This chapter is a critical literature review of recent social science research describing and analyzing the participation of Christian churches in various phases of the human rights movement in Latin America. Spanning the period from 1964 to the present, such human rights activism took place in the contexts of authoritarian rule, civil war, democratic transitions, and the consolidation of democracy. The chapter focuses on the influence of Christian church leaders, laity, organizations, and resources on the origins, growth, and maturation of human rights-oriented social movement organizations (SMOs). Drawing on Douglas McAdam, Sidney Tarrow, and Charles Tilly’s work on political process theory, this literature emphasizes the invaluable role of religious organizations in providing space, resources, protection, and framing to nascent human rights movements in the region during the 1960s-70s. Even so, the literature also grapples with the diverse range of political stances taken by Christian church leaders and activists, both within and across national-level cases. With the maturation of the movement and the transition to democracy, political process theory remained relevant, but failed to capture some of the key challenges and opportunities experienced by Christian activists, as opposed to social activists in general. Thus, scholarship shifted focus to organized religion’s capacity to build social capital and sustain meaningful Christian social and human rights activism.
This chapter analyzes a wide range of African customs and legends. It demonstrates that African traditional religion offers notions of a thriving spirit world which provides “sacred warriors” ritualized protections and martial enhancements when defense of community is urgent. African traditional religion remains primarily an African phenomenon and, as a result, is tightly associated with the cultures and realities of the continent. The role of religion in motivating violence and its role in carrying out the violence are addressed. The Lord's Resistance Army has revealed that a spiritual agenda and rhetoric is not enough to win the support of the people. A proliferation of news stories and images from across Africa of persecuted albino communities, victims of ritual sacrifice or magically empowered rebels might give the impression that traditional religion and violence are more intertwined than ever.
John W. de Gruchy
This article examines visual art and its relationship with morality and justice. It first considers justice-related ethical issues raised by the relationship between art and morality, including censorship, plagiarism, and property rights. It then discusses the link between aesthetics and ethics, or beauty and morality, and situates art within particular historical contexts and cultures. It also analyzes the views of four post-Enlightenment philosophers toward aesthetics: Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Søren Kierkegaard. Furthermore, it comments on the extent to which bias of race, gender and class can influence the work of artists. The article also looks at the connections between art, beauty, morality, and social justice and the moral power of art to change society for the better. Finally, it describes the role of the arts in the struggle against apartheid and liberation.
This article examines the strong correlation that currently exists between high levels of secularity in a given society positive societal well-being. By looking at the most and least theistic nations on earth, as well as the most and least theistic states in the United States, and by taking into consideration a wide array of indicators of societal well-being, the correlation is clear: the most secular societies on earth with the highest rates of non-belief fare much better, on average, than the most religious, strongly-believing societies. While understanding that correlation does not equal causation, this article still maintains that theism is clearly not the societal panacea many claim it to be, nor is atheism a source of societal degradation.
In addition to summarizing key concerns in Theravāda Buddhist Economics by scholars such as E. F. Schumacher and the Thai monk Payutto, this essay explores how descriptions of the West, Western development, and the “science” of economics serves in that literature to construct Occidentalist versions of Southeast Asian traditionalism and religious orthodoxy. It then introduces the previously unstudied work of Shérab Tendar, a prominent Tibetan Buddhist scholar in the contemporary People’s Republic of China who has written prodigiously on what he considers to be a scripturally based Mahāyāna and Tantric Buddhist Economics. Comparing these three influential iterations of Buddhist Economics, this essay argues that this movement has less to do with economics proper than with what I call trans-Buddhist “scales of value”: site-specific desires and measures of sought after outcomes that here privilege the economy and economic behavior as a technique for individual, social, and environmental well-being and emancipation.
This chapter discusses the history of Buddhist traditions and violence, concentrating on the scriptural justifications, symbols, and actual manifestations of violence. It covers Theravada (Path of the Elders), Mahayana (Great Vehicle), and Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle). Theravada scriptures present on occasion a categorical imperative to avoid violence. Mahayana scriptures condemn violence and hold murder as an unwholesome act (akushala). Vajrayana doctrine is perfused with texts and commentaries that reject the use of violence. The chapter then outlines the elements of violence with regard to war, punishment, and social control. Among the various examples in the scriptures lies one from its founder Siddhattha Gotama, who abandoned his own familial allegiance for the sake of reconciliation.
Matthew J. Walton
This article looks thematically at several important aspects of Buddhist politics in Myanmar, from the precolonial period to the present. It considers a number of arguments regarding the use of Buddhism in both supporting and opposing political authority, especially as they are rooted in a dualistic conception of human nature. It presents several examples of Burmese Buddhist political thought that creatively combine traditional Buddhist ideas with other political ideologies and practices, revealing a once-vibrant tradition that will hopefully be revitalized with the country’s current political transition. The role of monks in politics is controversial in Myanmar, and the article looks at some of the unique aspects of monastic activism, using examples from the 2007 “Saffron Revolution” and the current anti-Muslim Buddhist nationalist movements. Finally, it offers several different strands of democratic thought, including a provocative Burmese Buddhist notion of “moral democracy.”
Erin M. Cline
This article discusses Confucian views on childhood moral development, focusing especially on accounts of moral cultivation in the classical and Han periods. Beginning very early, Confucians exhibited an understanding of the unique influence that parent–child relationships have on children’s moral development during the earliest stages of development, which led them to argue for the importance of moral cultivation and moral education not only during infancy and childhood, but even during the prenatal period. Through an examination of texts, including the Analects, Mengzi, Discourse on the States, Record of Ritual, Collected Biographies of Women and Protecting and Tutoring, as well as secondary literature on this topic, this article focuses on how we should understand Confucian accounts of the roles of parents, the family, ritual, and filial piety in the moral development of children.
Deborah Beth Creamer
This chapter explores models of disability as they relate to sexuality and theology. It begins by examining moral assumptions that define people with disabilities as asexual or hypersexual, and offers alternatives to these limiting perspectives. It then explores medical understandings of disability, highlighting those that facilitate holistic notions of health and that focus on adaptive sexual practices in response to impairment, as well as liberationist understandings that demand justice and sexual rights for all people with disabilities. Finally, this chapter explores the ways in which disability reminds us to attend to embodiment more authentically in general, not as an idealized and static norm but rather in the messiness and limits and goodness of real life. Attention to disability as such offers new possibilities for sexual theology, not just for disabled people but for the (temporarily) non-disabled as well.
David G. Horrell
Friendship is understood differently across a variety of cultures, and what it means in a contemporary setting is rapidly shifting. Postmodernity offers choice and freedom in relationality, but with these opportunities comes pressure on traditional relationships, and a sense that future direction is unclear. There is a danger that friendship may lose its legacy as a socially and morally important relationship, and be viewed as a commodity to enhance one’s social status or chosen lifestyle; particularly facing the rise of ‘virtual-friendship’. Philosophers and theologians, such as Aristotle, Aelred, Aquinas and Kierkegaard have commented on friendship’s importance, and accorded it a vital place in society and in theology. So by revisiting Jesus’ statement to his disciples; ‘You are my friends’, the Church has an opportunity to reclaim friendship’s legacy, and allow the self-understanding as the ‘friends of Christ’ to transform its shape and mission.
Gerard P. Loughlin
This chapter considers how gay identities—and so gay affections—were formed in the course of the twentieth century, building on the late nineteenth-century invention of the ‘homosexual’. It also considers earlier construals of same-sex affections and the people who had them, the soft men and hard women of the first century and the sodomites of the eleventh. It thus sketches a history of continuities and discontinuities, of overlapping identities and emotional possibilities. The chapter resists the assumption that gay identity and experience can be reduced to anything less than the multitude of gay people, and that as Christians they have to give an account of themselves in a way that heterosexual Christians do not. The chapter warns against thinking gay identity undone in Christ.
Christopher C. Taylor
This chapter, which concentrates on the violent imaginaries that informed the reports and deeds of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, reviews the perseverance of pre-colonial notions of a sacred king whose “wild sovereignty” and inability to promote the flow of imaana earns him fateful sacrifice. The term imaana denotes a supreme being and, in a more generalized way, a “diffuse, fecundating fluid” of celestial origin whose activity upon livestock, land, and people brought fertility and abundance. As imaana's earthly representative, the king channeled fertility to the rest of humanity. The chapter also discusses symbolism of the sovereign's body and its implicit link with the process of liquid flow. Habyarimana is an inadequate conduit of imaana and thus not a worthy king. He is the antithesis of Ruganzu Ndori.
In confronting questions of the origin of existence, asserting belief in an ultimate spiritual source of phenomena, and striving for a relationship between it and human beings, Hindu theology identifies sexuality as a valid and necessary explanation. Both on the theogonic plane and the worldly, Hindu thought associates sexuality with gender, but treats the latter as a fluid identity rather than natural and essential, viewing it as a product more of the will than of physiology, an ever-present but negotiable perception, since it can be willed into altered states. This is illustrated both by the myths of Hinduism and by its devotional cultures. Observing the evolution of Hindu theology, its major traditions, and its worship practices chronologically, this chapter demonstrates why and how sexuality and gender may serve as keys to understand Hindu spirituality.
Mary Jo Iozzio
This chapter examines how sex figures in the HIV/AIDS pandemic and how the pandemic may be understood in the light of God’s extravagance and hope for the future. Sex is one of those gifts that human beings have received at the hands of a God of extravagance: a God of infinite possibility, copious generosity, and unparalleled solidarity. The very creation is a manifestation of a fecund imagination and God’s own joy writ large enough to witness sexual diversity—from asexual to heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer—among all living beings. In the human community the gift of sex and one’s identity as a sexual being include the purposes and promises of the extravagance that is sexual creativity in and through diversity. This chapter explores what insights theology can bring to the purposes of sex as creativity/generativity and intimacy-building communion/pleasure, and what intuitions theology can bring to the promises of sex as transcendent experience.
Intersex and transgender are discrete issues and should not be conflated. However, both phenomena, and the experiences of both groups of people, demonstrate the limitations of existing theologies of sexuality which assume stable and binary models of human maleness and femaleness. Sexual theologies for intersex and transgender people must take into account a range of issues, including the reality of variant sex and gender; the question of same-sex relationships; the theological significance of non-penetrative sexual activity; the challenges of unusual genital anatomy; ethical issues surrounding sought and unsought genital surgery; discourses of pathological versus variant embodiment; and questions of vulnerability and safety in sexual encounter. Drawing on liberationist theological goods, this chapter points to the necessity for non-pathologizing theological accounts of variant sex and gender.
This chapter analyses the Qur’an’s position on theology, sexuality, and gender, with the intent of challenging readings of Islam as a patriarchy. It illustrates that missing from Islam’s scripture is the imaginary of God as father/male and endorsements of father-rule (the traditional form of patriarchy), as well as any concept of sexual differentiation that privileges males (more modern forms of patriarchy). Indeed, many Qur’anic teachings can be read on behalf of the principle of sexual equality since they establish the ontological equality of women and men and emphasize the need for mutual care and guardianship between them. Both by re-reading some of the ‘anti-women’ verses and by applying a hermeneutical method to interpret the Qur’an—which is implicit in the text itself—the chapter also demonstrates that different interpretive strategies can change our understanding of textual meaning.
This article examines the changing role of Jordan’s largest and most organized political party, the Islamic Action Front (IAF). It begins by tracing the history and development of the IAF. It then discusses its acceptance of democratic principles such as alternation of power, popular sovereignty, separation of powers, and judicial independence, along with a reduced emphasis on Shari`ah law. It also considers the IAF’s policies on economics, education, foreign affairs, and the role of women, as well as its relations with secular and liberal parties.
This article examines the hitherto unquestioned consensus in Judaic studies that Judaism embraces a positive attitude towards sexuality. Grounded in the new scholarly trends of cultural and gender analysis as well as feminist critique and their impact on Jewish studies, it singles out four focal issues: sexuality in ancient rabbinic thought, to which the most scholarly attention has been directed; and issues in modern Halakhah that have just begun to inform scholarly research: the ethos of modesty and the construction of the female body; homosexuality and lesbianism; and reproduction and sexuality. The discussion reflects the tension between these two scholarly trends, and between the conceptual-theological stratum of Judaism and its reflection in the practical-legal sphere of Jewish law (Halakhah). This examination of Jewish attitudes towards sexuality, in light of the new scholarship, leads to the conclusion that although Judaism affirms sexuality, this cannot be grasped in a simple, superficial, or monolithic fashion.
This chapter offers a comparative analysis of the application of justice in Near Eastern Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities in the first few centuries after the Islamic conquest. The analysis is offered from the perspective of social history with particular emphasis on the interplay between law and society. It unfolds some of the social aspects of judicial authority and institutions by reviewing their diverse forms and modes of practice within the lives of communities that belonged to the three monotheistic traditions under discussion. An underlying premise is that the application of justice was perceived as a form of mediation between God and believers, carried out through the central role of the judge. It is argued that claims for judicial authority and attempts to achieve central and exclusive judicial power mirror not only the common agendas of different communal elites, but also a social diversity that overrode formal institutional arrangements.