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Author’s Name, “Title of Essay,” Religion and the New Politics, Edited by Ronald A. Simkins and Zachary B. Smith, Journal of Religion & Society Supplement 23 (2021), Pages of the essay [URL of this page].
Biblical studies has made strides in drawing meaningful connections between systemic poverty in the biblical worlds and today. However, perhaps just as important as connecting the tools and effects of these systems is understanding a human trait that makes their implementation possible: our propensity to act cruelly toward those of lower status. This essay draws upon psychological research on privileged contempt to offer an interpretive and heuristic model that responds to Job’s lament, “those at ease have contempt for misfortune.” The model of privileged contempt is first deployed as an exegetical tool through which to consider the potential psychological underpinnings of biblical texts that admonish abuses of privilege. Its lens is then shifted to offer a biblical critique of the anti-poor and anti-marginalized attitudes found in the new politics of Trumpian Republicanism.
Wealth inequality and climate disruption are defining issues of our time. This article addresses ways in which dispensationalist interpretations of the book of Revelation shape decision making on these issues in the age of Trump. It argues that these modes of interpretation imitate the dynamics in capitalism by exploitatively extracting specific elements from the biblical text absent their socio-historical context. This article first surveys how extraction takes place in contemporary economy and ecology, and then provides examples of how dispensationalist interpretation imitates this dynamic. It concludes that alternative modes of interpretation rooted in the text’s socio-historical context are needed in developing biblical resources to address the interwoven crises of capitalism and climate disruption.
The Green New Deal (GND) is a very ambitious mission statement for a just transition to a low carbon economy whose starting point was not perceived political possibility but the boundaries of the climate system, for a functioning society, as defined by the scientific community. This paper compares modern Catholic Social Teaching, especially Laudato Sí, the ecological encyclical of Pope Francis, to the GND. It argues that the GND is consonant with all the relevant principles of Catholic Social Teaching: human dignity, solidarity/common good/participation, option for the poor, rights of workers, subsidiarity, economic development for the poorest countries of the world, private property and the universal destination of all goods, and peace.
A number of Catholic political movements have developed in recent decades contesting Catholic accommodations with political liberalism since World War II, particularly in the areas of human rights and religious liberty. Some of these thinkers, such as Remi Brague, Pierre Manent, and to some extent Pope Benedict XVI, seek to reconstruct liberal rational discourse around its Catholic roots in pursuit of civilizational defense. Others, such as Patrick Deneen, seek to move past liberalism in favor of a more organically grounded localist (or nationalist) politics. This essays argues that such a turn against liberalism is mistaken and should be opposed by a “liberal post-liberalism” integrating the most important elements of liberalism and the postwar consensus while embracing course corrections in certain areas. Dialogue partners in this effort include Martha Nussbaum, Enrique Dussel, and Pope Francis. Ultimately, the turn Francis has made in Catholic social teaching toward the common good and the earth is far more constructive than the anti-liberal trajectory.
This article identifies and assesses some of the shifts that have occurred in conservative Catholic politics in the United States over the last twenty years. For much of the late 1990s and early 2000s, a politics focused on denouncing “the culture of death” predominated in U.S. conservative Catholicism. In recent years, this political and religious framework has lost ground to a politics addressing “the crisis of liberalism.” I examine this new political agenda by looking at two of its leading exponents, journalist Sohrab Ahmari and political theorist Patrick Deneen. The article closes by raising three points for consideration regarding the relationship between the critique of liberalism and the magisterium of the Catholic Church, the place of LGBTQ persons in the critique of liberalism, and what this means for the future of politics in the Church in the United States.
Interreligious organizations that provide aid to immigrants are changing the way scholars and the public understand religious freedom in the United States. Members of these organizations draw on laws and ideals of free exercise of religion to challenge policies that limit humanitarian aid to immigrants. At the same time, they create networks across religious difference. In so doing, these groups enter a global debate over the value of borders and boundaries, making a religiously grounded case for building bonds of fellowship across both national borders and the boundary lines that separate people based on identity. The work of these groups provides a window both into legal debates over religious freedom, and postcolonial challenges to modern-era categories of difference.
Our focus in this essay is on the divisions the new politics promotes surrounding sex and sexualities and how the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is fostering these divisions legally, theological-anthropologically, and ethically. We begin by describing recent legal issues surrounding sex and sexualities and then present and critically analyze the USCCB’s legal, anthropological, and ethical perspectives on these issues. We conclude that in its teachings on homosexuality and its advocacy opposing the Equality Act and non-discrimination legislation, the USCCB promotes unjust discrimination against members of the LGBT community, violates human dignity, and assaults the common good.
Drawing on resources from the philosophical tradition of phenomenology and putting them into dialogue with an important theme in Christian theology, I argue that there is a distinctly non-discursive, embodied form of racism that should be recognized and addressed by the new politics. Because this form of racism occurs not at the familiar level of discourse (word), but in the often-unconscious habitualities of the lived body (flesh), it resists common antiracist strategies, and seems to be outside the purview of responsibility and of willful, rational change (the logos). I situate these underlying issues with regard to the traditional opposition between mind and body, and then offer a reinterpretation of them by way of some key phenomenological concepts: intentionality, the lived body, the critique of scientism, motivation, and empathy. I conclude that embodied racism is something which is open to an extended conception of rationality that includes the lived body, and is something for which we are responsible. I then suggest some antiracist political strategies that put these theoretical considerations to use through attention to embodied spaces and practices.
Scholars have noted shared priorities and organizational ties between American Catholic leadership and the Republican Party arising since the 1970s and continuing today. Does American Catholic leadership withhold clear criticism of Republican President Trump for fear of alienating allies in a way they did not for Democratic President Obama? To answer this question, we engage in content analysis of columns written by bishops to their local dioceses (local level) and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ news releases (national level). We find that American Catholic leadership avoids criticizing Trump by name in a way that they did not for Obama and that this pattern exists only at the national level. We shed light on shared priorities between Catholic leaders and the Republican Party at the national level and demonstrate how this is facilitated through sex and gender issues and is challenged by immigration politics under President Trump.
Over the last three decades, two divergent trends help to explain voter support for the two political parties. Voter support for each party by religious affiliation has remained remarkably stable. In contrast, coalitions of party support seem to be shifting along the lines of age and educational attainment, with younger voters and college educated voters increasingly likely to support Democratic candidates. In this research we examine how age and education condition support for the political parties within religious traditions. We draw upon survey data from the 2008–2018 waves of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). Our findings suggest that among faith traditions with generally higher levels of support for Democratic candidates, there are small differences between younger and older adherents. Similar small differences are observed between college educated and other voters. However, among faith traditions with higher levels of support for the Republican Party, we find growing rifts between young and old voters. We also find disparate trends in support between college educated and non-college educated voters. We identify the implications for these findings moving forward.
The politics of Trumpism have engendered new norms for public discourse, which affect teaching and learning in higher education. This essay examines resources in Catholic higher education for providing a framework to structure classroom discourse and choice of course texts. By developing a strong liberal arts curriculum and relying on Catholic Social Teaching and the specific resources of religious sponsors such as the Jesuits and Sisters of Mercy, Catholic universities can allow for freedom of expression while simultaneously respecting and protecting the essential dignity of all.
This article introduces Fr. John Mary Waliggo (1942–2008), the foremost Catholic public intellectual in post-colonial Uganda. In his personal life, priestly ministry, and extensive government work, Waliggo built a public theology around the theme of liberation, especially freedom from the paralysis of fear. Operating in the shadow of decades of political authoritarianism and violence, Waliggo argued that historical memory, popular unity, and a vociferous defense of human dignity could help counter the politics of fear that dominated late twentieth-century Uganda. At the same time, Waliggo’s extensive involvement in modern Ugandan politics raises the fear of the politicization of the priest.