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Author’s Name, “Title of Essay,” Religion and Identity, Edited by Ronald A. Simkins and Thomas M. Kelly, Journal of Religion & Society Supplement 13 (2016), Pages of the essay [URL of this page].
How do the different reasons given for Sabbath observance in the Ten Commandments create "Israel" as a particular subject position or subjectivity? Analysis of the work done by the commands and their reasons for Sabbath observance demonstrates that the commands reflect different kinds of subjectivity and truth for Israel. In the Exodus Sabbath command (Exodus 20:8–11), Israel rests on the seventh day because it is a subject of the Creator God, who is sovereign over creation. In the Deuteronomy Sabbath command (Deuteronomy 5:12–15), Israel rests because it is a loyal, docile subject of the suzerain YHWH. These reasons are part of the regime of truth for those who accept and adopt the subject position of "Israel" offered by the commands.
Gender, which is a fundamental aspect of identity, in biblical Israel is an expression of power in a hierarchical relationship. It signifies the power differential that results from the different roles that men and women have in procreation, as culturally understood through the metaphor of agriculture. The husband was the dominant, ruling member because he possessed the seed necessary for procreation, whereas the wife was dependent upon his seed to fulfill her primary social role. In other social relations, however, a man or woman might take on different gendered roles depending on the circumstances, giving rise to various gender ambiguities, where men and women behave or are treated contrary to the expectations of gender. In their relationship to YHWH, for example, the Israelite men always take on the female, subordinate role. In this gendered relationship, YHWH has all the power and Israel is wholly dependent on him, and thus YHWH, the consummate male, may take the men of Israel as his wife.
This paper examines relevant biblical texts to investigate the question of how the offspring of the Judahite deportee population in Babylon – former members of Jerusalem's elite society – managed to capitalize on a particular interpretation of their national past in order to further legitimize ownership of the name "Israel" over and against any and all competing claims. A close reading of relevant biblical texts discloses an identity strategy based on this in-group's self-assertion that as a priestly community it had endured a searing divine punishment on behalf of the people, thereby sanctifying itself as the sole agent of redemption for a newly restored, divinely-favored nation. Less explicit in the biblical text, but no less significant, is the community's strategy regarding outsiders – most notably Judahites who had not been deported – all of which are largely ignored by biblical writers. These strategies combine to forge the dominant, repatriated community's self-identity in a manner consistent with the classical model of social identity theory pioneered by Henri Tajfel and John Turner, which in its most basic formulation asserts that members of an in-group seek to establish and strengthen their own community's collective strength and influence at the expense of one or more proximate out-groups.
While reference to Samaritans is notable in Matthew, and significant in John and the Acts of the Apostles, it is the Gospel of Luke that makes the most of Samaritan identity. The episode of Samaritan inhospitality in Luke 9 occasions an important example of Jesus' nonviolence and sets up the reader for the impact of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), the responsive Samaritan leper (Luke 17), and the sweeping success of the Samaritan mission in Acts 8. Samaritan identity based on "turf" and the right place to worship God illuminates the three narratives in the Third Gospel and the Christian mission in Acts.
Acts is often read as an anti-Jewish text that validates a gentile church which has separated from Judaism and the Jewish people. While the text does depict opposition between the Way and "the Jews," it simultaneously challenges this construction by attributing elements of Jewish identity both to "the Jews" and to the Way. This paper argues, in four steps, that Luke presents the Way as a Jewish group with ongoing ties to other Jews: (1) Luke uses familial language to demonstrate a continuing connection between Jews in the Way and other Jews; (2) the initial construction of the Way includes only Jews through a redefinition of the boundaries of Israel; (3) when gentiles join the Way they do so in accord with the law of Moses; and (4) Luke carefully shows that Jews in the Way observe the law of Moses. Luke has constructed a complex narrative in which both the Way and other Jews are characterized in Jewish terms, a move made possible by the ambiguity and malleability of Jewish identity during the period in which Luke is writing.
Drawing on recent sociological studies, this article shows the complexity of Jewish identifications in the United States. It discusses five criteria for identifying who is a Jew: halakhah, Reform and Reconstructionist criteria, certain strands of Christian theology, ethnicity or race, and genetics. Then it shows how, when American Jews think about their own Jewishness, they slide among these criteria, notwithstanding the contradictions among them. Studying American Jews, then, shows the ways that religion, ethnicity, race, and genetics are profoundly but often invisibly entangled. It concludes by suggesting that attention to this entanglement will help illuminate not only Jews but many others in the American religious landscape.
This essay explores the benefits and limitations of attempting to capture certain Muslim identities with the terms "fundamentalism" and "Islamism," commenting particularly on two recent anthologies on the topic. It finds that in both cases limitations outweigh benefits, arguing that discussions of Muslim identity are better served by leaving these terms out of the conversation. While the essay gives several reasons for this determination, two are prominent. First, the terms lack precision. Whereas this has long been a difficulty, the essay suggests that the scholarship examined has not resolved it, and the criticisms of the terms' critics remain unanswered. Second, if one asks the question "why should we use these terms?" there does not appear to be any compelling affirmative answer. We have at our disposal other terms that carry less problematical baggage and better serve analysis.
This essay argues that there is a predominant media narrative that asserts that Islam is inherently violent, Muslims are foreign and dangerous, we should remain alert and suspicious, and policies or acts of aggression against them are therefore justifiable. Routinized replication of simplistic, patterned, and easily recognizable Muslim identities leads to real social consequences. I demonstrate the dynamics at work in constructing Muslim media identities through an investigation of recent incidents, including the Charlie Hebdo and Chapel Hill shootings, several anti-Muslim crimes, and the media declarations encircling these events. These types of events are best understood within a context where persistent seemingly transparent anti-Muslim bias is part of social life due to the production and circulation of recognized Muslim identities. Overall, I argue that "identity" is not fixed, essential, or natural, and, therefore, examining the processes of identification rather than identity will be the most productive.
In the seventeenth century, Lutheran ecclesiastical authorities commissioned Konfessionsbilder (images depicting the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, 1530 and illustrations of Lutheran ecclesiastical life). These images help illuminate the theory of "confessionalization," especially in light of the particular anti-Reformed emphasis of the paintings. These paintings reveal a concern for the rise of Reformed theology, prompted by the Peace of Westphalia, in the century and a half before the rise of the Prussian Union Church (1817).
This case study examines the background to Johann Lerchenfeld's successful petition for nullification of his religious vows as a Theatine on the grounds of his religious ancestry. While Lerchenfeld's forebears were Protestant, the exclusionary provisions that served as the basis for his release were the product of concerns over "New Christian" lineage in Iberia, and the intersection of medieval disabilities for the children of heretics with anxieties regarding so-called purity of blood. The Theatine exclusionary rules, and their amendment in 1710, reflect the changing face of religious identity in Early Modern Europe.
How does attention to controversial social problems rise and fall among Evangelical Protestants and Mainline Protestants over time? Drawing on content analysis from 1960-2013, I find that while attention to racial inequality distinguished these two religious traditions over the 1960s and early-1970s, attention to abortion has distinguished these two traditions since the 1980s. Moreover, I find that maintaining and strengthening religious identity is a key factor in how these controversial social problems are managed over time by religious groups. These findings suggest a close and complex relationship between religious identity and controversial social and political debates.
After nearly five hundred years of oppression (1492-1962) in Latin America, the theological status of the poor has radically changed from those subject to oppression to those needing liberation. This occurred through a radical re-orientation of the Catholic Church and its relationship to the world, a new understanding of the kingdom of God, and a newly accepted view of history as dynamic. Through all this shifting of ecclesial self-understanding and re-evaluation, who was poor and what it meant to be poor went through a startling transformation of identity. An example illustrative of this transformation is evident in the documents of the Latin American bishops at their conference in 1968. Despite this significant change, one that can be dated to Vatican II, Latin America is a region divided by the Church's teaching on the poor and their liberation.
The manipulation of collective identity has been a central theme in modern genocide. In the Rwandan context, postcolonial violence and the 1994 genocide were organized around the collective identities of "Hutu" and "Tutsi." This article examines four different interpretive schools of "Hutu" and "Tutsi" identities and offers a theological analysis of the potentials and pitfalls of "Christian identity" in the contemporary Rwandan context. Drawing on both written and oral sources, the author argues that the German theologian Johann-Baptist Metz's "memory of suffering" and the Catholic theological and pastoral commitment to "communion" can offer particular contributions to post-genocide reconciliation in Rwanda.
This essay explores how Bruno Latour's concept of "A Secular Gaia," can enter into dialogue with the early Christian theologian Irenaeus of Lyons. By reading Irenaeus through Latour, it may be possible to recover aspects of second century Christian materialism that generally go unnoticed.
In this essay I explore the question of why people in secular societies should honor the claims of religious identities. I argue that the due recognition that is granted to religious identities should be founded on the value of equal respect for persons. Additionally, I argue that there are good reasons to regard religious identities as special – in a way that is congruent with equal respect for persons – such that they are deserving of special moral and legal consideration. But I affirm that views that are not traditionally religious can also make special claims insofar as they resemble the paradigm cases of religious identities and thus are at least "quasi-religious." I then apply my account of the claims of religious identities to two key issues in secular democratic societies with regard to these claims: (1) the issue of religious accommodations; and (2) the issue of free speech and whether we should limit offensive or blasphemous speech (morally if not legally).