The Shakers, a small ecstatic religious group, found themselves at the center of controversy in the early nineteenth century when a number of apostates published accounts accusing the sect of all variety of malfeasance. This forced the Shakers to publish responses, and the resultant public battle had a number of interesting features. In this article I examine how these attacks mask a general national anxiety regarding religious identity. Anti-Shakers sought to vilify the group by employing captivity and conversion narratives to a nineteenth century audience weaned on such tales. However by manipulating established tropes, these anti-Shakers over-played their hand, and the Shakers proved remarkably adept at reversing the terms of the argument.
There are various ways in which religion and science have been perceived to interact in the cultural domain. After critically assessing the "separation view" of their relationship and finding it untenable, this essay recounts various "interaction views" wherein either religion or science is assumed to be taking precedence over or replacing in significance the other. This essay concludes with a "postsecular perspective" that sheds a different light on this relationship, claiming that discursively, religion and science inform and complement each other in American culture.
Catholic bioethicists have examined specific biomedical technologies (esp. at life's beginning and end). But a comprehensive reflection on the phenomenon of biomedical technology itself is missing. Moreover, a paradox appears operative. Several such technologies are rejected as unnatural when used to regulate procreation, but deemed a natural form of intersubjective care and as such obligatory when sustaining life. Given the pervasiveness of biomedical technology in contemporary health care, an in-depth reflection on this paradox and the phenomenon of biomedical technology in general is needed. By critically reviewing the existing Catholic bioethical literature, this paper seeks to contribute to such a comprehensive ethical analysis.
Education-inspired decline of religious thought and practice among students has long been conceived as a mechanism of secularization. How education correlates with religious outcomes, and vice versa, have been of interest both in academia and in the public, primarily because of the rise of the so-called "New Atheist" movement that seeks dominion within the intellectual sphere, the rise of the number of individuals who do not identify with a religion, and the guiding secular ethos of Western nations. Modern social research has exposed important limitations and caveats to the secularization paradigm that call into question to what extent, or even if, religious decline occurs during post-secondary schooling. This article presents the inadequacies and unsubstantiated assumptions of the secularization hypothesis through discussion of key topics of contention, namely: (1) propensities of religious to enroll and excel in school; (2) demographic changes in educational trajectories of religious and non-religious; (3) decline of religious service attendance among post-secondary students; (4) the dissolution of religious plausibility structures; (5) the "liberalization" of student religious opinion; and (6) the nature and process of religious disaffiliation during schooling. Although the consensus of this review is that education is generally not atrophic to religious orientation, exceptions in favor of the secularization hypothesis will also be presented.
Machteld Zee's article in the previous volume outlines the debate concerning the interaction between the state and the operation of Sharia councils in the United Kingdom. She does not purport to provide a solution, but to add some elusive clarity in an area already full of ambiguities. This author holds the view that, in its goal to present a full account of the debate, Zee's article is imbalanced in parts and not fully explored in others. I propose that, rather than suggested Government intervention in the form of top-down legislation, change ought to come from within the community.
Using the October 2008 Pew Social Trends Survey, the present study finds that worship attendance more strongly contributes to the unwillingness of non-urban Whites to live within racially diverse settings than it does for their urban counterparts. One way to understand these findings is that the greater exposure to diversity among individuals living within more urban contexts may serve as a challenge to conservative attitudes reinforced within worship settings that are largely racially segregated. Contrary to Whites, however, worship attendance is unrelated to the place-based racial attitudes of Blacks and Hispanics living in more and less urban communities.
The principle objective of this paper is to illustrate the experience of a community from the Catholic Charismatic Renewal – Renovación Carismátic Católica – (RCC) in the Manuel Rodríguez section of Santiago, Chile (now Pudahuel) from 1973 to 1983. It analyzes how residents of this charismatic community developed a new way of living together in the face of a military dictatorship and puts forward a reflection on the following two aspects. First, it underlines the heterogeneity of the Ecclesial Base Communities – Comunidades Eclesiales de Base – (CEB) in opposition to the tendency of some studies to overlook their distinct internal dynamics. Second, it highlights the importance of these communities as popular spaces for rebuilding the social fabric in the face of state repression.
This article examines the process of departure or "deconversion" from Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Judaism of young men in Israel. Deconversion describes the progression of abandoning a faith community and the difficulties involved. It is dialogical because it describes an interaction between the individual, his position, and the Haredi structure that seeks to speak in one authoritarian voice. Dialogical theory leans on the work by early 20th century Russian literature scholar Mikhail Bakhtin, which was later adopted by social psychologists, literature scholars, and social and cultural anthropologists and sociologists. I introduce the reader to the figured world of Haredi Judaism, its intensity, religiosity, and the way young men interviewed struggle with living a life they do not believe in and subsequently negotiate their way out.
Focusing on clergy in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, this paper investigates the effect of parishioners and institutional superiors on clergy political attitudes. This is important to consider, given that clergy have the potential to wield substantial political influence and, given that conventional wisdom, which suggests that clergy have stable political attitudes. Using a question order experiment to facilitate cognitive priming, our results suggest that when randomly primed to consider their institutional and professional network, clergy are more likely to offer conservative political attitudes. Thus, as much as clergy influence their parishioners, they are themselves subject to influence.
This paper seeks to be a corrective to the common yet erroneous perception that after the Jasmine Revolution, Tunisia is witnessing a battle between pro-Islam forces on one side and secular ones on the other. The paper argues that some of the policies of the Tunisian government since independence have triggered a process that created a complex field of negotiation around what Islam means and how it ought to guide Tunisian society. The work of Olfa Youssef provides an example of how the field of interpreting Islam has expanded, creating a unique space of intelligibility that challenges our understanding of what Islam entails in modern contexts.
Public discourse about religion is increasingly dominated by the assumption that to be religious is to be certain about absolute truths. Broadly shared among pundits and politicians, and widely disseminated in the media, this assumption rests on the idea that religion functions chiefly as a generative source of meaning and is therefore best understood as culture. This essay challenges this reduction of religion to culture. Looking at both scholarly and popular instances of this attitude, it shows how it is insufficient to account for the dynamics of religion in history.
This ethnographic case study examines Protestant social engagement in post-Soviet Cuba through the lens of the growing house church phenomenon. After the fall of the Soviet Bloc, Cuba entered into an acute economic crisis known as the "Special Period," or Período Especial. Socially engaged Protestant groups utilized neighborhood networks of casas cultos (house churches) and casas de oración (prayer houses) in order to address the concrete spiritual and material needs of fellow Cubans. This article argues that Protestants are combining Christianity with support for the revolutionary values of social solidarity and providing for the common good
A major domestic issue in the United States today is the battle between gay rights and religious liberty. It is an issue often framed as a zero-sum battle where one side must lose and be faced with a tragic choice. Thus far, it has only been religious individuals who believe marriage is only supposed to be between men and women, and who act on this belief who have been made to make this choice. Religious believers connected to the wedding industry who refuse to facilitate gay weddings have been faced with the tragic choice of either abandoning their faith or being subjected to draconian legal penalties. This is a 180 degree change from a generation ago when homosexuals who were subjected to the same thing. This paper explores how the rights of both parties can be protected by exploring various U.S. Supreme Court cases and the meaning of the First, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Since World War II, Jewish-Muslim relations have almost entirely been mired in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. One of the results of this heavy politicization has been the curtailment of any serious or fruitful dialogue between the mainstream, established Jewish and Muslim communities of the West. This article brackets out the political issues that have been a cause of mutual distrust and consternation to explore the theological, juridical and mystical affinities between two strikingly similar traditions. It was these affinities that led to the creation, in the medieval past, of a Judeo-Islamic tradition – a tradition which in the words of one scholar was "parallel to and no less real – perhaps in fact even more real – than that of the Judeo-Christian tradition." The article demonstrates how the Judeo-Islamic tradition offers some valuable resources for promoting not only dialogue but congenial relations between Jewish and Muslim communities. It ends with a brief overview of the shared (Jewish/Muslim) experience of otherness in the West by drawing on the insights of Edward Said (vis-à-vis European representations of Semites) to examine the views of Hegel, Ernest Renan and Abraham Kuenon. The shared experience or otherness offers yet another vantage point from which to approach Jewish-Muslim dialogue.
This essay provides a theological analysis of two violent combat sports, boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA, also known as cage fighting). The titles of the biographies of a number of well-known professional Christian boxers, such as God in My Corner (Foreman) and Humble Warrior (Holyfield) and the fact that "roughly 700 churches in the United States have begun incorporating MMA into their ministry in some capacity" (Borer and Schafer: 167) raises a host of ethical quandaries and seeming paradoxes for the theologian. However, aside from a handful of essays in popular literature, there is to our knowledge very little academic theological reflection on boxing and MMA. After giving a brief history of boxing and MMA, the essay provides a theological ethical critique and assessment, providing suggestions as to how Christians and churches should think about these activities and how they can advise others.
Over the past decades, western societies have been confronted with immigration on a considerable scale. As a result, they have become more pluralistic, particularly as far as religion is concerned. This paper seeks to analyze the response to these developments in France, Italy, and the Canadian province of Quebec. The law on face-covering clothing was introduced in France, the privileged position of the Catholic religion was strengthened in Italy, and a debate about the proposed "Charter of secular values" took place in Quebec. Which of these approaches can best regulate a society, which will undoubtedly become even more diverse in the near future?
This paper tackles the current challenges to private sector unionism in the United States in light of Catholic social teaching (CST). The focus of the study is unionism in the private sector where the fall-off in membership is observed. CST is contained in a wide variety of official documents of the Catholic Church, in particular papal encyclicals, which present ethical norms for economic life in response to the changing realities of the modern world. The study begins with an analysis of the concrete situation: the causes of decline in union membership. It is followed by an ethical reflection on CST's perspectives and exploration of practices, strategies, and policies that can help reverse the ongoing trend of union decline and revitalize the labor movement in the country. The paper argues that unions are good in themselves as an expression of the workers' right to associate and instrumentally good as they invoke such values as the dignity of work, solidarity, subsidiarity, common good, and economic equality. While it has been proven that workers and society as a whole gain material benefits from effective unionization, focus on intangible benefits and moral principles offered by CST may give labor organizing a new impetus and inspiration.
A major debate in the early years of the twenty-first century concerned whether the proposed European Union (EU) constitution should contain references to the supposed Christian roots of the continent. This paper considers a consistent use of the roots analogy, focusing on a published work by two important participants to this debate, Marcello Pera, President of the Italian Senate from 2001-2006, and Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI of the Roman Catholic Church from 2003-2013. It considers both the possibilities and limits of the roots analogy, and proposes a better analogy drawn from the work of Wittgenstein to understand the foundations of phenomena we group under umbrella terms like "European culture."