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City of Gods

Religious Freedom, Immigration, and Pluralism in Flushing, Queens

R. Scott Hanson

Known locally as the birthplace of American religious freedom, Flushing, Queens, in New York City is now so diverse and densely populated that it has become a microcosm of world religions. City of Gods explores the history of Flushing from the colonial period to the aftermath of September 11, 2001, spanning the origins of Vlissingen and early struggles between Quakers, Dutch authorities, Anglicans, African Americans, Catholics, and Jews to the consolidation of New York City in 1898, two World's Fairs and postwar commemorations of Flushing's heritage, and, finally, the Immigration Act of 1965 and the arrival of Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, and Asian and Latino Christians. A synthesis of archival sources, oral history, and ethnography, City of Gods is a thought-provoking study of religious pluralism. Using Flushing as the backdrop to examine America's contemporary religious diversity and what it means for the future of the United States, R. Scott Hanson explores both the possibilities and limits of pluralism. Hanson argues that the absence of widespread religious violence in a neighborhood with such densely concentrated religious diversity suggests that there is no limit to how much pluralism a pluralist society can stand. Seeking to gauge interaction and different responses to religious and ethnic diversity, the book is set against two interrelated questions: how and where have the different religious and ethnic groups in Flushing associated with others across boundaries over time; and when has conflict or cooperation arisen? By exploring pluralism from a historical and ethnographic context, City of Gods takes a micro approach to help bring an understanding of pluralism from a sometimes abstract realm into the real world of everyday lives in which people and groups are dynamic and integrating agents in a complex and constantly changing world of local, national, and transnational dimensions. Perhaps the most extreme example of religious and ethnic pluralism in the world, Flushing is an ideal place to explore how America's long experiment with religious freedom and religious pluralism began and continues. City of Gods reaches far beyond Flushing to all communities coming to terms with immigration, religion, and ethnic relations, raising the question as to whether Flushing will come together in new and lasting ways to build bridges of dialogue or will it further fragment into a Tower of Babel.

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Claiming Society for God

Religious Movements and Social Welfare

Nancy J. Davis and Robert V. Robinson

Claiming Society for God focuses on common strategies employed by religiously orthodox, fundamentalist movements around the world. Rather than employing terrorism, as much of post-9/11 thinking suggests, these movements use a patient, under-the-radar strategy of infiltrating and subtly transforming civil society. Nancy J. Davis and Robert V. Robinson tell the story of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Shas in Israel, Comunione e Liberazione in Italy, and the Salvation Army in the United States. They show how these movements build massive grassroots networks of religiously based social service agencies, hospitals, schools, and businesses to bring their own brand of faith to popular and political fronts.

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Coming of Age in Jewish America

Bar and Bat Mitzvah Reinterpreted

Patricia Keer Munro

The Jewish practice of bar mitzvah dates back to the twelfth century, but this ancient cultural ritual has changed radically since then, evolving with the times and adapting to local conditions. For many Jewish-American families, a child’s bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah is both a major social event and a symbolic means of asserting the family’s ongoing connection to the core values of Judaism. Coming of Age in Jewish America takes an inside look at bar and bat mitzvahs in the twenty-first century, examining how the practices have continued to morph and exploring how they serve as a sometimes shaky bridge between the values of contemporary American culture and Judaic tradition.
Interviewing over 200 individuals involved in bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies, from family members to religious educators to rabbis, Patricia Keer Munro presents a candid portrait of the conflicts that often emerge and the negotiations that ensue. In the course of her study, she charts how this ritual is rife with contradictions; it is a private family event and a public community activity, and for the child, it is both an educational process and a high-stakes performance.
Through detailed observations of Conservative, Orthodox, Reform, and independent congregations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Munro draws intriguing, broad-reaching conclusions about both the current state and likely future of American Judaism.  In the process, she shows not only how American Jews have forged a unique set of bar and bat mitzvah practices, but also how these rituals continue to shape a distinctive Jewish-American identity.  

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Comparative Perspectives on Judaisms and Jewish Identities

Stephen Sharot

In Comparative Perspectives on Judaisms and Jewish Identities author Stephen Sharot uses his work published in journals and collected volumes over the past thirty-five years to examine a range of Jewish communities across both time and geography. Sharot’s sociological analyses consider religious developments and identities in diverse Jewish communities from Imperial China and Renaissance Italy to contemporary Israel and the United States. As Sharot examines these groups, other religions enter into the discussion as well, not only as major elements in the environments of Jewish communities but also with respect to certain religious phenomena that too have been present in Judaism. The book is divided into four parts: the first compares religious developments in pre-modern and early modern Jewish communities; the second focuses on Jewish religious movements, especially messianic-millennial and antinomian, in the pre-modern and early modern period; the third examines Jewish religious and ethnic identities in the modern period; and the fourth relates developments in Judaism in the modern period to theoretical debates on secularization, fundamentalism, and public religion in the sociology of religion. The afterword sums up the findings of the previous sections and compares the boundaries and boundary shifts among Jewish communities. As the plural “Judaisms” in the title indicates, Sharot discusses extensive differences in the religious characteristics between Jewish communities. Scholars of religion and sociology will appreciate this informative and fascinating volume.

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Confession and Bookkeeping

The Religious, Moral, and Rhetorical Roots of Modern Accounting

Double-entry bookkeeping (DEB), modern capitalism’s first and foremost calculative technology, was “invented” during the Middle Ages when profit making was morally stigmatized. James Aho examines the problematic of moneymaking and offers an explanatory understanding of the paradoxical coupling of profit seeking and morality by situating DEB in the religious circumstances from which it emerged, specifically the newly instituted sacrament of penance, that is, confession. Confession impacted the consciences of medieval businessmen both through its sacramental form and through its moral teachings. The form of confession produced widespread habits of moral scrupulosity (leading to compulsive record keeping); the content of confession taught that commerce itself was morally suspect. Scrupulous businessmen were thus driven to justify their affairs to church, commune, and themselves. With the aid of DEB, moneymaking was “Christianized” and Christianity was made more amenable to the pursuit of wealth. Although DEB is typically viewed exclusively as a scientifically neutral account of the flow of money through a firm, it remains as it was originally devised, a rhetorical argument.

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Contemporary Developments in Indonesian Islam

Explaining the "Conservative Turn"

edited by Martin van Bruinessen

"Once celebrated in the Western media as a shining example of a 'liberal' and 'tolerant' Islam, Indonesia since the end of the Soeharto regime (May 1998) has witnessed a variety of developments that bespeak a conservative turn in the country’s Muslim politics. In this timely collection of original essays, Martin van Bruinessen, our most distinguished senior Western scholar of Indonesian Islam, and four leading Indonesian Muslim scholars explore and explain these developments. Each chapter examines recent trends from a strategic institutional perch: the Council of Indonesian Muslim scholars, the reformist Muhammadiyah, South Sulawesi's Committee for the Implementation of Islamic Shari'a, and radical Islamism in Solo. With van Bruinessen's brilliantly synthetic introduction and conclusion, these essays shed a bright light on what Indonesian Muslim politics was and where it seems to be going. The analysis is complex and by no means uniformly dire. For readers interested in Indonesian Muslim politics, and for analysts interested in the dialectical interplay of progressive and conservative Islam, this book is fascinating and essential reading."—Robert Hefner, Director, Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs, Boston University

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Creation-Evolution Debate

Historical Perspectives

Edward J. Larson

Few issues besides evolution have so strained Americans' professed tradition of tolerance. Few historians besides Pulitzer Prize winner Edward J. Larson have so perceptively chronicled evolution's divisive presence on the American scene. This slim volume reviews the key aspects, current and historical, of the creation-evolution debate in the United States.

Larson discusses such topics as the transatlantic response to Darwinism, the American controversy over teaching evolution in public schools, and the religious views of American scientists. He recalls the theological qualms about evolution held by some leading scientists of Darwin's time. He looks at the 2006 Dover, Pennsylvania, court decision on teaching Intelligent Design and other cases leading back to the landmark 1925 Scopes trial. Drawing on surveys that Larson conducted, he discusses attitudes of American scientists toward the existence of God and the afterlife.

By looking at the changing motivations and backgrounds of the stakeholders in the creation-evolution debate—clergy, scientists, lawmakers, educators, and others—Larson promotes a more nuanced view of the question than most of us have. This is no incidental benefit for Larson's readers; it is one of the book's driving purposes. If we cede the debate to those who would frame it simplistically rather than embrace its complexity, warns Larson, we will not advance beyond the naive regard of organized religion as the enemy of intellectual freedom or the equally myopic myth of the scientist as courageous loner willing to die for the truth.

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The Crescent Arises over the Banyan Tree

A Study of the Muhammadiyah Movement in a Central Javanese Town, c.1910s-2010 (Second Enlarged Edition)

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Culture and Control in Counter-Reformation Spain

Anne Cruz

Contemporary cultural historians have located the Counter-Reformation as the most significant point in the material, intellectual, and spiritual development of Spain. Robust and full of productive contradictions, Spanish culture took a critical turn in 1492 when Ferdinand II, in his quest for purity and orthodoxy, expelled the Jews and Arabs from Spain. Culture and Control in Counter-Reformation Spain examines the various modes of repression and social control exerted by Spanish institutions during the Counter-Reformation as they attempted to coerce marginalized groups (women and religious minorities - the moriscos and conversos) into political and cultural integration. This penetrating exploration demonstrates how the Catholic Church - mainly through the disciplinary technology of the Inquisition - assumed and exerted its authority as the “official” guardian of cultural and literary production. Culture and Control in Counter-Reformation Spain details the ways in which marginalized groups, through the communal linkage of their diverse social practices, were nonetheless able to resist repression and preserve cultural heterogeneity within the dominant society.

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The Cursillo Movement in America

Catholics, Protestants, and Fourth-Day Spirituality

Kristy Nabhan-Warren

The internationally growing Cursillo movement, or "short course in Christianity," founded in 1944 by Spanish Catholic lay practitioners, has become popular among American Catholics and Protestants alike. This lay-led weekend experience helps participants recommit to and live their faith. Emphasizing how American Christians have privileged the individual religious experience and downplayed denominational and theological differences in favor of a common identity as renewed people of faith, Kristy Nabhan-Warren focuses on cursillistas--those who have completed a Cursillo weekend--to show how their experiences are a touchstone for understanding these trends in post-1960s American Christianity.

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