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.”
For more than half a century, Rousas John Rushdoony and his followers have articulated and disseminated what they understand to be a biblical worldview, based in aspects of traditional reformed theology and both the Old and New Testaments. This worldview seeks to apply biblical law to every aspect of life and to transform every aspect of culture to establish the Kingdom of God. While some components of their vision are so extreme that Christian Reconstructionists are often dismissed as an irrelevant fringe group, other aspects of their vision have taken root in conservative American Protestantism, especially in the Christian homeschool movement, and therefor influenced American conservatism more broadly. This essay outlines that worldview and points to some of those areas of influence.
Patrick S. Cheng
This chapter provides an overview of what Christian theologians need to know about queer theory, which is a critical approach to sexuality and gender that challenges the ‘naturalness’ of identities. Based upon developments in queer theory since the early 1990s, the chapter proposes the following four marks of queer theory: (1) identity without essence; (2) transgression; (3) resisting binaries; and (4) social construction. The chapter then discusses four strands of queer theology that correspond with each of the four marks of queer theory. The chapter concludes by suggesting six issues for future queer theological reflection: (1) queer of colour critique; (2) queer post-colonial theory; (3) queer psychoanalytical discourse; (4) queer temporality; (5) queer disability studies; and (6) queer interfaith dialogue.
Kenneth D. Wald and David C. Leege
This article studies the role of religion in American culture and political life. It uses the concept of culture in two different ways—traditionally and in the discipline of political science—before exploring culture and religion through an alternative framework. Culture is also considered as a source of norms and identities for behavior, and tries to determine how some subcultures are mobilized on behalf of political ends. The article concludes with some thoughts on future research directions in the study of religion, culture, and politics. The concept of American civil religion is discussed as well.
Rachel McBride Lindsey
The photographs of twentieth-century photographer Roy DeCarava are a rich case study for mapping the visual theater of race and religion in twentieth-century America. Despite visual similarities in his photographs to contemporary documentary photographers, DeCarava contended that claims to document race in fact worked to invest power in the “madness” of “skin color.” Such a statement echoes the teachings of prophets of black urban religion who incorporated critiques of racial classification into their theological visions. Such visual regimes of race and religion were not limited to persons of African descent. Lewis Hine’s photographs of European immigrants arriving on Ellis Island and Dorothea Lange’s photographs of Japanese American internees were also part of the visual politics of race and religion. By structuring the twentieth century’s ascendant visual regimes around DeCarava, this chapter explores how the technologies, aesthetics, and politics of photography shaped the moral theater of race and religion.
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.
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 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 essay is situated within the sexual theologies discipline—that is, it will not consider what theology has said about lesbians. It will rather engage with what lesbian experience has offered traditional Christian theology. Perhaps this can be best summed up in the words of Carter Heyward who wrote ‘To say “I love you” means—Let the revolution begin!’ Once lesbians in theology found a voice, what we witness is indeed a revolution as the diverse face of the divine began to emerge from what had been a ‘one size fits all’ theology in matters of sexuality and ethics. Far from simply stating that the norm did not fit all sexualities and genders, many lesbian theologians moved on to say that the norm did not even do justice to those seen as normal and that the heteronormative underpinnings of theology actually crippled it.
Eric D. Weitz
National Socialism sought a radical restructuring of the European population. The drive to assert German domination over the continent entailed not only territorial conquest and political dictatorship but also demographic engineering, in which the annihilation of the Jews was the core aspiration. This article shows that a program of this sort was one possible outcome of nationalism, since that idea and race thinking are closely linked. Both forms of understanding human diversity and defining community developed from the 15th and especially the 18th century onward in the western world. National Socialism provided particularly intertwined and vicious definitions of nation and race that reveal in stark terms how nationalism, which always carries an exclusionary component, was a necessary enabling condition for the Holocaust.
This article explores news media coverage of the spiritual-but-not-religious (SBNR) population in the United States in the context of spirituality and religion. It considers how the phrase “spiritual but not religious” came into the popular lexicon before describing the demographics of the SBNR population. It then traces the development of the SBNR population from the 1980s by focusing on news reporting in national print media such as Newsweek, Time, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times as well as online news sources such as the Huffington Post. The article also considers the relationship between Baby Boomers and the SBNR population, along with the SBNR’s political role in relation to issues of religious pluralism, identity, and tolerance following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Finally, it discusses media representations of the SBNR as a reflection of America’s changing religious and spiritual character.
Davina C. Lopez and Todd Penner
‘Paul and Politics’ is a highly contested site of examination in contemporary Pauline Studies. Debates about whether, how, and to what ends Pauline literature can be read politically reach back to the beginnings of historical-critical engagement with New Testament texts in Germany, and have gained traction in the last several decades, particularly, in the United States at least, in the aftermath of the political and military engagements of the past decade and more. This essay maps several broad perspectives and approaches that New Testament scholars adopt in deliberating ‘Paul and Politics’, highlighting methodological questions and trends in the field, as well as some of the main points of contention.
The term “secularism” stands as one of the most multivalent phrases in the contemporary global political lexicon. Mutually irreconcilable definitions of the term exist side by side in popular, journalistic, and even scholarly discourse. In an effort to reduce the confusion, this chapter suggests that the term “political secularism” be employed in contradistinction to “secularity,” “secular humanism,” or usages that equate secularism with atheism. It is argued that the fundamental principles that undergird political secularism have a lengthy and complex genealogy in Christian political philosophy, be it of the Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, or Reformation periods. These ideational taproots inform and tincture the modern political concept of secularism in a variety of intriguing ways. They have also resulted in contemporary political secular projects that are at once divergent from one another, in flux, and constantly evolving.
Peter W. Wielhouwer
This article discusses several approaches to explaining political participation and determines how religion relates to each. It provides a brief review of the ways that political participation has been classified. A discussion of the major research orientations on political engagement, the findings that have emerged through these different approaches, and how religion relates to each is also included.
This article discusses the three general approaches to the study of political thought, namely: political philosophy, history of political theory, and contemporary social and political thought. The article describes the changing conceptions of religion's role and discusses how the secular understandings have been challenged by religious ones. It shows how the political meaning and purpose of religion has continued to be contested. An evaluation of the current status of scholarship in the field is also provided.