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Beyond the Culture Wars
This volume investigates some of the most visible issues in American politics today, including gay marriage and race, along with ongoing concerns that often fly below the radar of the mass media, such as healthcare and homelessness. The book uncovers explores the political motivations, effectiveness, and interplay of organized religious interests as they confront public problems in their local communities.
From Reform to Transformation
The House of David
With a new introduction by the author Many Americans associate the House of David with its bearded barnstorming baseball teams of the 1920s and ’30s. Others may recall the sex scandal associated with the group, a scandal that gave newspapers during the first years after World War I some added spice. Still, others may know it as a religious communal society founded in 1903, which has a few adherents today.What is this strange group and how can these diverse images be reconciled? In the first in-depth study of the House of David, originally published in 1981, Robert S. Fogarty places the sect in the Anglo-Israelite millennial tradition that goes back to seventeenthcentury England, which produced prophets like the mystic Joanna Southcott and from which arose sects in England, Australia, and the United States. Their reading of the Book of Revelation promised the saving of a “righteous remnant” of humanity who would gather in one place to await the millennium. Evangelist Benjamin Purnell became the seventh prophet in the line of this tradition and, with his bigamous wife, Mary, established a community for its followers in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
The House of David was a celibate communal society controlled by the Purnells, and it attracted members who exchanged their worldly goods for the security of salvation. At its height, the community had more than 700 members and prospered by running farms, a canning company, and an amusement park and hosting popular touring bands and the traveling baseball teams.
But there were defectors, and from them emerged rumors of oppressive conditions, sexual misconduct on the part of the prophet himself, hastily arranged group marriages, and financial wrongdoing that led to a series of civil suits. The allegations drove Purnell into hiding, and the State of Michigan launched an elaborate trial against the colony.
The Righteous Remnant is more than the story of the rise and fall of a religious community. By examining its religious roots, the staunch testimony of its members in the face of demonstrated charges, and the social relations within the colony itself, we can begin to understand the attraction that such “social contracts” can exert. The House of David is now a remnant itself, but other religious groups continue to grow and bind members to them in the same ways.
Politics, Ideology, and Tradition
One of Bosnia’s leading intellectuals explains the Bosnian experience by critiquing the politics and ideology that brought about the great destruction—both material and spiritual—of Bosnia and Herzegovina. These incisive and theologically profound essays address the confrontation between the West and Islam as the author explores the realm of humanity’s long-standing search for the roots of evil in the dual nature of mankind to gain insight into ways of achieving peace. By drawing on the Bosnian situation, the author explores questions of identity and otherness, knowledge and transcendence, authority and authoritarianism, and tradition and fundamentalism, and he argues for a reconciliation between modernity and tradition for the benefit of modern coexistence, not just in his native land but throughout the world.
Faith-Based Services and the Future of Civil Society
On January 29, 2001, President George W. Bush signed an executive order creating the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. This action marked a key step toward institutionalizing an idea that emerged in the mid-1990s under the Clinton administration--the transfer of some social programs from government control to religious organizations. However, despite an increasingly vocal, ideologically charged national debate--a debate centered on such questions as: What are these organizations doing? How well are they doing it? Should they be supported with tax dollars?--solid answers have been few.
In Saving America? Robert Wuthnow provides a wealth of up-to-date information whose absence, until now, has hindered the pursuit of answers. Assembling and analyzing new evidence from research he and others have conducted, he reveals what social support faith-based agencies are capable of providing. Among the many questions he addresses: Are congregations effective vehicles for providing broad-based social programs, or are they best at supporting their own members? How many local congregations have formal programs to assist needy families? How much money do such programs represent? How many specialized faith-based service agencies are there, and which are most effective? Are religious organizations promoting trust, love, and compassion?
The answers that emerge demonstrate that American religion is helping needy families and that it is, more broadly, fostering civil society. Yet religion alone cannot save America from the broad problems it faces in providing social services to those who need them most.
Elegantly written, Saving America? represents an authoritative and evenhanded benchmark of information for the current--and the coming--debate.
Arguing that there are ways to move beyond the limitations of methodological atheism without compromising scientific objectivity, the essays gathered in The Science and Theology of Godly Love explore the potential for collaboration between social science and theology. They do so within the context of the interdisciplinary study of Godly Love, which examines the perceived experience of loving God, being loved by God, and thereby being motivated to engage in selfless service to others. This volume serves as an introduction to and a call for further research in this new field of study, offering ten methodological perspectives on the study of Godly Love written by leading social scientists and theologians. Drawing on the work of Douglas Porpora and others, the contributors contend that agnosticism is the appropriate methodological stance when religious experience is under the microscope. Godly Love does not force a theistic explanation on data, instead these essays show that it sensitizes researchers so that they can take seriously the faith and beliefs of those they study without the assumption that these theologies represent an incontestable truth.
Evangelical Congregations and Urban Departure
South Korean Popular Religion in Motion
Thirty years ago, anthropologist Laurel Kendall did intensive fieldwork among South Korea’s (mostly female) shamans and their clients as a reflection of village women’s lives. In the intervening decades, South Korea experienced an unprecedented economic, social, political, and material transformation and Korean villages all but disappeared. And the shamans? Kendall attests that they not only persist but are very much a part of South Korean modernity. This enlightening and entertaining study of contemporary Korean shamanism makes the case for the dynamism of popular religious practice, the creativity of those we call shamans, and the necessity of writing about them in the present tense. Shamans thrive in South Korea’s high-rise cities, working with clients who are largely middle class and technologically sophisticated. Emphasizing the shaman’s work as open and mutable, Kendall describes how gods and ancestors articulate the changing concerns of clients and how the ritual fame of these transactions has itself been transformed by urban sprawl, private cars, and zealous Christian proselytizing. For most of the last century Korean shamans were reviled as practitioners of antimodern superstition; today they are nostalgically celebrated icons of a vanished rural world. Such superstition and tradition occupy flip sides of modernity’s coin—the one by confuting, the other by obscuring, the beating heart of shamanic practice. Kendall offers a lively account of shamans, who once ministered to the domestic crises of farmers, as they address the anxieties of entrepreneurs whose dreams of wealth are matched by their omnipresent fears of ruin. Money and access to foreign goods provoke moral dilemmas about getting and spending; shamanic rituals express these through the longings of the dead and the playful antics of greedy gods, some of whom have acquired a taste for imported whiskey. No other book-length study captures the tension between contemporary South Korean life and the contemporary South Korean shamans’ work. Kendall’s familiarity with the country and long association with her subjects permit nuanced comparisons between a 1970s "then" and recent encounters—some with the same shamans and clients—as South Korea moved through the 1990s, endured the Asian Financial Crisis, and entered the new millennium. She approaches her subject through multiple anthropological lenses such that readers interested in religion, ritual performance, healing, gender, landscape, material culture, modernity, and consumption will find much of interest here.
Socially Engaged Buddhism is an introduction to the contemporary movement of Buddhists, East and West, who actively engage with the problems of the world—social, political, economic, and environmental—on the basis of Buddhist ideas, values, and spirituality. Sallie B. King, one of North America’s foremost experts on the subject, identifies in accessible language the philosophical and ethical thinking behind the movement and examines how key principles such as karma, the Four Noble Truths, interdependence, nonharmfulness, and nonjudgmentalism relate to social engagement. Many people believe that Buddhists focus exclusively on spiritual attainment. Professor King examines why Engaged Buddhists involve themselves with the problems of the world and how they reconcile this involvement with the Buddhist teaching of nonattachment from worldly things. Engaged Buddhists, she answers, point out that because the root of human suffering is in the mind, not the world, the pursuit of enlightenment does not require a turning away from the world. Working to reduce suffering in humans, living things, and the planet is integral to spiritual practice and leads to selflessness and compassion. Socially Engaged Buddhism is a sustained reflection on social action as a form of spirituality expressed in acts of compassion, grassroots empowerment, nonjudgmentalism, and nonviolence. It offers an inspiring example of how one might work for solutions to the troubles that threaten the peace and well being of our planet and its people.
What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment
“Silver” Winner of the 2008 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award, Religion Category
Before he began his recent travels, it seemed to Phil Zuckerman as if humans all over the globe were “getting religion”—praising deities, performing holy rites, and soberly defending the world from sin. But most residents of Denmark and Sweden, he found, don't worship any god at all, don't pray, and don't give much credence to religious dogma of any kind. Instead of being bastions of sin and corruption, however, as the Christian Right has suggested a godless society would be, these countries are filled with residents who score at the very top of the "happiness index" and enjoy their healthy societies, which boast some of the lowest rates of violent crime in the world (along with some of the lowest levels of corruption), excellent educational systems, strong economies, well-supported arts, free health care, egalitarian social policies, outstanding bike paths, and great beer.
Zuckerman formally interviewed nearly 150 Danes and Swedes of all ages and educational backgrounds over the course of fourteen months. He was particularly interested in the worldviews of people who live their lives without religious orientation. How do they think about and cope with death? Are they worried about an afterlife? What he found is that nearly all of his interviewees live their lives without much fear of the Grim Reaper or worries about the hereafter. This led him to wonder how and why it is that certain societies are non-religious in a world that seems to be marked by increasing religiosity. Drawing on prominent sociological theories and his own extensive research, Zuckerman ventures some interesting answers.
This fascinating approach directly counters the claims of outspoken, conservative American Christians who argue that a society without God would be hell on earth. It is crucial, Zuckerman believes, for Americans to know that “society without God is not only possible, but it can be quite civil and pleasant.”