PREVIOUS ISSUE ABSTRACTS
Winter 2023 Vol. 58.1
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This essay focuses on a particular facet of Christian-Hindu engagement. Its context is the “Calcutta School” of twentieth-century Roman Catholic Indologists and their comparative explorations in Thomist-Vedantic theology. The history of these interactions has been written about elsewhere, and certain figures (for example, Pierre Johanns and Richard De Smet) are reasonably well known. Here, I look at one of the lesser-known members of this “school,” Georges Dandoy, S.J., and his monograph on “The Unreality of the World in Advaita.” I seek to locate Dandoy in the Thomist currents of his time and show how these currents influenced his reading of the Advaita tradition..
Dietrich Bonhoeffer encountered Aryan nationalism and racism with sacrificial grace and Christian opposition. One of the first and the very few to speak out against the Nazis and to follow through with active resistance, he resisted Nazi intrusions into the life of the German church and the impact of Nazi bigotry on Jews and others excluded from full participation in German society. During his time in New York City at Union Theological Seminary and at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, he witnessed the impact of racism in the United States. Identifying with the oppressed in both the U.S. and Germany, he said the church of Christ lives in all people, beyond all national, political, social, and racial boundaries. Offering an ecumenical vision of the Christian church that greatly transcends the Christian nationalism of National Socialism, he moved from academic and pastoral ministry to direct action against Nazi oppression by smuggling Jews out of Germany, using ecumenical contexts to spread word about resistance to the Nazis, and seeking the overthrow of Nazi leadership. Self-sacrificing in his devotion to public activism, he saw that God’s love for the world and incarnational Christian spirituality could be expressed through political action. He expressed faith through prayer and justice, not in powerful religious organizations, and sought a future form of the church that might be unexpected—nonreligious in a conventional sense, but able to convert and transform. He consistently sacrificed his own safety to resist the oppression of the German people, while expressing the unity of faith and action in the world through sacrificial grace.
Agree to Disagree? Allowing for Ideological Difference during Interfaith Dialogue Following Scriptural Reasoning
Elizabeth M. Pope, Trena M. Paulus
Interfaith dialogue is a promising conflict resolution method and encourages participants to learn about and appreciate religious diversity. Yet, participants often need a facilitator’s help to learn how to converse successfully across areas of ideological differences, such as religion. A valuable resource for facilitators and scholars of interfaith dialogue would be intricate knowledge of how successful dialogue happens, particularly when participants disagree with one another. In this study, applied conversation analysis was used to examine moments of disagreement in interfaith dialogue. Beginning with abdicated other-initiated repair, participants expressed differences in opinion through assertion and counter-assertion sequences where they followed both other- and self-selected turn-taking patterns and used membership categories to bolster their claims. This analysis offers insight into how specific conversational tactics might lead to successful interfaith dialogue during critical moments of disagreement.
Neo-Perennialism: A Trap to Avoid or a Valid Research Program?
Christopher C. Knight
In a previous essay in this journal, I suggested that the kind of perennialism associated with the names of René Guénon and Fritzjof Schuon may—despite its obvious defects—remain relevant to our thinking about religious pluralism. Anything that seems to echo the perspectives of their classic perennialism is, however, often dismissed by scholars in the field of religious studies as invalid. Here, I suggest that this dismissal is often based on what sociologists call “recipe knowledge” and that a number of factors point toward the possibility of developing a more nuanced kind of perennialism. These factors include developments within the cognitive science of religion and of anthropology, which are reinforced by considerations related to psychology and sociology that allow a new appreciation of the notion of archetypes to be found in the writings of C. G. Jung and Mircea Eliade. All these factors, when viewed in light of empirical research into religious experience of the kind initiated by Alister Hardy, point toward the way in which religious experience is to be understood as a significant factor in exploring religious pluralism. In the “neo-perennialism” that I shall advocate, the valid aspects of current thinking within religious studies are affirmed, while, at the same time, the recipe knowledge that tends to distort judgments within that field is discarded.
This essay argues that Augustine’s doctrine of the totus Christus, the “whole Christ,” provides a fruitful starting point for ecumenical theology. The whole Christ signifies the church as the body joined to Christ its head. I suggest that we must seek where else the body of Christ is manifest in the world, especially upon the cross and in the eucharist, to flesh out the ecumenical import of the totus Christus. In both theological moments, the body of Christ is revealed as broken, crucified on the cross, and fractured in the sacrament. Yet, in both breakings we find grace, salvation, even wholeness. The whole Christ, as it exists in this world, is always, in one way or another, broken, yet this broken body is no less joined to the one head who is Christ. A theology of ecumenism, therefore, can be drawn from Augustine’s totus Christus by expanding our vision of what the ecclesial body of Christ means in light of the broken sacramental and soteriological bodies. The essay examines both Augustine’s theology of the totus Christus and its original polemical context, which suggests the possibilities of the doctrine along with its historical limitations. In expanding the significance of the “whole Christ,” it also engages the author’s own Wesleyan tradition. For the broken body on the cross, it draws from Charles Wesley’s hymns’ imagery for appreciating the depths of such brokenness. For the broken body of the eucharist, it draws upon the liturgies of the United Methodist Church and concludes with a vision of the healed body of Christ that will be fully realized only in the eschaton.
This essay aims to analyze comparatively similarities and differences found in Christian and Zen Buddhist forms of “mysticism.” Drawing on the works of Evelyn Underhill and D. T. Suzuki, it explores how the Christian prayers of Recollection, Quiet, and Contemplation can be paralleled by various aspects of Zen meditation, such as koan and zazen. The main comparative analytical tool critically adapts two connected but distinct methodologies from Donald Mitchell and Michael Washburn. It also draws on aspects of New Comparative Theology. While maintaining a critical stance toward syncretism, it argues that the mysticism of Underhill and Suzuki provides multidimensional and interreligious paths to spiritual transformation, contributing positively to creative exercises in comparative theology.
American Christians and the National Interreligious Task Force on Soviet Jewry: A Call to Conscience by Fred A. Lazin (review)
Eugene J. Fisher
That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation by David Bentley Hart (review)
Glenn B. Siniscalchi
The New Diaspora and the Global Prophetic: Engaging the Scholarship of Marc H. Ellis ed by Susanne Scholz and Santiago Slabodsky (review)
Peace and Faith: Christian Churches and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict ed. by Cary Nelson and Michael C. Gizzi (review)
Jonathan C. Friedman
Love or Perish: A Holocaust Survivor’s Vision for Interfaith Peace by Harold Kasimow (review)
Peter A. Huff
The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy by Philip S. Gorski and Samuel L. Perry (review)
David M. Krueger
Fall 2022 Vol. 57.4
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Global attention to receptive ecumenism has grown in recent years, prompting ecumenical theologians to ask, “What do we need to learn from another Christian tradition to help us address some of the wounds and weaknesses in our own?” Hitherto, much of the published work on receptive ecumenism has focused on its place in the formal ecumenical movement with little attention directed toward the grassroots. This contribution is a case study that identifies possible ecclesial learning by using receptive ecumenism to explore women’s experiences of working in diverse churches in England. It focuses on a particular example emerging from the broader research, during which Baptist women identified how the distribution of power in their churches can inhibit women’s flourishing, particularly in ministerial roles. Following the way of receptive ecumenism, after outlining the research context, I examine gifts shared by Methodist participants who spoke of positive structures of power. These, I argue, critique current practices, not only in the Baptist tradition but across diverse Christian traditions in England, providing the potential for churches to transform the way that power is distributed, especially with respect to women’s flourishing in leadership roles.
In discussing the relationship between the Catholic and Orthodox communions, the term “schism” is often used as a way of explaining their separation and breaking of communion. While there is no doubting this estrangement, how can we simultaneously affirm the unity of the Una Sancta while viewing churches as separate entities? In this essay, I engage the thought of three twentieth-century Orthodox theologians—Nicholas Afanasiev, Georges Florovsky, and Philip Sherrard—and explore their understanding of schism. Ultimately, I argue that ecclesial schism is ontologically impossible and suggest that an eschatological approach to the Una Sancta helps solve this paradox.
The historical narrative of American ecumenism’s origins in the early twentieth century has not been revisited for generations. When future scholars revisit it, they should study the period for the sake of supporting the future work of ecumenism. Part of this work is the expansion of ecumenical bodies to include churches not currently engaged. I propose that the early pamphlet series, The Fundamentals, offers a good place to start. The pamphlets predate modernist schisms and do not reflect the sectarian posture of later groups. Editors of the text appealed to a broad Christian identity among American Protestants to promote cooperation in society. The included essays espouse a common confession while allowing for divergences on numerous doctrinal issues. Though many contributing authors would later become Fundamentalist leaders, others are remembered for their work to unite churches. The text is a product of the same unitive impulses that gave rise to ecumenical structures. I revisit the historical narrative of American ecumenism to discern how The Fundamentals offers insight into the doctrinal discourse of the period among churches, and I argue that the exclusion of the text from ecumenical historiography thus far reveals a modernist bias in American ecumenism.
Martin Luther’s Personalist Spirituality: Faith, Sacraments, and the Song of Songs
Christopher M. O’Brien
Without attempting to associate Martin Luther historically with the many complexities and implications of the twentieth-century philosophical school of personalism, this essay aims to trace the development of “personalist” tendencies in Luther’s works, particularly with regard to his treatments of faith and the sacraments. “Personalist” refers to Luther’s emphasis on Christ’s intimate and personal relationship with each individual Christian. This essay traces the personalist elements of his spirituality chronologically by dividing his works into three sections: early (1509–17), middle (1517–21), and late (1522 onward). Between the sections on Luther’s middle and late work, a brief excursus is taken to explore Luther’s understanding of the Song of Songs to highlight the development of his spirituality. The essay concludes by summarizing the trajectory of Luther’s spirituality and reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of the theology that comes out of it. Positively, Luther’s spirituality highlights the personal and relational aspects of the Christian life and guards against overly mechanistic or impersonal understandings of grace. Negatively, Luther’s framework fails to incorporate an ecclesiological component adequately. Further work remains to be done to integrate his personalist theology into a “personalist ecclesiology,” in which Christ the bridegroom unites himself mystically not only to the individual Christian soul, but to the entire church, his bride, especially through the sacramental encounter.
Depending upon the diametrically opposed views of interpreting the sacred text, religion, which is an increasingly vital and shaping force in both personal and public life, can promote either global peace or pervasive conflict. Therefore, peace among nations cannot be achieved without peace among religions. The Sword Verse in the Qur’ān (9:5) is assumed to have abrogated numerous verses that advocate peaceful coexistence and religious freedom. Accordingly, Muslim extremists take this verse as the foundation on which to interact with people of other faiths. Adopting the contextual approach, this essay explores how the verse is understood by analyzing its historical circumstance and linguistic settings and compares its correct meaning with other verses of religious freedom and dialogue. It concludes that the above verse, when appropriately read within its circumstantial boundaries, never condones coercive conversion or militancy. Turning a blind eye to the context as a guiding methodological tool is an error that at times has serious implications for intrahuman relations, such as the case in point.
After sixty years of independence, Nigeria still struggles to find a unifying identity. Hyper religiosity and rigid tribal consciousness radically continue to define the national psyche. Colonialism operates with the intent to erase the other who falls victim to its sway. Thus, a society that suffers from the trauma of colonialism is a society that is always struggling with the fears of erasure, and Nigeria is no exemption. As Christians and Muslims seek to legitimize themselves in the country, they end up erasing each other from national life as though they have a monopoly over the nation. To address these colonial pathologies defining the national psyche, an interfaith theology of recognition ought to be embraced. This is a theology that is intentionally inclusive and grounded in the prophetic with the intent to affirm the flourishing of all lives both within and outside of one’s own religious tradition.
Enabling Dialogue about the Land: A Resource Book for Jews and Christians ed. by Phillip A. Cunningham, Ruth Langer, and Jesper Svartvik (review)
The Trials of Rasmea Odeh: How a Palestinian Guerrilla Gained and Lost U.S. Citizenship by Steven Lubet (review)
Interreligious Heroes: Role Models and Spiritual Exemplars for Interfaith Practice ed. by Alon Goshen-Gottstein (review)
Christoffer H. Grundmann
Blacks and Jews in America: An Invitation to Dialogue by Terrance L. Johnson and Jacques Berlinerblau (review)
David M. Krueger
Summer 2022 Vol. 57.3
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North American Academy of Ecumenists 2021 Annual Meeting, Online
Introduction: Dangerous Ecumenism for a Divided World
Our contention was that ecumenism becomes stale when it becomes too safe—when it chooses to ponder the mechanics of institutional joinery between ecclesial bodies whose differences are nonthreatening rather than addressing the critical issues that often bitterly divide Christians today. Mainstream ecumenical work has moved from being a dangerous crossing of heated division and has become a tame, nonthreatening branch of theological and ecclesial practice—a means of achieving institutional proximity with Christians whom we basically already trust and recognize. If ecumenism becomes merely about working out corporate mergers or affiliations between different ecclesial entities that are themselves still undergoing bitter schisms, then it loses credibility.
Political polarization is a phenomenon in which people with a variety of commitments cluster into two opposing camps whose animosity against one another is often disproportionate to their actual disagreements. Polarization is not simply a social atmosphere that makes Christian activism and ecumenism difficult; it also runs contrary to the vision of intergroup reconciliation outlined in Ephesians. After describing how polarization is a theological problem, this essay engages with the work of Lesslie Newbigin and J. Deotis Roberts to imagine how Christians can resist polarization in their own imaginations and in their societies without advocating for a negative peace that ignores injustice for the sake of superficial harmony.
Recognition and Ecumenical Interdependence: Relationship beyond Division
Kathryn L. Reinhard
This essay is a direct response to the theme of the 2021 Annual Conference of the North American Academy of Ecumenists, in that it seeks to answer the question, "What is dangerous about ecumenism?" Understanding the nature of this danger, and how professional ecumenists came to face and live with this danger in the past century, can prove instructive for addressing the ecumenical hazards of our present moment, so that Christians can learn to disagree "humanely and productively about public challenges with high stakes and real dangers." Specifically, it proposes intersubjective recognition as a tool that can help us better understand both the past of our ecumenical work and the present and future challenges of the ecumenical movement to come.
Re-discerning the Body: Ecumenism in an Apocalyptic Age
Jakob Karl Rinderknecht
What the modern ecumenical goal of "full, visible unity" means has been redefined over time. Some early ecumenists believed that reconciliation between church officials would lead to a single unified church structure. Later, ecumenists proposed that diversity in unity might look like networks or communions of churches. Today, we cannot ignore the real divisions that exist among Christians within our traditional ecclesiastical boundaries. This essay argues that the achievements of the magisterial ecumenical movement and the lessons of receptive ecumenism must be used to foster a new phase of ecumenical reconciliation that directly attends to the real wounds existing within and across communions, prioritizing the places where the church has failed to "discern the body" within its midst.
Paul M. van Buren was the first Christian theologian to argue that the Jewish No to Jesus is a Yes to God. He offered Christians and Jews fresh ways of understanding both themselves and the other. His trilogy, A Theology of the Jewish-Christian Reality, begins by honoring God's enduring covenant with the Jews and then proceeds to identify false turns both traditions have taken in their walks with God. He called both to critical self-reflection in theological conversation with the other's identity and missteps. He turned the church from being against the Jews to being alongside them and called Jews to return to God's covenant with them in order that Christian rethinking not be theologically empty.
It is a widespread assumption that among Jews, as also among Christians and Muslims, omnipotence is considered one of God's essential attributes. Many people also assume that the idea of divine suffering is a non-Jewish idea, but many Jews, including prominent philosophers and theologians, have challenged the idea of divine omnipotence, and many have spoken of God's suffering along with God's creatures and of needing help to redeem creation. In the first part of this essay, I focus on four Jewish religious thinkers—Abraham Joshua Heschel, Hans Jonas, Edward Feld, and Melissa Raphael—for whom the idea of divine omnipotence is problematic, three of whom espouse the idea of divine suffering, and each of whom speaks of redemption as a collaborative task between God and human beings. In the second part of the essay, I begin by noting that many Christians are surprised to hear that Jews speak of the suffering of God, assuming that this is more of a Christian thing to do because of the suffering of Christ whom they believe to be God incarnate. I suggest that many Christians would likely agree with renowned Protestant theologian Jürgen Moltmann that "we can only talk about God's suffering in trinitarian terms" or they assume that talk about God's suffering must be related to the doctrine of the Incarnation. After pointing out that classical Christian theology actually rejects the idea of divine suffering and arguing that taking the Incarnation seriously should compel us to be open to insights about God that are not tied to Christian doctrines, I offer my own appreciation of the previously summarized insights of Heschel, Jonas, Feld, and Raphael. In the process, I suggest how their insights about God's limited power, God's suffering, and God's need of human help in redeeming the world, which at first may seem to conflict with traditional Christian views, can have a positive effect on Christian ways of relating to God and in formulating more realistic and thus more tenable views of God.
Enlightened Ecclesia: Engaging de Lubac on Buddhism
John D. Dadosky
This essay explores Henri de Lubac's encounter with Buddhism as a pioneering exercise in comparative theology. It has been established that his interest in Japanese Buddhism was influenced by his interest in grace. After an overview of de Lubac's lifelong interest in Buddhism and the influence of his interest in grace on his Buddhist studies, the essay identifies the Buddhist themes and parallels in de Lubac's "temptations of the church." Whether he was explicitly influenced by Buddhism in his reflections on the church cannot be determined, but it offers a fruitful exercise in comparative theology.
Explorations and Responses
The Annotated Passover Haggadah ed. by Zev Garber and Kenneth Hanson (review)
Spring 2022 Vol. 57.2
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Introduction to This Issue
David M. Krueger
The following essay studies the early history of Islamic devotional tradition in the U.S. particularly through the rise of the Sufi movements. I intend to approach this study primarily from the vantage point of historical origins and development of Sufi groups in the U.S. from the late-20th century. This approach will be grounded on the perspective of Sufism as a minority faith practice and its various manifestations in the U.S – spiritual practices, devotional exercises, artistic expression, and cross-cultural dialogue.
Sufism being one such manifestation, its career in the U.S. can be identified along multiple positions of ideology and practice – drawing from normative Islamic teaching and morals, following an eclectic and universalist approach, and transplantation of Sufi practices from parent societies, like South Asia and Africa. The essay will conclude by focusing on the dimension of transnationalism through the career of a South Asian Sufi master in Philadelphia – Bawa Muhaiyadeen.
Currently, within feminist discourse, two major debates surrounding veiling or purdah take precedence; with one sect of feminist scholars identifying veils as oppressive and the other heralding it as a source of agency as well as a freedom of choice. However, this dichotomy is not relevant to the Bangladeshi context, and has given rise to a discrepancy between theoretical knowledge and real practice; urging further critical analysis of the changing role of veiling in the Global South generally and Bangladesh specifically, particularly among the youth and adolescent populations. Thus, this paper, based on the experience of teaching sociology in class and interviewed university students who wear a veil. Increasing numbers of women, especially young women, can be seen wearing veils in Bangladesh, a drastic shift away from the decades following the nation's independence in 1971. Therefore, this essay will aim to both explore and discuss reasons that incentivize young women, especially those who are studying and critique societal structures and phenomena (including religious behavior and gendered norms) to a different form of social attire. Thus, the research conducted, in this case, was qualitative in nature and the sample consisted of a select group of university students (using purposive sampling). On the basis of 30 in-depth interviews, case studies and 02 focus group discussions have been conducted. Last but not least, I note the ways in which patriarchy, capitalism, and globalization converge in the urban metropolitan setting of Dhaka, to encourage women across age and class divides, to embrace religion as their dominant social identity over ethnic and national identities. It was concluded that the role of veiling in the context of Bangladesh, is a complex and multi- dimensional phenomenon; that is to say, it is not only an expression of religious piety but also deeply intertwined with issues of globalization, patriarchy, class, and feminine sexuality.
In recent decades, we have seen a pronounced crisis of personal parishes in the United States serving European ethnic communities, which many have been forced to close or merge, usually due to lack of clergy, declining Mass attendance and financial reasons. This issue of American Catholicism is the focus of the paper dealing with a particular case of parishioners' resistance against the closure of the Croatian-Slovenian parish of the Nativity of Our Lord in 1994 and its reopening two years later. That was a period of empowerment for Catholic Slovenian and Croatian Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area, a significant achievement for "traditional" immigrant organizations slowly losing the focal role they played in the past with much more numerous first-generation immigrants. However, the rebuilding of the religious community, now shared among three ethnic groups and administered by the Polish pastor, has been afflicted with challenges inherent to establishment of interethnic cohabitation and finding a permanent solution to some old issues.
The purpose of this essay is to show that the impact of spiritual ideas on economic subjectivities in Latin America is present among middle classes, historically characterized as a model of modernity and, therefore, secularism. I aim to achieve this purpose by showing the impact of spiritual disciplines and practices in the building of economic subjectivities among Argentina´s middle classes. I will illustrate my argument by analyzing the diffusion of anthroposophy among a part of Buenos Aires' middle classes that get in touch with this discipline in Waldorf schools where they educate their children. I will organize my exposition in three moments. In the first part, I will describe Rudolf Steiner's Social Threefolding Theory, which synthesizes anthroposophy's suggestions for the organization of society, with a special emphasis on economics. Then, I will analyze the diffusion of this theory in workshops and reading groups, organized locally by men and women involved with Waldorf schools. Here, I will show not only the ideas proposed by organizers about the right ways of orienting economic practices, but also the comments, memories, and tensions mentioned by participants. Finally, I will describe some alternative economic organizations, created among these societies, that aim to achieve a "better world" by applying these theories to Argentine society. By means of this analysis, I will argue that, even if suggesting intimate and, in Max Weber's terms, mystical models of spirituality, these contemporary versions of anthroposophy encourage people to change their worldly actions as a way to "change the world," thus developing a world-oriented model of spirituality.
Understanding the dialogue from the perspective of fraternity, in the current context, requires a perception of reality that is revealed, with a marked tendency, by personal egocentrism, social inequality, and religious proselytism. This can be perceived by different experiences that reveal, in part, an individual encapsulation, a political polarization and a religious division, aspects that express the need to promote dialogue between people, social groups, and religious denominations. For this reason, it is proposed to return to the concept and practice of dialogue based on a relational dynamic, guided by the proposal of Martin Buber (1878-1965); and, to illuminate social reality, the theory of Jürgen Habermas (1929-) will be revisited; and, to deepen the disposition of the dialogue, with the purpose of building a communal project, the suggestion of Hans Küng (1928-2021) will be accepted. Such assumptions are recognized, among others, as elements of an educational project, in which dialogue should be exercised as a lifestyle, a way of living and a possibility to transcend, either through experience of significant relationships, promotion of social equality or universal communal experience.
Civil Society Values as a Uniting Factor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Community
Nataliia Ishchuk, Hennadii Khrystokin
The essay is devoted to the analysis of the values in relation to church, state, and civic society in Ukraine. It considers that civil values could become unifying, reconciling, and integrating factors for state, society, and church cooperation. The church paradigm as a community does not contradict the model of civil society. It should espouse and advance civic values no less than religious ones. The church must be interested in the development of civil liberty values, pluralism, social and public liability, and personal human dignity. Even that interest, however, can vary according to historical influences. The Intra-Orthodox dialogue in Ukraine constitutes an ecumenical dialogue between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate as enacted in Ukraine. This dialogue then contributes to a better ecumenical relationship of the Orthodox with other religious communities.
The Abraham Accords: Can Interculturalism Solve Grave Conflicts of the Middle East?
İbrahim Karataş, Nasuh Uslu
The Abraham Accords are intended to end the still-unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict. Introduced also as an intercultural project to ensure peace among hostile countries of the Middle East, the Accords have been welcomed by some Arab states. This study analyzes the Abraham Accords and contends that, though their intercultural aspect is weak, they can still provide an opportunity for perpetual peace between Muslim Arabs and Jewish Israelis. If used as leverage, the Accords can also help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but, if the Palestinian question is ignored, they may cause more radicalization among Palestinians. Further, the Accords have the potential to spark an intracultural conflict among Muslim countries unless they are not turned into a strong alliance that is also welcomed by Arabic public opinion.
The Memory of Goodness: Eva Fleischner and Her Contributions to Holocaust Studies ed. by Carol Rittner and John K. Roth (review)
Eugene J. Fisher
Circling the Elephant: A Comparative Theology of Religious Diversity by John Thatamanil (review)
Canadian Pentecostal Reader: The First Generation of Pentecostal Voices in Canada (1907–1925) ed. by Martin W. Mittelstadt and Caleb Howard Courtney (review)
David A. Reed
Healing the Schism: Karl Barth, Franz Rosenzweig, and the New Jewish-Christian Encounter by Jennifer M. Rosner (review)
Eugene J. Fisher
The People in the Room: Rabbis, Nuns, Pastors, Popes, and Presidents by James Rudin (review)
Eugene J. Fi
Winter 2022 Vol. 57.1
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Introduction: The Centrality of Weak Messianism to the Achievement of Middle East Peace
The Resort to Geistpolitik: Two of Buber’s Early Theological-Political Debates
This essay aims to shed new light on major features of the early Zionist construction of a Jewish political space. Revisiting two early debates of Martin Buber (1878–1965) with Max Nordau (1849–1923) and Hermann Cohen (1842–1918), the essay points at the limitation of the Zionist political construction for a later articulation of the Jewish and Palestinian complexity in a shared or divided land. Theodor Herzl’s understanding of Zionism as a strictly political and economic apparatus was brought to a historical and ideological debate at the Fifth Zionist Congress in 1901 between the young Buber and the faithful associate of Herzl, Nordau. Against Nordau’s prioritization of the productivization of Jews, Buber developed in his famous speech on “Jewish Art” the necessity of a cultural and spiritual elevation of Jews. In 1916, in the middle of World War I, Buber’s cultural notion of Jewish national regeneration in Eretz Israel set the backdrop for another debate and clash, this time with the German Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen.
One of the key concepts of the liberationist project for Latin America that Enrique Dussel articulated during the 1960’s was the retrieval of the Hebrew-Semitic sources of Christianity. This idea was fueled by at least two significant sources: Martin Buber’s appeal to an Orientalist indigeneity and the two years (1959–60) the young Dussel spent between Christians and Jews in the State of Israel. Consequently, Dussel saw in the ancient Hebrew sources a key to understand the Latin American identity.
The Political Theology of Binationalism: Judah Leib Magnes and Martin Buber
Judah Leib Magnes and Martin Buber collaborated to promote the binational cause in Palestine, driven by their religious worldviews. Buber was committed to a prophetic-moral solution to the conflict in Palestine, which coincided with his understanding of Zionism as the political realization of the covenant among God, the land, and the people. He perceived the “Arab Question” as the moral acid test of Zionism, yet there was an apparent lack of conviction in his relation to the binational cause. For Magnes, the binational program was a political-theological platform. It was the outcome of an American belief in the power of political structures and covenants to enforce political equality and the centrality of Reform ethical monotheism in his religious worldview.
I begin this essay with a mini-genealogy of Maimonides’s negative theology (which declares that we can only endlessly say what God is not, but not what God is), which traces it to a specific and recurring talmudic source. I then argue that Machiavelli, one of the great theorists of power in the Western intellectual tradition, structured his argument about power in a manner that was directly analogous to Maimonides’s argument about God. I will draw the practical implications of this association throughout the essay. My starting point for the development of this argument is arbitrary. One can trace the argument of negative theology to numerous Greek, Islamic, and rabbinic sources. However, the vein of interpretation that I am mining here is relatively under-developed, so I think that it deserves special attention.
The essay explores the writings of Abba Gordin, who utilized classical Jewish texts to establish a theory of inter-individualism in order to show that the anarchist divinization of the individual, based on the writings of Max Stirner, is deeply rooted in foundational Jewish literature. In the first part, we look at how Gordin combined a selection of biblical and rabbinic sources with German idealistic and neo-Kantian philosophy and appropriated the study of Torah as the spiritual study of the Self. In the second part, we look at the implications of a theory that centered the Self and its separateness and its consequences for Jewish nationalism, Zionism, and community-building. The preservation of separateness from political means was, in Gordin’s view, religious practice that aimed at a potential inter-individual society.
This essay examines Gustav Landauer’s original conception of Judaism, his redemptive conception of community, his theory of revolution, and the influence of his writings on the voluntary organizing of settlements in the pre-state community of Mandatory Palestine—all of which are relevant in accounting for the impact of Landauer’s work upon German Jewry in the 1920’s, as well as upon the Yishuv, the emerging body of Jewish settlements in the Land of Israel prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in Palestine in the decade 1920–30. How his thought was received by his contemporaries has not been analyzed from a scholarly perspective. Though he became aware of his Jewish identity only gradually, Judaism played a central role in his political thought. Landauer interpreted the term “diaspora” as an implicitly anarchistic category. To see oneself as living in a diaspora means that one is perceived as not investing full legitimacy and credence in the actual state that one inhabits. In terms of his view of diaspora, Landauer transformed into a virtue what others saw as a flaw in Jewish exile existence. For him, diaspora Judaism potentially constituted a vanguard movement for overcoming the state.
Gustav Landauer’s work evoked enthusiastic interest among early Jewish settlers of Mandatory Palestine who probed it for guidelines on how to build a new, just society in conjunction with setting up kibbutzim. The Jewish Yishuv (Jewish settlements in Mandatory Palestine) would have been the type of society that Landauer envisioned, one not needing to be held together by a state. He had the opportunity to be decisively involved in the attempt to carry out a revolutionary transformation of Bavarian society in its revolution of 1918–19. When this revolutionary experiment was crushed, Landauer was murdered on May 2, 1919, by counter-revolutionary Freikorps soldiers, who had been requested of the national government in Berlin by the Bavarian government that had fled to the city of Bamberg, Bavaria. This essay looks at various blueprints that Landauer devised to channel these revolutionary events into a productive direction in accord with his vision. It seeks to track down his efforts in some detail to get a sense why, after his death, Landauer became such an inspiration for some of the early settlers in what later became the State of Israel and other revolutionaries.
This essay proposes a paradigm for the resolution of conflict and thereby the attainment of lasting peace among factions with competing narratives. The model is predicated upon lessons drawn from the biblical account of the Tower of Babel. Recognizing the tension between individualist and collectivist approaches to organizational structure and communal harmony, a hybrid, expansive notion of the “individual” is suggested, and, conjoint with it, individualism is favored over collectivism. Conflict resolution becomes possible when factions—each considered viewed as an individual that is freshly understood—find points of mutual interest with other factions, thus removing the focus from reluctant compromise to purposive confluence. The Tower of Babel narrative in the Hebrew Scriptures also suggests a basis for extending the primacy of reconciliation to competing societal narratives, as is the case in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Theological and Political Postscript to Presentations at the Haifa Conference: The Faith of Skepticism and the Skepticism of Faith in St. Augustine, Avicenna, Judah Halevi, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jacques Derrida
Just as in the case of monotheism, the very application of its doctrine construed negatively theologically (that we can only say what God is not, but not what God is) leading to a de-literalizing of God’s attributes constitutes a contradiction—applying the doctrine is already to violate it and to reduce it to incoherence because then God ceases to be unique and singular and becomes knowable to the extent that God is deprived of literal attributes—so, too, a consistent application of skepticism leads to an immobilizing of the whole doctrine. If one skeptically interrogates skepticism, this would conjure up the prospect that the external targets that skepticism had been invoked to question could be rehabilitated or sustained in their pristine form.
Muhammad Reconsidered: A Christian Perspective on Islamic Prophecy by Anna Bonta Moreland (review)
Alfons H. Teipen
Separated Siblings: An Evangelical Understanding of Jews and Judaism by John E. Phelan, Jr (review)
Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith by Marvin R. Wilson (review)
The Sex Obsession: Perversity and Possibility in American Politics by Janet R. Jakobsen (review)
Fall 2021 Vol. 56.4
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The pandemic, while hurrying the world onto a frightening path toward an unknown future, has also exposed its devious traits, including the sharp systemic inequalities that exposed the poor to both the virus and hunger, the neglect of life priorities over economic growth, and the hideous pursuits of authoritarian regimes amid the pandemic. Simultaneously, there is a worldwide surge of people’s resistance as well as increasing collaboration among people to dream of a new world that is just and safe for all. It is time for churches to reimagine their presence and actions in the world. By drawing on the restlessness and yearnings of the moment, this essay explores and offers some signposts for the ongoing reflection on churches’ affirmations and actions. When truncated understandings of life instigate narrow pursuits that cause breaches in the interconnected web of life, the affirmation of faith needs to be intentionally a theology of life that asserts God’s intentions for life. When its current virtual mode seems to run the risk of further alienation from people, the church needs to search for credible expressions to be an instrument of God’s saving grace, regardless of its forms and modes. COVID-19 compels the need to reimagine the “sentness” of mission as a vocation on behalf of the vulnerable earth and its people. Diakonia, as the church’s expression of participation in mission, would then imply both reaching out in compassion and actively engaging in nurturing and accompanying people in search of a new world with justice and dignity for all.
Bonhoeffer in India: An Embodied Theology of Public Engagement
Indian politics rejects the separation of religion and state, while India’s Constitution enshrines the freedom of religion in the public space. Rajeev Bhargava at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies has explained that India’s secularism represents a “principled distance” of the state from religions. The state is supposed to be dharmnirpeksh or religion-neutral. Recognizing the place of religion in India’s public life, this essay uses resources from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology to devise an ethical form of dharm-state relations in India, applying the religious thought of Bonhoeffer to the challenge of secularism in contemporary India. Bonhoeffer’s writings ask religions and states to guarantee certain inalienable human rights that derive from God. This strategy seeks to ensure a mutually enriching relationship between religion and state in society. The essay shows how those who ground human relations in a rights-rich anthropology, as Bonhoeffer did, possess particular resources to affect the ethical coexistence of religion and society in contemporary India.
A Christian and Muslim Plea for Education about “the Other” in Areas of Conflict
David G. Kibble, Qari Asim
Societies in conflict usually portray negative images of “the other,” such images often being transmitted through the education system. Using school curricula in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Israel and Palestine as examples of such a negative transmission, it is argued that real peace between societies in conflict will be developed only where especially the younger generation is enabled to see things through the eyes of those who are traditionally seen as their enemies. It is shown how such a more empathetic education is not just politically useful but is also demanded by both Christianity and Islam—the faith traditions present in both of the conflicts studied.
This essay examines the qur’ānic view of revelation and prophethood in relation to the biblical and early Christian theologies of revelation. It argues that Christian theology of revelation, inspired by the Bible and early church Fathers, has a progressivist nature. Accordingly, while Christian revelation culminates in the Incarnation, the preceding period stands as a preparation. However, the qur’ānic account of revelation and prophethood suggests neither a gradual development awaiting the Prophet Muhammad nor a preceding preparation for him. This is because Allah is Merciful and Just and has always been equally accessible to all humanity. In the end, while the Prophet Muhammad is the final select individual as a prophet who conveyed the communication between God and the creation, Islam is the final account of this communication and the system of right conduct. Such finality suggests neither fulfillment nor culmination as believed in Christianity.
Bahá’í Prayers for Good Governance
Bahá’u’lláh, in his last will and testament, encouraged, if not obliged, Bahá’ís to pray for their respective rulers and governments, which is effectively the same as praying for good governance, peace, and prosperity. This essay presents a newly authorized translation of a Bahá’í prayer, “A Prayer for the confirmation of the American Government”—along with a provisional translation of a prayer of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for the Ottoman State and Caliphate. Bahá’í prayers for good governance are analyzed and discussed in comparative perspective with Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic prayers for good governance in the American context, introduced as phenomenological parallels. Bahá’u’lláh’s injunction to pray for one’s rulers is a precept that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá put into practice—to good practical effect. Moreover, he revealed several prayers for good governance for use by the Bahá’ís themselves, to offer, wherever they may reside, on behalf of their governments. Several such prayers are presented, with comments as to their respective historical contexts and purpose.
In the Second Vatican Council’s Nostra aetate, the Church teaches that, in Hinduism, “men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry.” In Hinduism, the internal experience of God (anubhava) is of central importance, and it is this that removes ignorance. In the traditions (Sampradayas) of Vishishtadvaita (in Vaishnavism and Shaivism), Dvaitadvaita, and Achintya bheda-abheda (in Vaishnavism), which integrate the Dvaita (dual) and the Advaita (nondual) schools of thought, we see an emphasis in simultaneous difference and nondifference between the human person and the divine, as and when the eternal union occurs. A theological point of contact is noted between the identified Hindu Sampradayas and Catholic teachings on the ultimate relationship between God and the human person. Through the commonalities in the understanding of our eternal destiny and their implications for human life, there are other plausible contacts identified between the theological universes of these Sampradayas and Catholicism. The various Sampradayas chosen here are examined, and their commonalities are identified; then, the points of intersection with Catholicism are studied. Schemas are developed to aid in appreciation of the holy truths that Hindus and Catholics share, and distinctions are drawn out. To communicate the sense and reference in these cases and to promote dialogue, translations render the relevant concepts accessible and relatable to the faithful of both traditions. For core Catholic concepts, Sanskrit equivalents are constructed and explained, using Indian philosophy to communicate the sense and reference necessary for mutual understanding. The schemas and the framework laid out here should aid dialogue regarding the mystery of God, recognized uniformly in both these Sampradayas and Catholicism.
Summer 2021 Vol. 56.3
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On November 18–20, 2018, Annabel Herzog (Professor of Political Science at the University of Haifa in Israel) and I (Professor of Religion and formerly Professor of Political Science, both at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA) organized a conference at Haifa with the title, "Asymmetry, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and Abrahamic Peace." The two issues of J.E.S. of which I am guest editor constitute the papers from the conference. As many of the essays make clear, the asymmetries in military power and resources between the Israelis and the Palestinians are a major source of the conflict. The multinational and multidimensional conference brought together Israeli, Palestinian, American, and European scholars to discuss the origins, sources, and evolution of the conflict, its current status, and possible modes of resolution.
Theopolitical Notes on Israel's Declaration of Independence
Warren Zev Harvey
In 2018, the Knesset of Israel, led by its right-wing coalition, adopted the Nation-State Law, which affirmed that the State of Israel is the "nation-state of the Jewish people" and only the Jewish people. Many have contrasted this law with Israel's 1948 Declaration of Independence, which promised "complete equality of social and political rights" to all citizens, "irrespective of religion, race, or sex," and expressed a commitment to the moral teachings of the biblical prophets. The Declaration was written by socialists and rabbis, while the Nation-State Law was written by right-wing nationalists. The Declaration focused on three prophetic values: freedom, justice, and peace.
This essay discusses the content of the Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, focusing on its religious language. In doing so, the essay links the law with three points of gravity: religious-ethnonationalism, populism, and colonialism. Specifically, the essay highlights how the Nation-State Law is a manifestation of the religious right politics in Israel, which seeks to consolidate the Jewish nature of the state, to entwine the nature of Israel as a state for the Jews with its absence of borders, to devalue the political significance of citizenship, and to gain a wide consensus on the right of self-determination as a religious right derived from the Jewish sacred texts rather than as a political right based on international law.
This essay contributes to the Judaic conceptualization of peace by bringing Walter Benjamin's essay "Critique of Violence" into conversation with the nonviolent practice of the Israeli NGO, Rabbis for Human Rights. It analyses Benjamin's critique of liberal peace and legal instrumentality by questioning his distinction between pure, divine violence and instrumental violence by focusing on the story of Korah's rebellion. Moving to Benjamin's equation of pure violence with nonviolent conflict resolution, I argue that the latter is the appropriate means to achieve "justpeace." Rabbis for Human Rights' scriptural interpretation indicates that nonviolent peacebuilding can be modeled on the agonistic struggle between divine law and human intercession. They use legal means to challenge the state violence of occupation in pursuit of justice and peace.
Religious fundamentalism is a major source of political instability in the world. The literalizing of God and religious texts infuses followers of the three Western monotheistic religions with an impetus to fight to the death any nation or group that they feel opposes their understanding of what God demands of them. From even before the era of the official promulgation of monotheistic doctrine, an alternative reading of the supreme Power in the universe has been available. This alternative reading has been officially canonized in Western religious thought as negative theology. Negative theology states that we can only know what God is not—but not what God is. Since God brings the explanatory quest to a halt, God can only be infinite. It is a contention of this essay that the structure of negative theology duplicates the structure of skeptical argument—and they both issue forth in incoherence. The only mode of relationship to God that is available to us is a mystical one, which means that no person can base their relationship to God on the premise of certainty. Fundamentalism then rests on a vulnerable set of rational arguments, which the essay seeks to explore and expose.
How Can Islamic Education Support Pluralism?
This essay sets out to analyze the concept of difference in the Qur'ān from a philosophical point of view. Generally speaking, this means that people of various cultures can co-exist in harmony in one society through mutual relations of tolerance. The essay also aims to determine the reciprocal interaction of benefits and values among societies through human and moral interactive relations. This divine address has been revealed in order to legalize the principle of difference that exists among human beings, making it a supported divine right and a natural law that one cannot deny or object to, but can rather deal with and benefit from. Against this quality of difference and cosmic dissimilarity, God reserved for Godself the quality of Oneness and denied it to living creatures and inanimate objects. The reader of the qur'anic verses realizes clearly that the attempt of some people to impose God's Oneness upon the life of others, and to force them to conform and be similar by compelling them to assume the same image is only aggression against the Oneness and unity of God, which clashes with the original spontaneity that characterizes the entity of human beings.
This essay offers a critical reflection of the discourse concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its basic hypothesis is that the notion of "conflict," a situation of radical disagreement, necessarily assumes an even more radical agreement on the unity underlying the difference: an agreement on the situation. Its basic question is accordingly: What is the underlying agreement that is presupposed and imposed, that is, performed, by the discourse of an Israeli-Palestinian conflict? What is the "united state" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? What are the logos and logic that generate this synopsis of different, conflicting, warring narratives? Drawing on Marx, Schmitt, Heidegger, Arendt, and Anidjar, the essay attempts to look at the notion of an Israeli-Palestinian conflict as arising from the hermeneutic unity of a liberal logos of state and a fundamentalist logos of religion.
Palestinian-Christian theologian Naim Ateek has argued against the Zionist interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, claiming that it favors a national reading of the bible and contradicts the Christian understanding of a universal God. Ateek's use of the terms universalism and nationalism ought to be understood in the context of the post-World War II encounter between the Christian discourse on Judaism and the discourse on Liberation Theology, as well as in the context of a political conflict over land/territory that has turned increasingly national-religious. The Exodus paradigm is a useful case in point, as it is central to both the Zionist movement and Liberation Theology. Although liberation theologians perceive the Exodus story as an integral part of its own religious history, the Zionist movement's reading of this story creates a monopoly on this paradigm that prevents Palestinian theologians from using it for their own purposes.
This essay aims to uncover the methods and strategies adopted by Islamist groups in the Arab community in Israel in providing social services for children. It describes the results of a case study that focuses on the observation of the work of two Islamic groups in Baqa al-Gharbiya, an Arab city in the immediate vicinity of the Green Line. The study adopts the methodology of qualitative research through in-depth interviews with sixty persons, including children. The characteristics of the services these groups provide will be identified, as well as the links among the organizations and with other community and government organizations. The results indicate that these Islamist groups have a significant presence and influence in the Arab community, as they are active in the political and social spheres comparable to Islamist social service providers in other countries in the Middle East. Palestinian Arab clients prefer to turn to the Islamist groups for help over public social services provided by Israel. When they reach out, it is easier to build trust due to their shared religious and social background. The Israeli institutions, by contrast, represent an intrusive, alien force that they associate with land expropriation and neglect in providing social services.
Education between Critique and Theology
Recent debates in Israel highlight a resurfacing of the tensions between secular education and religion by assuming a clear separation between a critical attitude towards religion, and the preparing of students for a life of religious obedience. Drawing on Theodor Adorno's discussion of education from the 1960's, I wish to challenge this taken-for-granted assumption. I show how Adorno's famous educational appeal for "critical self-reflection" can be traced back to its theological sources. Specifically, I argue that in Kierkegaard's theology of love, Adorno found a particular case for bringing together critique and theology that he then brought to bear on his educational position in which secular education and religion do not represent contradictory elements.
Spring 2021 Vol. 56.2
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North American Academy of Ecumenists 2020 Annual Meeting, Online (in Lieu of Kansas City)
During the 1970's, at the Catholic Ecumenical Institute of Münster, a group of scholars strove to theorize the human processes of understanding, communication, identification, and institutionalization that animate (and all too often compromise) ecumenical dialogue. The Münster group, led by Peter Lengsfeld, published Ökumenische Theologie: Ein Arbeitsbuch in 1980. This work was ahead of its time, yielding a wealth of resources for interpreting the entanglement of religious communities with one another and the epistemological force of those communities' oppositional identities. The Arbeitsbuch, however, was met upon publication with indifference or hostility in its own context and has received nearly no attention outside of Germany. This essay argues that the interpretive apparatus pioneered by Lengsfeld's working group—synthesized by John D'Arcy May as "fundamental ecumenics"—offers rigorous and adjustable diagnostic tools commensurate with needs emerging in the mid-twenty-first century. After introducing the framework pioneered by Lengsfeld and his collaborators and assessing the criticisms and reassessments that it subsequently met in the German academy, the essay sketches the contours of a fundamental ecumenics reformulated for the contemporary North American context, aiming to revitalize the discipline for analyzing the dynamics and stakes of human division—whether within, between, or beyond religious traditions.
"Receptive Ecumenism," as a methodology for ecumenical dialogue, appreciates and values the authentic witness of ecclesial traditions, communities, and identities. Receptive Ecumenism emphasizes the importance of self-examination and self-correction over and against any sense that these activities are the sole responsibility of the "other." Thus, there are notable affinities between Receptive Ecumenism and Bernard Lonergan's method of self-appropriation, which "catches oneself in the act" of the operations of consciousness and opens onto spaces for discernment, self-correction, heightened authenticity, and conversion. This essay proposes that the explicit and intentional inclusion of threat-to-care strategies, drawn from the "Insight approach" to conflict mediation based on Lonergan's method, might help the practice of Receptive Ecumenism achieve its aims.
Scholarly attention to the topic of full communion agreements is not new in the study of ecumenism. Nevertheless, with certain full communion relationships recently marking significant anniversaries and new agreements still being established, there remain opportunities to derive fresh inspiration from them for the ecumenical movement more broadly. Full communion relationships can discover new ways of sharing ecclesial life, moving from ecclesial autonomy to interdependence. Linking local partnerships can lead to regional or global possibilities. Relationships in one place can be leveraged to advance them in another. Life in full communion builds up a cognitive infrastructure that can lead to new creativity in response to intracommunal and extraecumenical concerns. Full communion becomes fuller, filled to overflowing, and carrying us toward the ecumenical future.
Pope Francis Describes What Is True and Holy in Islam
Moussa Serge Hyacinthe Traore
On October 28, 1965, the Catholic Church reported to her sons and daughters that she rejects nothing that is true and holy in the world religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all people (Vatican II, Declaration Nostra aetate, n.2). This article answers the question: "What is true and holy in Islam according to the actual leader of the Catholic Church: Pope Francis?" A landmark in Muslim-Christian relations was reached with the visit of Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates and the publication of a joint document with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in 2019. Within a general framework of Pope Francis's thought the article inquiries his specific vision of Muslims and Islam. It critically comments on what Pope Francis wrote on Muslims and Islam in his programatic letter Evangelii gaudium in which he pours out all his soul, mind, heart and dream. Pope Francis weaves very well his thought on Islam and Muslims with the Second Vatican Council's teaching. At the core of his reflections lies the concept of authentic religion that excludes any form of violence.
How the Idea of a "Global Ethic" Arose—And a Catholic Christian's Reading of the Qur'ānic Basis for It
Leonard Swidler, Hans Küng
This essay strives to achieve two main purposes. First, it records the personal and historical story of the movement for a global ethic. Asked to write it for an Iranian publication, the article also addresses Christian-Muslim relations. Growing out of World War II, the history includes records of the Una Sancta movement, the formation of the World Council of Churches, Vatican II, and the friendship between Hans Küng and the author that initiated the global ethic movement that was drafted and signed at the 1993 World Parliament of Religions. Then, a dialogue begins between the author and his understandings of Islam and how the tradition supports both Christian-Muslim relations and the movement for a global ethic.
Explorations and Responses
Response to Leonard Swidler's "How the Idea of a 'Global Ethic' Arose—And a Christian's Reading of the Qur'ānic Basis for It"
A Church of Islam: The Syrian Calling of Father Paolo Dall'Oglio by Shaun O'Neill (review)
A Christology of Religions by Gerald O'Collins (review)
G. R. Willis
Winter 2021 Vol. 56.1
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More than half a century ago, Lynn White, Jr., launched a debate that is still ongoing. It is difficult to bypass his critical views of monotheistic religious traditions to the present ecological crisis. This essay attempts to review some recent works by responding to White’s central thesis, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis,” which seemingly offers a negative judgment on a monotheistic religious approach to the environment. Being critical of White’s and his critics’ arguments, it seeks both to present an unbiased and neutral overview and to enrich the present discussions on environmental issues from faith perspectives.
Interreligious Dialogue as a Gateway to the Sustainable Development Goals: A Lebanese Case Study
Ziad Fahed, Anna Maria Daou
Much has been written on the importance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in the creation of peace and of just and equitable societies; however, the role of religion in general and interreligious dialogue in particular in achieving those goals has not been extensively researched. For decades, religious actors’ and institutions’ role in conflict transformation, peacebuilding, and reconciliation has been overshadowed. This essay offers a critical analysis of the outcomes of interreligious dialogue and of its effect on the implementation of the goals through the work of the Sustainable Network of Religious Leaders in the North of Lebanon, which was launched by the Dialogue for Life and Reconciliation. The network worked extensively on matters related to gender equality and gender-based discrimination, inclusive societies, peace and justice, and creating partnerships for the goals. It pinpoints the successes, weaknesses, and challenges of this type of work and highlights the fact that it is only through comprehensive partnerships that the goals will be achieved. Through the collection of both primary and secondary data, this research aims at opening new doors toward a practical understanding of the role of interreligious dialogue in development and a better empirical analysis of its effects.
A Social Capital Perspective on the Peace Work of Religious Women
Women are often invisible when official religious peacebuilding efforts are effectuated. However, religious women, even though often not allowed into official religious peace initiatives, are still active peacebuilders. The religious peacebuilding efforts of men have been subject to academic discussions and theorization during past decades, while the peace work of religious women has frequently been empirically described but to a much lesser extent theorized. This essay seeks to contribute to theorizing the peace work of religious women to enable more conceptual discussions on how their contribution to peace can be understood. Drawing upon older and more recent empirical descriptions of religious peacebuilding efforts led by women, I suggest that we consider how religious norms, identities, and religious organization are utilized to strengthen and create social capital in these efforts. This is a valuable perspective when seeking to understand peacebuilding efforts by religious women.
The writings of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith, provide a fundamental reconstruction of the concept of religion. In this new spiritual orientation, religion is perceived as a dialogue between God and humanity. This dialogical approach emphasizes the historical nature of religion, offers a dialectical conception of the Word of God, reinterprets the concept of the Day of Resurrection, provides a new and allegorical interpretation of various scriptures, argues for the harmony between religion and reason, and defines the true aim of all religions as the spiritualization of life, the liberation of humans from various forms of prejudice, and the promotion of unity and love in the world.
A Vision of the Destination: Theological Imagination, Ecumenism, and Social Transformation
Ikenna Paschal Okpaleke
“The eyes of the mind reach the destination before the legs get there,” so say African elders. This speaks of the power of imagining and envisioning of the world that serves everybody better. An ecumenical vision of a just and peaceful Africa attests to this common wisdom. In this sense, theological imagination remains relevant for any ecumenical vision that intends to bring about transformation in the African continent. This essay argues for the importance of theological imagination in advancing any transformative ecumenical program that targets the social sphere in Africa. The reflection on theological imagination in view of ecumenical transformation will then be tested in three social areas of engagement, namely, education, politics, and gender justice. It focuses on the context of Nigeria because of its peculiar turbulent sociopolitical environment and its challenging, but promising, ecumenical opportunity.
Imago Dei and the Tensions of Ethnic Identity
Wondimu Legesse Sonessa
According to the story of creation narrated in the Bible, all human beings are created in the image of God. As God’s image-bearers, all people need equal freedom, dignity, and justice. However, this core value of humanity is being neglected, and people are mistreating, exploiting, and killing others based on their ethnic origins. A country with a multiethnic society faces the worst challenge in this regard. This essay offers biblical and extrabiblical evidence for addressing the tensions between ethnicity and humanity in the image of God from a systematic theological standpoint, whereby attention is called to a harmonious and peaceful relationship between people of different ethnic heritages.
Meaning and Method in Comparative Theology by Catherine Cornille (review)
Meeting Jewish Friends and Neighbours by Marcus Braybrooke (review)
Forgotten Origins: The Lost Jewish History of Jesus and Early Christianity by Juan Marcos Bejarano Gutierrez (review)
Without Ceasing to Be a Christian: A Catholic and Protestant Assess the Christological Contribution of Raimon Panikkar by Erik Ranstrom and Bob Robinson (review)
Fall 2020 Vol. 55.4
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Special Issue: Reflections on Religion and Race in the Era of Trumpism
Guest Editors: Edwin David Aponte and Laura Levitt
Edwin David Aponte
The following essays had earlier expressions in two biennial meetings of the Society of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in 2017 and 2019, and, as might be expected, all examine aspects of the multilayered and often complex relationships between and among race, ethnicity, and religion. Such exploration is not solely an intellectual exercise, but it is increasingly a necessary thing to do–not only for deeper understanding of these issues themselves but also for addressing many of the moral and public policy challenges of our times. Of course, exploring the connections and intersections among concepts of race, ethnicity, and religion and spirituality within particular contexts of the United States is important in its own right, but such study also addresses the concerns of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies for ongoing and meaningful dialogue among diverse religious traditions.
This essay is a modified version of a talk I gave in the Fall of 2017 at the Biennial Conference of the Society of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Nashville, Tennessee. I spoke these words not long after white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Virginia. The theme of the gathering was "Revolutionary Love." I was invited to address this issue after I wrote a blog post raising questions about revolutionary love and the categories of race, religion, and ethnicity. Specifically, I wrote about these matters for scholars of religion engaged with the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Returning to these remarks in the Winter of 2020, the urgency of my concerns could not be any more relevant. What follows is, more or less, what I wrote then. My hope is that these reflections will resonate with some of the powerful words of a younger generation of scholars' works on issues of religion, ethnicity, and race—versions of some of the papers that were presented at the association's preconference biennial meeting at the AAR in San Diego, California, in November, 2019.
This essay attends to contemporary Oriental Orthodox solidarity as a postcolonial condition and to the possibilities of communal belonging along different planes of theopolitical intelligibility. Oriental Orthodox debates around what I call the "social hierarchy of theological truth" are mired in colonial histories of civilizational order and the production of the collective experience of Byzantine and Islamic subjugation. The project of making Oriental Orthodox experience visible in the contemporary moment as perennial persecution and perpetual subjugation hinders analysis of the workings of this neo-imperial system that utilizes certain narratives of Oriental Orthodox while precluding the collective's historicity and its enmeshment in other radical frameworks of solidarity. I argue that contemporary Oriental Orthodox experience must be historicized as a means to understand the operations of the complex and changing discursive processes by which such an identity is ascribed, debated, or embraced. By historicizing the identity that such a process has produced, I ethnographically trace how such processes are unmarked in the everyday interactions of Oriental Orthodox in the United States—in the ways history, theology, and collective memory are debated and politicized in the present.
Surrogate Flesh: Race, Redemption, and the Cultural Production of Fetal Personhood
Amaryah Shaye Armstrong
The growth of fetal personhood laws has led to an increase in carceral responses to the loss of a fetus. This carceral response has had devastating racial effects. This essay situates the carceral management of reproduction within a theological mode of production and reproduction, examining how fetal personhood is culturally produced and reproduced within the context of a theology of Christian redemption and its supersessionist sense of peoplehood. I begin by situating fetal personhood within a larger discussion of Christian peoplehood and chosenness, focusing on peoplehood's relationship to political theological crises of legitimacy. In so doing, I recast political theology in light of such Black scholars as Cedric Robinson and Sylvia Wynter, showing how theological resolutions of the crises of legitimacy, meaning, and value depend on the imposition of order—ordering existence and epistemology—against the threat that Black flesh poses to the reproduction of Christian racial distinctiveness and redemption. Second, I consider how white governance supersedes Christian peoplehood as the redemptive theologic of racial modernity that legitimates claims of fetal personhood, by showing how the implicitly white conception of the human that is assumed by fetal personhood arguments recapitulates a notion of theological descent. Theological descent necessitates the proper reproduction of order through racial enforcement in order to secure human redemption. Finally, I draw on the insights of my analysis to perform a political theological reading of anti-abortion advertisements and billboards specifically figuring Black children as "an endangered species," showing how these ads make the fetus and not Black lives the victim of this endangerment. I argue that these are personhood arguments, and, as such, they deploy a Christian redemptive imagination to conjure and capture the living image of Black children, who are made into surrogates for the anti-abortion movements' redemptive politics. As such, they attribute blameworthiness to Black wombs and use systemic racism to produce a blameless fetus. Racism becomes a way of re-blaming Black people for racism. In thinking of race and reproduction together in an examination of the cultural production of fetal personhood, I show how the larger political theological attempt to impose order and governance on Black flesh serves to resolve crises of existential and epistemological meaning and value. The legitimation of carceral enforcement in response to abortion and Black reproduction is thus a means of preserving an anti-Black political theology. This theological redemptive order, in turn, is set over and against the disorder that Black flesh and sexuality represent.
This essay explores the multiple layers of aesthetics in Korean Protestant Christianity, moving between South Korea, the United States, and Haiti, where Korean Protestant Christians began establishing missions in 1992. Following the transnational itineraries of Korean and Korean American Protestants, I will identify two distinct but not mutually exclusive orientations of their aesthetics. The first is an aesthetics of progress, which has been prominent since the inception of Protestant Christianity in Korea. The second is an aesthetics of Koreanness.
This essay examines the theological and socioeconomic impacts of the creation of the Jamaican marijuana industry on the Rastafari faith in Jamaica and, mainly, how Rastas are navigating the forces of governmental regulation and global capitalist control of the holy herb. I argue that the scope of the Rastafari reactions to the dominating force of cannabis legislation in Jamaica is fundamentally a function of their longstanding precarious status in Jamaica. Rastas' rejection of the colonial and postcolonial state, proclamation of black redemption, deification of Emperor Haile Selassie I, and sacralization of marijuana brought them into conflict with the state, thereby reinforcing their liminal position as an "other." Throughout this essay, I draw upon the themes of postcolonial theory to understand the history of colonial and postcolonial legislative repression of Rastafari and how Rastas have deployed strategies of resistance and survival within and against the Jamaican society.
Postcolonial Theology and Intersectionality
Grace Ji-Sun Kim
Many two-thirds-world Christian theologians have turned to postcolonial theory as a more indigenous theoretical way of addressing the sinful effects of colonialism in its various manifestations. These theologians employ, in particular, the postcolonial concept of hybridity as a way of accounting for the complicated political agency of the "subaltern" (oppressed) subject. This concept emerged out of the postcolonial experience to describe the ways in which subaltern subjects sometimes embrace and confront the "master's tools" when constructing new postcolonial identities. What could look like support of the oppressor may, in fact, be a complex process of formulating and activating subaltern agency in relation to colonialist as well as indigenous cultural practices, languages, attitudes, and religions. This essay argues that these are forms of intersectional theologizing.
Reciprocal Inclusivism: A Methodology for Understanding the Faiths of the World
Christopher C. Knight
Based on John Hick's pluralistic hypothesis that Reality is ineffable and beyond adequate comprehension, but the presence of this Reality can be experienced through the linguistic systems and spiritual practices offered by the various religious traditions, this essay explores the place of such a hypothesis in the face of contemporary understandings of religious pluralism, in particular perennialist assumptions about religious differences. The essay aims to place the criticisms and strengths of traditional perennialism in the context of the thinking of two schools of theological thought. The first is embodied in the work of Vladimir Lossky (1903–58) whose understanding of apophaticism is based on patristic Christian insights and remains influential within the Eastern Orthodox Church. The second is the school of thought associated with the names of René Guénon (1886–1951) and Fritzjof Schuon (1907–98), which is referred to sometimes as the Traditionalist school or as perennial traditionalism.
Summer 2020 Vol. 55.3
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Zev Garber combined the `Aḳedah narrative and the Pittsburgh synagogue slaughter and dramatized in oral torah the absolute faith of Abraham and the realized fate of Jews in prayer on Shabbat morning. He raised ethical and moral issues of justice and mercy associated with this absolute biblical test of faith and the lasting influence on the lives and souls of loyalist Jews and others to the Covenant of Abraham. However, Garber's written torah elaborates on old-new language of hate and violence (Antisemitism, anti-Zionism, Palestinianism, Israeli nationalism) that somewhat parallels, contributes to, and prevails alongside the Pittsburgh Shabbat Massacre.
Language is a reciprocal tool: It reveals, and, at the same time, it is revealing. We use language to explain the things that define our world, but, by the same token, the way we use language also necessarily discloses how we explain and define ourselves within that world. In general, everyone can instinctively grasp how a given word or phrase is used to demarcate, even create, that small bit of universe that it encompasses in linguistic terms. But, the subtle aspects of how this same word or phrase might disclose a part of our own identities is less obvious and is less consciously considered in the old-new language of hate and violence. How and why are reflected in this essay that expounds on like and dislike of group-people-religion identity and that somewhat parallels, contributes to, and prevails alongside the Pittsburgh Shabbat Massacre
There is an immutable framework of biblical faith, expressed in Israelite monotheism, namely, that God is both all-powerful and all-just. Such divine attributes, however, have been called into question throughout the course of Jewish history and experience, from earliest antiquity, through the annihilation of European Jewry in the twentieth century, and down to the present. The dual tragedies of the recent synagogue massacres, both in Pittsburgh (October 27, 2018) and at Poway (April 27, 2019), have brought a renewed focus to the most fundamental theodic question regarding the goodness of God in an imperfect world. It is tragically ironic that the weekly parasha read in Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue on the day of the carnage was VaYera' (Genesis 18–22), containing (in addition to the 'Aḳedah) the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham's pointed question, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justly?" Eventually, it would be the Israelites themselves who would reshape the divine image from that of a tribal deity, known as the "God of Armies" in the account of the Exodus from Egypt, to a transcendent emblem of compassion. They would eventually address the troublesome theological issues revolving around divine justice with a powerfully "subversive" treatise of Israelite wisdom literature, the Book of Job, wherein we find two poetic and elegant answers to Abraham's question and to the perennial problem of evil.
VaYera' begins with Sarah's laughter at the announcement of her future maternity. Later she laughs in what seems a self-deprecatory manner at Isaac's birth and her nursing the child. Sarah also speaks. God listens. She insists that Abraham expel Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham resists. God insists that he listen to Sarah. Then Sarah goes silent—a traumatic textual aporia. Bereishit Rabbah and midrashic tannaim suggest a one-dimensional reading of a Sarah bereft at the impending sacrifice of Isaac. Yet, a close reading of VaYera' reveals a powerful woman of royal lineage and priestly powers who brings and withdraws fertility, emboldens and enriches Abraham, and demonstrates agency not typically assigned to biblical women. By considering Sarah not as handmaiden but priestess, not as possession but as princess, and not as victim but as victor, we recognize a Sarah whose passion for life, family, and love determined that a divine call to human sacrifice would not be her legacy. The Abrahamic deity would be worshiped with life, not death. God and Abraham may have listened to Sarah. We gain hope from her wisdom and remember our humanity in the face of inhumanity. As instruction for collective identity in the face of trauma, Sarah teaches us to laugh and to cry, to live and to love, and to act and to rejoice together.
Dancing at "the People's Beach": Spontaneous Dialogue in the New York Sands
Carolyn Renée Pautz
Scholars of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue have largely ignored religions of African derivation in the Americas, such as Candomblé, Vodou, and Santería. This essay contributes to a resultant lacunae in the academic literature in these fields by using ethnography and performance theory (approaches that are also largely unknown in said fields) to illustrate the function of a spontaneous interreligious dialogue on a New York beach between Haitian Vodouists and Freemasons, one that effectively enhanced interfaith understanding on the popular level, as witnessed by a Lucumí priestess and scholar.
This essay explores how Lebanon is modeling interreligious dialogue through the Christian-Muslim celebration of the Annunciation of Mary. It highlights the importance of dialogue in both religions and analyzes the theological foundations of the Feast of the Annunciation. While identifying the commonalities and the main differences in approaching this feast, the essay discusses the challenges that this initiative is facing and explores some practical opportunities to counteract extremism. The methodology utilized in this study is textual analysis, particularly based on the Sacred Scriptures, as well as the writings of researchers and practitioners of interreligious dialogue. It concludes that, among the several forms of interreligious dialogue, the Feast of the Annunciation of Mary offers a pioneering platform that facilitates bridging over misunderstandings in order to deepen spiritual solidarity by celebrating a common spiritual heritage and appreciating differences.
Two Sides of One Coin: Hillul Hashem and Kiddush Hashem
Gilbert S. Rosenthal
Hillul Hashem, the desecration of God's name, and Kiddush Hashem, the sanctification of God's name, are two of the most important moral principles of Judaism. Derived from biblical sources and greatly expanded by the sages, they are really two sides of one coin. Hillul Hashem constitutes a public action by a Jew that brings disgrace to God's reputation and sullies the good name of Israel. Actions of Kiddush Hashem exalt God's holy name, add honor and prestige to the Jewish people, and constitute the antidote to Hillul Hashem. The author analyzes how these concepts evolved through the ages. Most people erroneously believe that Kiddush Hashem implies martyrdom for Jewish principles (such as Rabbi Akiva). While martyrdom is the ultimate action of Kiddush Hashem, numerous sources are cited that stress that unjust, immoral, or unethical behavior vis-à-vis Jews and gentiles constitute Hillul Hashem. The author stresses that Israel's mission is to set an example for all nations and faiths to sanctify God's name through justice, honesty, and moral behavior for all peoples.
Questions about Paul's Gospel of Justification
Paul W. Newman
The Pauline gospel of justification is a major factor in current ecumenical discussions between Catholic and Protestant churches. The doctrine needs to be tested by the life and teachings of Jesus, who was centered on the Reign of God. Issues challenging justification by means of retributive justice are the doctrine of return that is central to the prophetic tradition, the emphasis of Jesus on the bilateral covenantal law of love for neighbors and enemies, the discrediting of death penalties in the world, the widespread emulation of Jesus' compassion, the inability of many modern people to believe in a scapegoat logic of forgiveness, and the desperate need of the world for the gospel of the Reigning of God.
Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Interreligious Hermeneutics: Ways of Seeing the Religious Other ed. by Emma Polyakov O'Donnell (review)
Beyond "Holy Wars": Forging Sustainable Peace through Interreligious Dialogue—A Christian Perspective by Christoffer H. Grundmann (review)
RSM, Women, the Holocaust, and Genocide by Carol Rittner (review)
Eugene J. Fisher
Spring 2020 Vol. 55.2
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This is a report of the annual meeting of the North American Academy of Ecumenists, held September 27–29, 2019, at The Sign of the Theotokas Orthodox Church in Montreal. The theme involves the interface of ecumenical outreach and interfaith dialogue, within the contemporary social and intellectual context. The meeting featured four Canadian and two U.S. speakers from academia and/or grassroots practitioners who have had experience in both ecumenical and interfaith work.
This Romanian-born author heads the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism and teaches at Concordia University, both in Montreal. She describes the sociopolitical concept of ecumenical cooperation and multicultural and interfaith concerns in Montreal and throughout Canada. She emphasizes the need for humility and love among Christians and in their meeting with persons of other faiths.
Interfaith Dialogue at the End of Christendom: The Scriptures of My Dialogue Partners
Patricia G. Kirkpatrick
This McGill University professor discusses the implications of openness to dialogue for both academic and personal development. She urges that interfaith interactions should include the encounter of one another's scriptures for authentic dialogue to occur. She also discusses a "fractal" theory of religious diversity, which needs to go beyond mere tolerance.
This essay discusses how Christian ecumenism and interreligious theology and dialogue may benefit from each other. Beginning with overviews of points of concurrence among world religions and typologies of Christian attitudes toward world religions, it explores the relevance to interreligious dialogue of key notions from ecumenical experience: the identification of appropriate dialogue partners, the importance of understanding the other, "purification of memory," ecumenical and interreligious "gift exchange," personal friendship, and common prayer. Some types of unity sought in Christian ecumenism are relevant in interreligious dialogue, while others are not. Particular obstacles in interreligious dialogue are less significant in ecumenism: interreligious violence, the politicization of religious identity, the "dilution" of religious beliefs, and risks of Christian relativism. Lessons relevant to interreligious understanding and dialogue are sought in the works of Fr. Lev Gillet and Christina Mangala Frost.
This essay explores four main points in outlining the changing relation between ecumenism and interfaith engagement. First, it describes an ironic shift: Where once world mission was the common motive for Christian ecumenical engagement, now differences among Christians over response to religious diversity are themselves of church-dividing status. Second, it argues there is a new urgency for ecumenism as the necessary resource for adequate engagement with the religions—a new way for religious diversity to motivate ecumenism. Third, the essay traces the development of comparative theology as the appropriate theological resource for this new engagement. Fourth, it describes the convergence toward a trinitarian theology as a common element that marks both the recent ecumenical movement and the newer response to religious diversity.
Milestones and Peak Experiences in My Long Ecumenical Journey
John George Huber
This is the banquet address by a ninety-year-old Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor and campus minister with long involvement in ecumenical dialogue around the world. He describes his involvement in intra-Lutheran to World Council of Churches events in which he participated over more than six decades.
This essay intentionally seeks ways that some insights and rituals of forgiveness of sin in African Religion can enrich the theology and sacramental celebrations of the sacrament of penance and reconciliation in the Roman Catholic Church. A case is made for the celebration of this sacrament to represent the cultural contexts of each local church in ways that heighten their appreciation for it.
In the contemporary world, there is a conspicuous lack of interest in religions among people due to secularization, loss of societal values, and distrust of organized religions. The increasing number of scandals and abuses by the hierarchy further aggravates the situation. The division among Christians because of doctrinal differences gives rise to scandals, which are counter-gospel. The new ecclesial movements, which began just before and after the Second Vatican Council in the Roman Catholic Church, work not only for the revitalization of faith but alsofor promoting genuine ecumenical dialogue with other Christian denominations. This essay examines two ecclesial movements—the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement and the Focolare Movement—that practice and promote ecumenical dialogue at the practical level, thereby contributing to spiritual unity among all Christians. The resources for this study are the documents of the Catholic Church and documents on these two movements.
This essay provides a presentation of the study document, Theology of Diaspora, from the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe and describes how the document refers to the diaspora situation of Protestant communities as both challenge and opportunity. It then pleads for an ecumene that discovers religious identities in diaspora situations as an important topic of theological academic reflection. Finally, it pleads for an ambiguity-sensitive approach, which values the interrelatedness, hybridity, and variety of religious identities in the twenty-first century.
EXPLORATIONS AND RESPONSES:
Role of Religions in the Spread of COVID-19
David Emmanuel Singh
We are ordinarily disposed to look for evidence of the positive role religions play in society. Religion, as Durkheim posited, is a "force" that activates a sense of obligation in the faithful to reach beyond self. This impulse usually results in positive action and behavior. This essay, however, brings together exceptional cases that cut across religions where the ordinary functionalist positivity gives way to negative behavior.
Yoga, Meditation, and Mysticism: Contemplative Universals and Meditative Landmarks by Kenneth Rose (review)
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Winter 2020 Vol. 55.1
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The essays in this special issue of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies arose out of the work of the “Violence in an Age of Genocide” study group, part of the National Council of Churches Faith and Order Convening Table. In light of the proliferation of extrajudicial killings of people of color in the United States—Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and too many more to name—the majority of these essays address racialized violence against Black people in the U.S. Similarly, these essays are also often directed toward the “white church,” broadly defined, and its need to engage these issues more critically, both theologically and practically. As we reflected on these tragedies, however, another crisis began to form—or, rather, to enter a new stage—on America’s southern border as Latinx families continue to be separated, with frightened children held in makeshift internment camps. Therefore, a few essays also address the racialized violence associated with the U.S. immigration system.
Interfaith and Racist Violence and Genocide: Definitions, Contexts, and Theology
Religious communities have historically been involved to one extent or another in genocide. Christian churches are no exception. Sometimes they are complicit in the violence; sometimes they are its victims. In recent years, when extreme violence seems to confront us continually, whether in one place or another, whether at a particular moment of crisis or painfully over time, many have been quick to designate the violence as genocide. But, do they meet the high bar set by the international community’s definition of genocide? And, what is the church’s response to be? This essay seeks to start a conversation aimed at answering these questions.
This essay analyzes what is involved in structures and patterns of racism that are obvious to one community and yet easily overlooked by another. It contends that this has to do partly with Western culture’s broader postmodern difficulty with truth and partly with the cherished legitimacy of the very institutions that are subtly affected by racism. At a more theological level, it argues that our often unwitting involvement in structural racism may make us susceptible to deception and self-deception regarding the truth about racism in American life. Knowing the truth and exposing our sins against the truth are important if the churches of the United States are going to contribute to the healing of American racism.
This essay explores the question of what makes a martyr by placing the early Christian discourse on martyrdom in conversation with the protest and commemoration practices surrounding recent killings of persons of color by United States law enforcement. It argues that white Christians, who are often skeptical of the application of martyrial language to the victims of such racialized violence, ought to be open to the theological significance of such practices. Doing so will allow us to learn new ways of understanding and participating in God’s justice and victory over the forces of death in our world.
There is hardly any disagreement in calling racism evil, but how can we express this theologically when racism reaches beyond personal, individual acts to a pre-existing, all- encompassing system? In Catholic theology, language of sin does not relate to the reality of systematic racism. This essay proposes recovering an understanding of ritual purity that lies at the root of the Christian tradition. While Christian theology has never been entirely comfortable with language of purity, the historical and sociological elements help explain the mechanisms by which systematic racism functions as a structure of sin.
The term “racial reconciliation” has been rejected by many committed anti-racist Christians for multiple reasons. Racial harmony and equity never existed in the United States and, therefore, cannot be restored. Furthermore, popular understandings of reconciliation imply that all sides must admit guilt, when in reality white people created the myth of white supremacy to further their economic, political, and social goals. Th is essay admits that, while these issues are serious, reconciliation is central to Christian theology and unity. The writer describes two essential components for reclaiming the concept for use in promoting racial equity and unity.
The Intersection of Palestine with Ferguson, Missouri
James R. Thomas
Is there intersectionality between the batt es waged against state-sponsored violence and oppression on the streets of Gaza and the streets of Ferguson, Missouri? This essay examines and compares events in Gaza called Operation Protective Edge to a police crackdown on protest movements in Ferguson, both occurring in 2014. The military action in Gaza launched by the Israel Defense Forces was a reaction to the murder of three teens in Hebron. In Ferguson 18- year-old Michael Brown was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson. The murder of Michael Brown triggered a national wakefulness to the ways policing affects communities of color. Brown’s death came less than a month after a New York Police Department officer used a chokehold on Eric Garner in New York City. The deaths of these two black men was a breaking point in a summer where telephone video and eyewitness descriptions of police violence drew national attention. In Ferguson, protesters rallied by the Black Lives Matter movement ignited the Ferguson Uprising, a series of protests where residents—the preponderance of them black, many of them working-class or low-income—called attention to questions that had long been present in parts of the St. Louis suburb: poverty, inequality, and police violence. The protests were met with police who were wearing elite killing gear similar to that of the Israel Defense Force. The Ferguson protests both added momentum to the national Black Lives Matter movement and generated offense from people angered by TV coverage of protesters who hurled rocks and insults at police. The end game of policing in Gaza and Ferguson is the same. The objective is to suppress the right to free assembly, expression, and association. The mission is to stop unarmed people from protesting against their oppression.
Statements on immigration by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, and the latter’s member communions all counter a simplistic moral distinction between those who immigrate to the United States legally and those who come illegally by addressing the social and economic factors spurring migration, identifying the flaws in the U.S. immigration system, and calling for solidarity between citizens and immigrants, regardless of legal status. The immigration and refugee policies of the Trump administration, however, reveal that the rhetorical distinction between “legal” and “illegal” has less to do with the law than it does with the arbitrary exercise of power and reinforcing racial hierarchies. The churches must learn to address this darker side of anti-immigrant rhetoric more adequately.
This redacted essay provides a vision of the Reign (basileia) of God in response to the crisis of the mass incarceration of migrants, particularly those considered “undocumented.” It argues that, created in the image of the triune God, we are made to live in vínculos (intimate ties that bind), or perichoretic ties, with our neighbors. Mass incarceration violates these ties. Drawing on biblical notions of justice, particularly to the stranger, this essay ultimately argues that the church is called to be a hospitable community of holistic vínculos in eschatological anticipation of the realm.
Interreligious Dialogue? Interfaith Relations? Or, Perhaps Some Other Term?
Christopher Evan Longhurst
In the mix of discussions on diverse religions in dialogue, the terms “inter-faith” and “interreligious” seem to be used rather arbitrarily. Most people involved in interreligious dialogue and interfaith relations fail to distinguish clearly between them, and even the plethora of literature on interreligious and interfaith studies uses these terms rather fluidly and interchangeably. Specialized lexica also offer no clear distinction in their meanings.
This reflection seeks to offer some amplification of the terms “interreligious dialogue” and “interfaith relations,” asking what, if anything, differentiates them. Are these terms alone sufficient for a comprehensive and inclusive global dialogue around diverse religions?
A Roman Catholic, I recently joined a Muslim group on their pilgrimage to the Holy Land, along with my Muslim husband of fifty years. The trip included visits to sacred sites in Israel, Jordan, and Turkey. Our first visit was to what Jews refer to as the Temple Mount and Muslims as the Haram esh-Sharif or the Al-Aqsa Compound. Located on a hill in the Old City of Jerusalem, surrounded by massive stone walls, it has for thousands of years been venerated as a holy site by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, religious sentiments associated with the site are being overshadowed by political tensions.
To submit an article for consideration, log on to our administrative platform, Scholastica, at jes.scholasticahq.com.
Summer 2019 Vol. 54.3
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Not many scholars of religion can claim to have ever had their work appear on the New York Times’ “Best Seller List,” but Stephen Prothero, a professor of American religion at Boston University, can, for that is where his 2007 book wound up: Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn’t.1 One of the book’s greatest merits is its demonstration of just how dangerous for humanity religious illiteracy is. The dangers are compounded in the United States, furthermore, by the fact that it is an ethnically and religiously diverse country, as well as being the world’s third largest country and its oldest democracy, which amplifies the possibility for religious misunderstanding and its legal and political ramifications. If we wed to these factors the reality that the U.S. is home to some of the world’s best hospitals, which attract patients and their families from all corners of the globe, the issue at hand becomes even clearer: The consequences of the combination of religious diversity and religious illiteracy for the contemporary health care profession are serious and many.
Teilhard de Chardin and World Religions*
Teilhard de Chardin had a broad vision of religion and evolution. Religion was less a human phenomenon for Teilhard than a cosmological one, serving a vital role in evolution by orienting cosmic life toward ultimate fulfillment. In this respect, he felt that world religions are still too tribal and separate to satisfy adequately the spiritual needs of the earth. Hence, a new convergence of world religions is needed for a renewed spirit of the earth. This essay examines Teilhard’s insights on the convergence of world religions and his notion that Christianity is a religion of evolution, normative of evolution, and thus the form of a new religion of the earth.
The rise of religious disaffiliation represents one of the most significant events of the last 100 years in religious history. Catholicism in the United States has experienced the greatest “losses” associated with this movement, but Catholic theology has not been curious enough about what sorts of people disaffiliating Catholics are becoming. Scholars such as Tom Beaudoin and Patrick Hornbeck have proposed new directions for theological research by tracking not just what “brokers of official Catholicism” count as normative but also what ordinary and disaffiliating Catholics take to be normative out of their own formation and everyday life. This essay explores the experience of disaffiliation through a research portrait of a conversation between one affiliated religious educator and his disaffiliated former student. The study provides a compelling way into the larger contested conversation concerning disaffiliation. These two perspectives—of the affiliated religious educator and of the disaffiliated former student—offer insight on a growing but underrepresented experience in contemporary theological research. The essay suggests that positive religious life and learning can lead beyond affiliation with the Catholic Church and that, when disaffiliated persons are engaged in conversation, we can learn from them. The purpose of this study, however, is not to find a solution to the “problem” of disaffiliation but to propose a more affirming way to speak of and with persons and groups disaffiliating from conventional religious communities.
The juridical aspect of ecumenism is very important. A sign of reception of ecumenical ecclesiology is its integration with canon law. This essay evaluates the value of the Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium as an instrument in their hands of the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome for promoting unity between Orthodox and Catholics. It contrasts it with the ecclesiology of the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue on unity. It also shows that in many important points the ecumenical value of this code of law is limiting more than facilitating and reflects the need to integrate the results of the ecumenical dialogue with canonical legislation.
The topic of race and violence in the United States brings to mind an array of images: lynchings, race riots of various kinds, police brutality, violent crime within some minority communities, and so on. In most of these cases, the word “violence” refers to actions of serious physical harm—a mob committing murder, the burning of a car, the beating of a suspect in custody, a shooting in a drug deal gone bad. While these examples certainly warrant the word “violence,” they only scratch the surface of violence related to race. Describing them with that one word without further comment can obscure important distinctions about the nature of violence related to race and racism. What follows hopes to contribute to greater clarity by drawing upon a key resource pertaining to violence in the ecumenical theological and ethical traditions of Christianity—the just war tradition. We will find, however, that true clarity about violence and racism requires a recognition of the issue’s profound ambiguity.
Medellín through Methodist Eyes
This essay examines the ecumenical aspects of the 1968 conference of Latin American Bishops in Medellín. It begins with the historical context of the conference, showing how Medellín, by focusing on specifically Latin American issues, was a major break from tradition set by previous conferences. It then examines José Míguez Bonino’s reading of the conference, highlighting its ecumenical currents and its focus on liberation of the poor. It discusses the impact of Medellín on the Latin American Protestant ecumenical and evangelical movements, followed by an analysis of how Methodists are to understand themselves in light of Medellín, with a focus on Medellín as an affirmation of the Latin American, catholic, and Wesleyan aspects of Methodist theology.
Explorations and Responses
When studying the great ideas that have changed or could transform the human and the world, thoughts emerge from verba et scripta, thoughts that try to pinpoint fragments of truth, in order to give birth to an exit from roaming into the labyrinth of our microcosm. There is a struggle against egocentric individualism, in order to distance ourselves from the pursuit, the disturbance, the root of the problem and its solution—from the constant “why?” Each era has its own historical background and its own interpretation.
The Ecumenism of the Polyhedron: A New Ecclesiology?
Raniero Cantalamessa, ofmcapp, Translated from Italian by Marsha Daigle Williamson
The image of a polyhedron, a three-dimensional body with many angles and surfaces such as a prism, was used by Pope Francis for the first time in Evangelii gaudium in a general ecclesiological sense to describe the Church as a whole.1 He used it in the address he gave at the Pentecostal Church of Reconciliation in Caserta—but this time in terms of the ecumenical dialogue among the various Christian churches. It is worth listening to its central part again:
This essay shares some of the aspects of my research journey and the pedagogical approaches implemented during the Islamic Guidance Programme (IGP). The IGP is a faith-based, spiritually embedded intervention that has been designed to cater to the rehabilitative needs of Muslims charged under extremism legislation, as well as those who appear vulnerable to faith-based radical extreme ideology. A spiritually based critical theological approach is adopted throughout the whole process of teaching. As a spiritually based intervention, IGP has its own theological foundations, epistemological principles, and unique teaching techniques that need to be used during the process of rehabilitation of a selected group of participants. This essay presents a summary of these theological, empirical, and educational aspects.
Elie Wiesel: Teacher, Mentor, and Friend ed. by Alan L. Berger (review)
Eugene J. Fisher
Confronting Hate: The Untold Story of the Rabbi Who Stood Up for Human Rights, Racial Justice, and Religious Reconciliation by Deborah Hart Strober, Gerald S. Strober (review)
Eugene J. Fisher
The Sufi and the Friar: A Mystical Account of Two Men in the Abode of Islam by Minlib Dallh (review)
The Divine Christ: Paul, the Lord Jesus, and the Scriptures of Israel by David B. Capes (review)
Glenn B. Siniscalchi
Spring 2019 Vol. 54.2
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“Living Unity: Ecumenical Shared Ministries” was the theme of the North American Academy of Ecumenists’ 2018 annual conference, exploring forms of ecumenical relationships at the local level in Canada and the United States. Five speakers and a panel of representatives from Ecumenical Shared Ministries (ESM’s) informed the conversation among some three dozen participants gathered for the weekend.
Space for the Other: Ecumenical Shared Ministries
Sandra Beardsall, Mitzi J. Budde, William P. McDonald
Ecumenical Shared Ministries (ESM’s) combine two or more traditions in a variety of contexts and for as many reasons. The space such congregations share suggests resources for an ESM ecclesiology. Ecumenical parishes live with their multiple traditions in a mutual “otherness” that invites reciprocity, mutual indwelling, and communion. Their shared space—“disruptive” of the norms of single-traditioned churches—marks a shared practice of both acknowledging and dying to boundaries across a history that becomes necessarily experimental. Finally, ESM’s witness to the church’s cruciform body of self-giving—in this case, of one tradition to the other—in a sharing of gifts and graces.
Sharing of life and faith is not a question of just occasionally joining hands in a joint project, entered into perhaps once a year. Rather, it is a question of renewed relationships and awareness of one another precisely as Christians. Congregational ecumenism means sharing our faith, our tradition, our prayer, our play, and our mission in the place where we live together. It involves listening, learning, acting, and communicating. The importance of local ecumenism is seen immediately when one reflects that it is groups of people more than sets of doctrinal propositions; it is communities of belief more than systems of belief, which ultimately need to be reconciled.
This essay considers the life work of Catholic Reformer Teresa of Ávila through the unusual lens of the vocational theology of two key Protestant Reformers. It aims to show that although Martin Luther’s and John Calvin’s shared opposition to Catholic monasticism was closely connected to their notion of calling, even certain post-Tridentine monastic traditions, such as that of the founder of the Spanish Discalced Carmelites, might be particularly well understood through Protestant-Reformer articulations. The project begins with an exploration of Luther’s and Calvin’s theology of vocation and general implications for sixteenth-century monasticism, continuing with monastic traditions that lent themselves well to the Christian practice of vocation, both in general and among Spanish female religious. From there, Teresa of Ávila’s specific vocational context is studied from within a Lutheran or Calvinist perspective. This seemingly antithetical vocabulary contributes a concluding suggestion that reevaluating seemingly paradoxical elements of early-modern-schism Christianity as potentially meaningful points of connection can contribute both to our historical understanding and to current ecumenical efforts between Catholics and Protestants.
The segregation between faith communities is better explained by exploring the socio-cultural frameworks with which people identify because of their value orientations than by reference to doctrinal disagreements. In most faith communities, not only do such values as charity or justice count, but also important are the sacredness and authority of traditions, people, and places, as well as ethnic recognizability and loyalty to the ingroup. These latter normative orientations explain why it is so difficult for faith communities to engage in ecumenical processes of unification. Given this, the essay explores two sociopsychologically viable ways in which ecumenical unity may be fostered.
Toward a Christian Peacemaking Approach to Jerusalem
Julie Schumacher Cohen
The future of Jerusalem for two peoples and three faiths remains a basis of conflict in the Holy Land. In the context of the Trump Administration’s 2018 move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, this essay lays out and critiques a key motivator—Christian Zionist theologies, including dispensationalism as a subset—while also critiquing non-Zionist replacement theologies. Rejecting these different projections of Christian-centric solutions as insufficiently universalistic or pluralistic, the essay also examines contrasting positions of a variety of other Christian bodies and leaders, including heads of Jerusalem churches. It concludes by offering a Christian peacemaking approach grounded in humility that neither sidelines Palestinian claims nor subsumes or severs Jewish ones but respects the core narratives of Jerusalem as a matter of justice.
Bahá’í Contributions to Interfaith Relations
The Bahá’í Faith “claims not to destroy or belittle previous Revelations, but to connect, unify, and fulfill them,” according to Shoghi Effendi (Bahá’í “Guardian,” 1921–57). Seena Fazel proposed “three bridges that can link the Bahá’í community to other religions in dialogue”: “ethical,” “intellectual,” and “mystical-spiritual.” The Universal House of Justice (elected international Bahá’í council) addressed its public “Letter to the World’s Religious Leaders” (April, 2002) to promote consensus “that God is one and that . . . religion is likewise one.” Shoghi Effendi’s declaration that the Bahá’í Faith “proclaims all established religions to be divine in origin, identical in their aims, complementary in their functions, continuous in their purpose, indispensable in their value to mankind” potentially can promote ideal interfaith relations through reciprocal recognition and respect.
EXPLORATIONS AND RESPONSES
The “Golden Rule”: The “Best Rule”
The “Golden Rule”—“Love your neighbor as yourself”—is doubtless the most widely known and affirmed ethical principle worldwide. At the same time, it has its serious, quasi-serious, and jocund critics. There are also variations of the Golden Rule, such as the so-called “Silver Rule” (the negative articulation: “You should not do to your neighbor what you do not want done to yourself”) and the extrapolated “Platinum Rule” version1 (“You should treat your neighbor as she or he wishes to be treated”). It is worthwhile to spend some energy on each of these “variations” and critics, but most of all I would like to reflect on the meaning, implications, and applications of the Golden Rule for the twenty-first century.
A Palestinian Theology of Liberation: The Bible, Justice, and the Palestine-Israel Conflict by Naim Stifan Ateek (review)
Lilian Calles Barger
The Life, Legacy, and Theology of M. M. Thomas: “Only Paraticipants Earn the Right to Be Prophets.” ed. by Jessica M. Athyal, George Zachariah, Monica Melancthon (review)
Gandhi in a Canadian Context: Relationships between Mahatma Gandhi and Canada ed. by Alex Damm (review)
Reid B. Locklin
Praise the Name of the Lord: Meditations on the Names of God in the Qur’an and the Bible by Michael Louis Fitzgerald, and: Dialogue of the Heart: Christian-Muslim Stories of Encounter by Martin McGee (review)
The Wittenberg Concord: Creating Space for Dialogue by Gordon A. Jensen (review)
Religion and Faith in Africa: Confessions of an Animist by Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orabotor (review)
Eric J. Montgomery