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Kabbalistic Musings on Time, Truth, and Death
This highly original, provocative, and poetic work explores the nexus of time, truth, and death in the symbolic world of medieval kabbalah. Demonstrating that the historical and theoretical relationship between kabbalah and western philosophy is far more intimate and extensive than any previous scholar has ever suggested, Elliot R. Wolfson draws an extraordinary range of thinkers such as Frederic Jameson, Martin Heidegger, Franz Rosenzweig, William Blake, Julia Kristeva, Friedrich Schelling, and a host of kabbalistic figures into deep conversation with one another. Alef, Mem, Tau also discusses Islamic mysticism and Buddhist thought in relation to the Jewish esoteric tradition as it opens the possibility of a temporal triumph of temporality and the conquering of time through time.
The framework for Wolfson’s examination is the rabbinic teaching that the word emet, "truth," comprises the first, middle, and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, alef, mem, and tau, which serve, in turn, as semiotic signposts for the three tenses of time—past, present, and future. By heeding the letters of emet we discern the truth of time manifestly concealed in the time of truth, the beginning that cannot begin if it is to be the beginning, the middle that re/marks the place of origin and destiny, and the end that is the figuration of the impossible disclosing the impossibility of figuration, the finitude of death that facilitates the possibility of rebirth. The time of death does not mark the death of time, but time immortal, the moment of truth that bestows on the truth of the moment an endless beginning of a beginningless end, the truth of death encountered incessantly in retracing steps of time yet to be taken—between, before, beyond.
Self as Other in Early Christianity
Early Christians spoke about themselves as resident aliens, strangers, and sojourners, asserting that otherness is a fundamental part of being Christian. But why did they do so and to what ends? How did Christians' claims to foreign status situate them with respect to each other and to the larger Roman world as the new movement grew and struggled to make sense of its own boundaries?
Aliens and Sojourners argues that the claim to alien status is not a transparent one. Instead, Benjamin Dunning contends, it shaped a rich, pervasive, variegated discourse of identity in early Christianity. Resident aliens and foreigners had long occupied a conflicted space of both repulsion and desire in ancient thinking. Dunning demonstrates how Christians and others in antiquity capitalized on this tension, refiguring the resident alien as being of a compelling doubleness, simultaneously marginal and potent. Early Christians, he argues, used this refiguration to render Christian identity legible, distinct, and even desirable among the vast range of social and religious identities and practices that proliferated in the ancient Mediterranean.
Through close readings of ancient Christian texts such as Hebrews, 1 Peter, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Epistle to Diognetus, Dunning examines the markedly different ways that Christians used the language of their own marginality, articulating a range of options for what it means to be Christian in relation to the Roman social order. His conclusions have implications not only for the study of late antiquity but also for understanding the rhetorics of religious alienation more broadly, both in the ancient world and today.
Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage
All Abrahams Children is Armand L. Mausss long-awaited magnum opus on the evolution of traditional Mormon beliefs and practices concerning minorities. He examines how members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have defined themselves and others in terms of racial lineages. _x000B_Mauss describes a complex process of the broadening of these self-defined lineages during the last part of the twentieth century as the modern Mormon church continued its world-wide expansion through massive missionary work._x000B_Mauss contends that Mormon constructions of racial identity have not necessarily affected actual behavior negatively and that in some cases Mormons have shown greater tolerance than other groups in the American mainstream. _x000B_Employing a broad intellectual historical analysis to identify shifts in LDS behavior over time, All Abrahams Children is an important commentary on current models of Mormon historiography._x000B__x000B_
Print Culture, Censorship, and Modernity in Twentieth-Century America
Until the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the stance of the Roman Catholic Church toward the social, cultural, economic, and political developments of the twentieth century was largely antagonistic. Naturally opposed to secularization, skeptical of capitalist markets indifferent to questions of justice, confused and appalled by new forms of high and low culture, and resistant to the social and economic freedom of women—in all of these ways the Catholic Church set itself up as a thoroughly anti-modern institution. Yet, in and through the period from World War I to Vatican II, the Church did engage with, react to, and even accommodate various aspects of modernity. In All Good Books Are Catholic Books, Una M. Cadegan shows how the Church’s official position on literary culture developed over this crucial period.
The Catholic Church in the United States maintained an Index of Prohibited Books and the National Legion of Decency (founded in 1933) lobbied Hollywood to edit or ban movies, pulp magazines, and comic books that were morally suspect. These regulations posed an obstacle for the self-understanding of Catholic American readers, writers, and scholars. But as Cadegan finds, Catholics developed a rationale by which they could both respect the laws of the Church as it sought to protect the integrity of doctrine and also engage the culture of artistic and commercial freedom in which they operated as Americans. Catholic literary figures including Flannery O’Connor and Thomas Merton are important to Cadegan’s argument, particularly as their careers and the reception of their work demonstrate shifts in the relationship between Catholicism and literary culture. Cadegan trains her attention on American critics, editors, and university professors and administrators who mediated the relationship among the Church, parishioners, and the culture at large.
How Music and Art Are Revitalizing American Religion
Robert Wuthnow shows how music and art are revitalizing churches and religious life across the nation in this first-ever consideration of the relationship between religion and the arts. All in Sync draws on more than four hundred in-depth interviews with church members, clergy, and directors of leading arts organizations and a new national survey to document a strong positive relationship between participation in the arts and interest in spiritual growth. Wuthnow argues that contemporary spirituality is increasingly encouraged by the arts because of its emphasis on transcendent experience and personal reflection. This kind of spirituality, contrary to what many observers have imagined, is compatible with active involvement in churches and serious devotion to Christian practices.
The absorbing narrative relates the story of a woman who overcame a severe personal crisis and went on to head a spiritual direction center where participants use the arts to gain clarity about their own spiritual journeys. Readers visit contemporary worship services in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston and listen to leaders and participants explain how music and art have contributed to the success of these services. All in Sync also illustrates how music and art are integral parts of some Episcopal, African American, and Orthodox worship services, and how people of faith are using their artistic talents to serve others.
Besides examining the role of the arts in personal spirituality and in congregational life, Wuthnow discusses how clergy and lay leaders are rethinking the role of the imagination, especially in connection with traditional theological virtues. He also shows how churches and arts organizations sometimes find themselves at odds over controversial moral questions and competing claims about spirituality. Accessible, relevant, and innovative, this book is essential for anyone searching for a better understanding of the dynamic relationships among religion, spirituality, and American culture.
Henry Codman Potter and the Social Gospel in the Episcopal Church
In addition to being the sixth bishop of the Diocese of New York, Henry Codman Potter (1835-1908) was a prominent voice in the Social Gospel movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This book, the first in-depth study of Potter's life and work, examines his career in the Episcopal church as well as the origins and legacy of his progressive social views. _x000B__x000B_As industrialization and urbanization spread in the nineteenth century, the Social Gospel movement sought to apply Christian teachings to effect improvements in the lives of the less fortunate. Potter was firmly in this tradition, concerning himself especially with issues of race, the place of women in society, questions of labor and capital, and what he called "political righteousness." Placing Potter against the wider backdrop of nineteenth-century American Protestantism, Bourgeois explores the experiences and influences that led him to espouse these socially conscious beliefs, to work for social reform, and to write such works as Sermons of the City (1881) and The Citizen in His Relation to the Industrial Situation (1902). _x000B__x000B_In telling Potter's remarkable story, All Things Human stands as a valuable contribution to intellectual and religious history as well as an exploration of the ways in which religion and society interact.
Religion and Ethics in the Living Wage Movement
The Andean Church and its Indigenous Agents, 1583-1671
Focusing on the highland parishes of the Lima archdiocese, John Charles explores the vital, often conflictive role indigenous agents played in the creation of Andean Christian society. Torn between their obligation to enforce colonial laws and their customary obligation to protect native communities from the colonizers’ abuses, indios ladinos used the Spanish language to complicate the Church’s efforts to evangelize on its own terms. Utilizing a vast body of literary activity, Allies at Odds provides perspective on the Spanish cultural values that shaped the literary activity of native Andeans and that native Andeans had a part in shaping.
Regional and Vernacular Variations on a Hindu Deity
Krishna—widely venerated and adored in the Hindu tradition—is a deity of many aspects. An ancient manifestation of the Supreme God Vishnu, or the Godhead itself, Krishna is the bringer of Yoga philosophy and the creator of the universe, the destroyer of evil tyrants, and the hero of the epic Mahaµbhaµrata. He is also described in classical Sanskrit texts as having human characteristics and enjoying very human pursuits: Krishna is the butter thief, cowherd, philanderer, and flute player. Yet even these playful depictions are based upon descriptions found in the Sanskrit canon, and mostly reflect familiar, classical Pan-Indian images. In this book, contributors examine the alternative, or unconventional, Krishnas, offering examples from more localized Krishna traditions found in different regions among various ethnic groups, vernacular language traditions, and remote branches of Indian religions. These wide-ranging, alternative visions of Krishna include the Tantric Krishna of Bengal, Krishna in urban women’s rituals, Krishna as monogamous husband and younger brother in Braj, Krishna in Jainism, Krishna in Maraµthiµ tradition, Krishna in South India, and the Krishna of nineteenth-century reformed Hinduism.
Six Big Questions about Evolution
Despite the ongoing cultural controversy in America, evolution remains a cornerstone of science. In this book, Francisco J. Ayala—an evolutionary biologist, member of the National Academy of Sciences, and winner of the National Medal of Science and the Templeton Prize—cuts to the chase in a daring attempt to address, in nontechnical language, six perennial questions about evolution: • Am I a Monkey? • Why Is Evolution a Theory? • What Is DNA? • Do All Scientists Accept Evolution? • How Did Life Begin? • Can One Believe in Evolution and God? This to-the-point book answers each of these questions with force. Ayala's occasionally biting essays refuse to lend credence to disingenuous ideas and arguments. He lays out the basic science that underlies evolutionary theory, explains how the process works, and soundly makes the case for why evolution is not a threat to religion. Brief, incisive, topical, authoritative, Am I a Monkey? will take you a day to read and a lifetime to ponder.