The modern concept of the Abrahamic religions has roots in Christian theology, the academic study of the Near East, and the study of Islam. In the nineteenth century, Protestant theologians built on the idea of the ‘Abrahamic covenant’ in developing the idea of a spiritual connection among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At the same time, students of the Near East understood the three religious traditions as sharing a common genealogical bond. Such recognition was enhanced by Islam’s own sense of the religion of Abraham, which was communicated to a broader public by western Islamicists. Although the concept of the Abrahamic religions does not preclude the privileging of one religion over the others, it has provided both scholars and laypeople with a useful way of exploring the common ground of the three faiths.
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.
In their search for justification in a scriptural text, both Christian and non-Christian Chinese intellectuals in the modern era found the Old Testament a rich and promising source at times of cultural and national crises. In this paper, three major topics will be taken up. First, it will explore the ways in which the Chinese Old Testament and its idea of God were anthropologically interpreted by Chinese intellectuals in light of modern scientism, European and American philosophy, and Chinese traditional culture. Second, it will analyze how the idea of one God was utilized by Chinese intellectuals in their efforts to explain human nature and to promote individual morality. Finally, it will discuss how universal love, which was of special importance in the context of monotheism, was interpreted by Chinese intellectuals. These three topics lead to a common interest or agenda of the time: building up a society of human perfection.
Emily Suzanne Clark
The typical story of African American religions narrates the development and power of the Protestant black church, but shifting the focus to the long nineteenth century can reorient the significance of the story. The nineteenth century saw the boom of Christian conversions among African Americans, but it also was a century of religious diversity. All forms of African American religion frequently pushed against the dominance of whiteness. This included the harming and cursing element of Conjure and southern hoodoo, the casting of slaves as Old Israel awaiting their exodus from bondage, the communications between the spirit of Abraham Lincoln and Afro-Creoles in New Orleans, and the push for autonomy and leadership by Richard Allen and the rest of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. While many studies of African American religions in the nineteenth century overwhelmingly focus on Protestantism, this is only part of the story.
This chapter analyzes African American religious identity and practice in the twentieth century. Shaped by the Great Migration and the rise of mass culture, modern African American religious practice was both inventive and entrepreneurial. Although mainline denominations continued to dominate, Pentecostal and Holiness churches gained popularity through the rise of storefront churches, a refuge for southern migrants in the urban North. In addition, new religious movements such as the Moorish Science Temple of America, the Nation of Islam, and Father Divine’s Peace Mission Movement offered followers the opportunity to create entirely new religious and ethnic identities for themselves. The rise of radio and television transformed African American evangelism and eventually produced the era of the megachurch exemplified by the careers of Reverend Ike and T. D. Jakes. Modern African American religions competed in a spiritual marketplace that cultivated imaginative faith practices and met the material needs of their followers.
This chapter chronicles the relationship between African religious practices on the continent and African American religion in the plantation Americas in the era of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. A new generation of scholars who emerged in the 1960s and 1970s have demonstrated not only that African religious practices exhibit remarkable subtlety and complexity but also that these cultures have played significant roles in the subsequent development of religious practices throughout the world. Christianity, Islam, and traditional African religion comprised a set of broad and varied religious practices that contributed to the development of creative, subtle, and complex belief systems that circulated around the African Diaspora. In addition, this chapter addresses some of the vexed epistemological challenges related to discussing and describing non-Western ritual and religious practices.
Marthinus L. Daneel
In the post-chimurenga years of independent Zimbabwe, the African Initiated Churches (AICs) heeded the prophetic call to earth-keeping. They joined forces with practitioners of traditional religion—the chiefs, headmen, spirit mediums, and ex-combatants of the country's liberation struggle—and formed their own wing of the green army. Thus, under the auspices of the Zimbabwean Institute of Religious Research and Ecological Conservation, two religiously distinct movements—the Association of Zimbabwean Traditionalist Ecologists and the Association of African Earthkeeping Churches—joined forces to wage a new chimurenga, a struggle for the liberation of creation, particularly the rehabilitation of the degraded environment of Zimbabwe's overcrowded communal lands, under the banner “war of the trees.” In Zimbabwe and much of southern Africa today, the AICs total between 50 percent and 60 percent of African Christianity. This article focuses on Africa's green movement and ecotheology as well as earth-keeping initiatives such as tree planting.
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.
This article explores beliefs about the afterlife and how they are informed by religious and cultural narratives. If the Bible contains little definite information about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, then how is it that so many of us are able to readily envision them? The scattered information about the afterlife from religious texts is supplemented by our reading, viewing, and consumption of other forms of culture. Stories of the afterlife and of angels, demons, ghosts, vampires, and zombies remain popular. Perhaps more important, stories of the afterlife are often used as ways to shape stories about this life, adding resonance to narratives from Batman to Harry Potter by appropriating or echoing the powerful plots, themes, and characters of the afterlife. Thus even a reader or viewer who does not believe in the dogma of Purgatory may be powerfully affected by stories using the trope of Purgatory.
Erik J. Wielenberg
This chapter examines the question of whether key features expected from moral conduct, such as freedom, choice, agency, and responsibility, can sufficiently exist within the natural world as understood by science. A secular, naturalistic view of the universe excludes the existence of nonphysical souls standing outside of the physical universe yet able to causally influence it, and it excludes the existence of a nonphysical deity that could be responsible for human agency and responsibility. Absent those possibilities, this chapter considers the prospects for freedom in a naturalistic universe, together with the issue of what sort of freedom (if any) is required for agency and moral responsibility. Three models of naturalistic agency are explained and discussed: compatibilism, event-causal libertarianism, and agent-causal libertarianism.
This article discusses the emergence of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi; the AK Party) as a center-right political movement with Islamic and national roots. It examines the AK Party’s political ideology of “conservative democracy” within the context of the new dynamics of twenty-first-century Turkish politics. It evaluates the AK Party’s performance in government since taking office in 2002. Finally, the AK Party’s foreign policy and its struggle to overcome oppositional identities are considered.
Kateřina Kočandrle Bauer and Tim Noble
Alexander Men was the major representative in Soviet times of Russian religious philosophy within post-Stalinist Russia. This chapter contextualizes his spiritual formation and then presents his major theological themes, based on an openness to the world inspired by a belief in the possibility of co-creation between God and humanity. In this he shared Russian religious philosophy’s focus on the person of Jesus Christ as the centre of history, on its concept of Godmanhood, and its supreme ideal of deification. Men’s notion of freedom and creativity, a significant part of his theological anthropology and his theology of culture, are important contributions to the development of this religio-philosophical tradition. The ecumenical dimension of his work is also presented, as well as his attempts to engage with other religions, particularly Judaism and Islam. Lastly, his legacy for Orthodoxy in the Soviet Union and also in the West will be briefly noted.
Sr. Teresa Obolevitch
Alexei Losev was among those few religious thinkers who remained in the USSR after the revolution. He was an advocate of the so-called onomatodoxy movement in the Russian Orthodox Church according to which the name of God is not something conventional, but God himself. It was Losev who elaborated the philosophical foundations of this teaching and built a sort of synthesis of Platonism (and Neoplatonism) and the thought of the Eastern Fathers of the Church, especially St. Gregory of Palamas. As an encyclopaedic man, Losev dealt with different branches of philosophy: philosophy of language, music, mathematics, aesthetics, etc. The common denominator of all works was the issue of symbol, which he considered to be an external expression of an internal content. In the context of onomatodoxy debates, it means that the name of God is nothing but His energy (using the term of the Greek Fathers of the Church), or manifestation of His unknowable essence in the world. Therefore, a symbol is primarily of an objective character and at the same time assumes the cooperation (synergy) between God and man.
American Jewish history as a field of scholarly inquiry takes as its subject-matter the experience of Jews in the United States and places it within the context of both modern Jewish history and the history of the United States. Its practitioners see their intellectual project as inextricably connected to both histories. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the enterprise of American Jewish history enjoys a condition of robust health. By the 1990s American immigration history had generally declined in favour within the ranks of American historians. That Jews, outsiders to American culture upon their arrival in the United States, were able to penetrate barriers and enter the mainstream clashes with the way historians want to see the American past. As a group who craved both economic security and respectability, their story lacks the dramatic punch of resisters and rebels to the American ethos.
Thinking about American Jews, race, and religion entails confronting the instability of those terms. This chapter examines the history of Jews and race in the United States through three lenses. First, it looks at the history of how Eastern European Jews have been “raced” in America, and in particular how they became “white.” Second, it considers Jewish interactions with other groups, such as blacks, Native Americans, and Asians, and how Jewish identity has been co-constituted with and against that of other groups. Third, the chapter looks at internal Jewish diversity and the challenges presented by Euro-centric models of Jewishness. The chapter concludes by considering Jews, race, and religion in the age of Ferguson.
When Europeans came to the Americas, they brought with them both Christian missionaries and notions of racial difference. Since that early encounter, the story of American missions has been intertwined with issues of race. Although some might suspect a rather simple story of missionary racism and others an account of the egalitarian effects of the Christian message, the history of missions and race is a story of competing impulses and unexpected consequences. Missionaries participated in the construction of race, they challenged racism, and they reified it. In some cases, racism twined with cultural imperialism, leading to a message and to methods that valorized Anglo-American, largely Protestant, culture. In others, concerns about racism led to larger critiques of missionary practice and US presence abroad.
What has been called secular government in the United Kingdom and North America emerged from a series of debates about religious freedom and toleration, which reached their climax in seventeenth-century England. John Locke is often considered the hero of that climax, and his resolution to religion–politics conflict is now taken for granted as the basis of secular government in the United States, England, and Canada. It continues to influence Anglo-American political thought for both good and ill. Despite its success, the solution is imperfect. Subsequent modifications—including minor tweaks by various American Founders and a more recent re-appropriation by John Rawls—have failed to perfect it. Its most notable imperfection is a naïve hope that all imaginable future theopolitical disputes will be solved by abstract, neutral principles, specifiable-in advance of the disputes themselves. This leads to animosity and accusations of bias and call for ad hoc compromises.
What can animal studies contribute to feminist biblical interpretation? This essay explores this question by calling attention to the role of feminist and gender analysis in contemporary interdisciplinary animal studies. Such studies point out that animals are often associated with women and with racial and ethnic others. After summarizing key positions from animal studies, the essay turns to several texts from the Pentateuch and the Former Prophets to outline the association between animals and women and ethnic others (especially Philistines) in biblical literature. The association demonstrates that another layer of complexity to male domination—or carnophallogocentrism—structures biblical literature.
Though it might seem surprising at first, video games can work a lot like apocalypses. Both offer imaginary visits to otherworldly spaces that were designed to offer metaphysical comfort. Both, through theology or programming, allow us to temporarily enter into structured spaces that are more predictable than our own world. However, instead of depicting God as the means of control over the world, as apocalypses do, some video games place the player in the position of realizing renewed order through the performance of virtual violence. This chapter considers how the video game Darksiders draws on biblical apocalyptic imagery and also utilizes traditional apocalyptic elements like an us-versus-them structure, the glorification of violence, and a desire for renewed order in the world. Darksiders also reorients the agency of order-making, placing the player at the center of the action and depicting God as largely absent from human struggle. Games like Darksiders may comfort uneasy players, just as apocalypses do, by depicting a world that can be controlled. But they typically do so in a way that demands virtual violence of the player, calling us to question what role such games may play in shaping how we see ourselves in the real world.
The chapter examines the feminization of elite pagan men in Apocryphal Acts of Andrew. It argues that the ancient author constructs ascetic Christianity as the ideal realization of masculinity, whereby male and female converts control their passions and appetites. Simultaneously, elite pagan men are portrayed as appetitive, passionately emotional, and lacking self-control. Such ethical weakness was commonly thought to be characteristic of women. While attributing such ethical “femininity” to pagan men trades on ancient notions that women are prone to moral weakness, the author’s portrayal also dislodges ethical character from biological sex. Thus, men and women who take up Christianity in its ascetic forms are superior in ethics and gender, compared to those who reject ascetic Christianity.