those of the confessors of the early Church. A quasi-hagiographic body of discourse began to coalesce around key figures such as Arthur Tooth and Alexander MacKonochie. This process did not get far because the campaign of persecution was swiftly abandoned, however, the term "martyrdom" has subsequently become widespread in the historical discussion of these men even though none of them died for their faith. This episode highlights the way in which martyrdom can be seen in relation to milder as well as more extreme acts of religious repression and witness. But also, in so far as the cults of saints and martyrs can be seen as being substantially constructed through hagiographies and martyrologies, this episode emphasizes the discursive aspects of martyrdom in general and the role of the media in particular, in the contested emergence of religious heroes.
Recent cultural shifts, most notably a rise in a modified form of secularization, which privileges choice, have led to a general decline in religious commitment. This is best described as a process that may eventually lead to complete religious disengagement. This decline has implications for many religious groups, such as the Catholic Church, that maintain a large number of affiliated institutions, many of which have an educational focus. In the absence of strongly committed individuals, Catholic schools face significant challenges in accommodating this new cultural reality. In response to these challenges Catholic schools need to develop ways to better maintain a strong and distinctive identity.
This paper examines important issues associated with the search for national identity in contemporary Russia following the disappearance of the Soviet Union, particularly the contribution of Orthodoxy to that discussion. It considers the historical context in which the debate about identity has taken place and the reasons for the re-emergence of Orthodoxy as a significant marker of identity. The analysis adopts a philological approach in recognition of the need for an accurate understanding of matters of language to elucidate the debate and to clarify the role of Orthodoxy.
This article is an intellectual and social history of the apostasy of the German theologian Bruno Bauer (1809-1882). It locates Bauer's intellectual and spiritual development from orthodox Protestantism to militant atheism in his exposure to historical criticism of the Bible, exclusion from German academic culture, and association with a group of Berlin atheists and dissidents. This is the first study dedicated exclusively to Bauer's apostasy. It underscores the personal experience of secularization and offers new insight into the complex intellectual and social processes behind individual apostasy and conversion.
The purpose of this paper is to discover the unique and interactive effects of ethnic heritages and religious traditions on social capital and civic engagement. Findings support the Nordic exceptionalism thesis. Small Iowa towns populated with a higher proportion of Scandinavian descendents have more social capital and civic engagement than towns where other ethnic heritages predominate. However, the Lutheran affiliation of Scandinavian descendents accounts for the high level of both social capitals. Thus towns with more residents affiliated with the Lutheran denomination, regardless of the ethnic ancestry of residents, had more social capital.
This article examines the written narratives from fifty former Christians. In these narratives, drawn from an online community of deconverts, the writers described their experiences with and explanations for leaving the Christian faith. Several themes emerged as to why they left, including: intellectual and theological concerns, a feeling that God had failed them, and various frustrations with Christians. The writers gave little mention to non-Christians as pulling them out of the faith. These narratives emphasized external, rather than internal, attributions for the deconversion. They also identified primarily "push" rather than "pull" factors as the cause of deconversion. While some narratives outlined the costs and benefits of deconversion, others told of seeking moral rightness regardless of the cost.
This study explored how religious fundamentalism related to irrational beliefs and primitive defense mechanisms. We also explored how the personality factors of openness to experience and neuroticism moderated these relations. Participants (N = 120) were recruited in an urban area from a Northeastern university, a psychotherapy center, and through Internet advertising. The results demonstrated that religious fundamentalism predicted irrationality after controlling for degree of neuroticism. The results suggest that the degree of religious belief may be an important aspect of assessment when commencing psychotherapy because it relates to irrationality, which is the basis for psychopathology according to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Therefore, rigidly held religious beliefs may predict psychopathology.
Is there a distinctive Catholic vote? Opinions range from the view that Catholics are predisposed to the Democratic Party to the position that they are classic centrists indistinguishable from other voters in the United States. Instead, we believe the measure of Catholic religious distinctiveness is its responsiveness to the social teachings of the Church. We evaluate the impacts of three issues included in Catholic social teaching regarding the consistent ethic of life – abortion, the death penalty, and the preferential option for the poor – on the political behavior of Catholics. Unlike other analyses that predict Catholic attitudes by individual-level characteristics, we are interested in knowing how issues important to the Church's social teachings influence members' political behavior. The positions of the Republican and Democratic parties on these issues pose conflicting pressures for Catholic voters. Herein lies the Catholic distinctiveness. Catholics use a mix of values, both secular and religious, to help them decide how to vote. The impact of these issues consistently pushes and pulls Catholics in the direction of the party position predicted by Catholic social teaching and is reinforced by age and regular mass attendance. We find that the contemporary Catholic vote is pluralistic but also sensitive to the expectations associated with fabric of life issues. Consistent advocacy of life issues by the Catholic Church has influenced the attitudes and political behavior of some Catholics.
This work explores Eric Voegelin's assessment of the churches during the Nazi period. Focusing on Voegelin's ideas as expressed in lectures published under the title Hitler and the Germans, the work first details Voegelin's critique of the Catholic Church in Germany during the period of the National Socialists. The work then develops an interpretation of the actions of the Catholic Church that undermines the contention, advanced by Voegelin as by many later writers, that the Catholic Church in Germany acted only as a self-interested group unconcerned with common humanity. The piece also works to clarify the status of the important theological concept of the Mystical Body of Christ, and the role that concept played during the period the Nazis held power. The work argues against the idea that the Mystical Body was illegitimately construed by Church leaders in the 1930s and 1940s, as alleged by Voegelin and later scholars. The work concludes by developing lessons for the ongoing debate over the role of the Catholic Church in Nazi Germany that can be gleaned from the failure of Voegelin's critique.
Jesuit spiritual principles and practices offer both a challenge and an endorsement of essential principles of Peacebuilding and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). This article examines the parallels between Jesuit values and the mission of ADR programs to educate conflict specialists and peacemakers, and discusses the challenges Ignatian spirituality sets to ADR scholarship at large and in Jesuit universities in particular. Specific consideration is given to the way that the Jesuit values support ADR scholarship, education, and practice, and pose challenges to the depth at which these are pursued in ADR scholarship in Jesuit Institutions.
This article explores gospel music created by Black women as a form of protest that critiques social injustice. Using the tragic circumstances the 1927 Mississippi River Flood, the author argues that in the first half of the twentieth century the emergent gospel music became a vehicle through which African American women could circumvent the restrictive gender dictates of Black churches. In music created immediately following the flood and years later, Black women challenged the rhetoric and practice of hegemony through an alternative oral discourse that recognized the whole self as integral to spiritual and subjective fulfillment, and simultaneously critically assessed their cultural milieu.