101-120 of 651 Results

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Contemporary Pagan, Wiccan, and Native Faith Movements  

Chas S. Clifton

Paganism is based largely in an Enlightenment-era rejection of Christianity and Romantic-era ideas of the individual experience, emotion, and creativity, combined with a search for true ethnic culture in the lore and practices of the pre-Christian past and a rejection of universal transcendental religion, in favor of the local, the particular, the polytheistic, and the animist. Particularly in the United States, Pagans have challenged governmental accommodations for existing religions by demanding equal status in public spaces. Contemporary Pagan groups began forming in the 1930s, but the largest, Wicca, emerged in the United Kingdom in the early 1950s.

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Contemporary Visual Art and Religion  

Dominic Colonna

Contemporary visual art that uses themes and symbols of particular religious traditions has the potential to alienate both those who are adherents of those traditions and those who are non-adherents. Such art is often characterized as sentimental, superstitious, naïve, exclusivist, or triumphalist by modern standards of judgment. At the same time, efforts to avoid exclusivism or triumphalism in contemporary visual art can render the meanings of works so vague that it is hard to identify a work with any particular religion. For these reasons and more, the art world tends to disparage the benign use of religious themes and symbols in art and tends to accept works that are transgressive—that is, art that transgresses the boundaries of religious decorum. Material and visual culture studies provide ways for the art world to find value in and analyze the use of religious themes and symbols in contemporary visual art. These approaches have widened the scope of works that might be identified as contemporary visual art: popular, mass-produced, and folk art are all within the purview of analyses of contemporary visual art. These studies examine how religious themes and symbols function in religious communities and in the wider communities of which they are a part. Even when studying the function of visual and material culture within a particular religious tradition, these studies tend to identify common or essential themes in different religions. The contemporary preference for being “spiritual but not religious” emerges in the identification of common religious themes and symbols. Contemporary theological approaches to the study and appreciation of contemporary visual art are “insider” methods that religious adherents use to assess critically the value of the use of religious themes and symbols in modern culture. These insider methods identify orthodox uses of religious themes and symbols in contemporary visual art, not only to identify negatively that which is unorthodox or heterodox, but also to identify works of art that celebrate religious beliefs, make traditional beliefs relevant, and help to shape new ways of engaging the wider community. Theological methods often incorporate the work of material and visual studies scholars. Like these scholars, theologians seek to affirm the value of unique religious beliefs in an increasingly pluralistic world.

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Contextualizing the Proud Boys: Violence, Misogyny, and Religious Nationalism  

Margo Kitts

One of the most strident voices in the US alt-right scene in the early 21st century belongs to the Proud Boys. Although born only in 2016, the group shares sentiments with older accelerationist groups who seek to return the United States to what they see as its pristine origins. “Alt-right,” “alt-lite,” and “white” are disputed terms among the group’s various chapters, but xenophobia and misogyny are two pervasive themes. Similarly to other voices on the alt-right, the Proud Boys vary in the degree to which they will accommodate racialist Christianity and/or a romanticized Nordic spiritualism. However, to the extent that religion can be made to serve the establishment of a white ethnostate, even the most atheistic among them have come to see religious tolerance as a pragmatic necessity. What is most religious about them, however, can be understood as resembling European metapolitics, which exploits atavistic dreams, mythic symbols, and eschatological values to foster a cultural awakening to nativist dreams. The Proud Boys version of this nativist dream is their aspiration to return to a purported Judeo-Christian ethical foundation for Western civilization, together with a Greco-Roman model of the Republic.

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Cosmic War  

Mark Juergensmeyer

A “cosmic war” is an imagined battle between metaphysical forces—good and evil, right and wrong, order and chaos—that lies behind many cases of religion-related violence in the contemporary world. These transcendent spiritual images have been implanted onto the social and political scene, magnifying ordinary worldly conflict into sacred encounter. There is nothing specific to Christianity, Islam, or any other religion about this idea of cosmic war. Every religious tradition contains images of grand battles that have a divine valence to them. Hence every religion has some kind of mythic or legendary scenario of warfare that can be transported into contemporary conflict and elevate a social or political confrontation into cosmic war.

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The Cosmological Vision of Martin Luther  

Mickey L. Mattox

Martin Luther was not an original contributor to the study of cosmology, and if one were to judge only by his explicit remarks on the matter, it would seem to have been of little interest to him. He was, however, every bit a man of his times, and as such he assumed what educated people of his times assumed, including in the matter of the nature and structure of reality. The world in which he came of age was informed by a compelling vision of the universe as a whole. Astronomical observation and mathematical calculation in the traditions of Aristotle and Ptolemy had long since combined with philosophical and religious speculation to render Luther’s world a coherent “cosmos” (Gk. kosmos, “order” or “world”), at the center of which reposed a stationary sphere, the earth. This world was surrounded at ever-increasing heights by the heavenly spheres, each of them thought to be wheeling in at tremendous rates of speed that increased as one moved up through their heights: first the moon, then the planets, the stars, and ultimately the prime mover. This long-traditional view of the cosmos rendered reality itself an arena of intense motion and beauty. Taken in a broad scientific and aesthetic sense, cosmology provided not only an interpretation of the heavens but also an imaginative lens through which to experience and understand one’s self and one’s world. Though he quibbled over some of the details, Luther clearly viewed himself and his world through that very lens. During his university studies in Erfurt for the bachelor and master of arts degrees, he read cosmology as a subject covered in the integrated approach to learning set forth in a curriculum based on the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic) and quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music). In combination with other later medieval notions—such as the understanding of the human body and its four humors or the sublunar sphere and its four constituent elements (earth, water, air, fire)—cosmology became for Luther what it was for all his educated peers, that is, a world view. Thus, while Luther was not a cosmologist per se, the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic cosmos provided a set of background beliefs that informed his theology and world view at every level. He also developed a distinctive understanding of the reality and exercise of power and authority, both on the earth and in the heavens.

Article

Council on American-Islamic Relations  

Vincent F. Biondo III

The Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) is the premier civil rights organization for Muslims in the United States. Founded in Washington, DC, in 1994 with an emphasis on public relations and media communications, over two decades it has expanded to about two hundred employees at thirty-two offices in major US cities in nineteen states, according to its official website. The organization emphasizes that it is structured so that these offices operate independently. In addition to tracking hate crimes, these offices provide or arrange for legal services in areas such as civil rights, immigration, and homeland security. The story of the organization’s growth and success reveals key issues for American Muslim involvement in politics, including those surrounding the First Amendment and the intersection of religion and race. In 2016, the National Board named its first female Chair, Roula Allouch, a lawyer from Cincinnati, who in the University of Kentucky’s Law School alumni magazine was described as “the only Muslim in her class,” and a person who “knows how to put people at ease . . . to break down misconceptions [and] seek peace.” The CAIR Board has become more diverse and representative since its founding and has ventured into defending non-Muslims from civil rights violations. Today CAIR describes its mission on its national website and in many state office annual reports as follows: “To enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.” While it is primarily a civil rights organization, since its founding the organization’s leaders have found it necessary to counter misinformation by introducing educational information about Islam. Key civil rights efforts it has engaged in include support for thousands of immigration and religious discrimination cases every year, documenting hate crimes in annual reports, and challenging anti-shari’ah legislation. CAIR further leads educational efforts by coordinating diversity training sessions, a public library project, and media appearances.

Article

Creation and Contingency  

Dirk Evers

Contingency is a term that occurs in philosophical discourse as well as in theology in a number of contexts and with a number of meanings. In its modern sense the English term contingency refers to events, processes, or properties that may occur, but are not certain to occur; or that have, but might not have, occurred, because they depend on factors beyond our knowledge or which themselves are contingent. Generally speaking, it refers to events, objects, and properties that could be otherwise, that do not have to be as they are, and that do not have to be at all, and for whose existence we cannot give a sufficient cause. Thus contingency covers a whole range of meanings, including “not necessary,” “by chance,” “random,” and “unpredictable.” In the discourse on science, the debate pivots on questions of determinism vs. indeterminism in physics (especially in quantum physics and in systems theory), on the contingent character of the cosmos and its fundamental physical laws, and on the question of whether the development of evolution and the actual forms of life that result from it are merely coincidental in biology. Some have referred to the first form of contingency as nomological and to the second as local contingency (Robert J. Russell, “Contingency in Physics and Cosmology: A Critique of the Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg,” Zygon 23.1 [1988]). The alternative is between physical determinism (all events necessarily follow from prior initial conditions, so that contingency only refers to a lack of knowledge) and indeterminism (some events are not determined by prior conditions, hence contingency is an ontological fact). In religion and theology, contingency often marks the fundamental difference between the Creator and creation. It is used in ontological and cosmological proofs of the existence of God in the sense that all created beings cannot account for their own existence, but—in their contingency—point to a Creator, who is not contingent, but the necessary ground of his or her own being. However, it is disputed whether such a conclusion is valid or itself contingent. Another divide is between those who argue for total divine predestination (God determines everything that happens; again contingency is only a human category regarding insufficient knowledge and insight) and those who argue that God leaves some things to chance or to being determined autonomously by created entities. A consequence of the latter view seems to be that God cannot have sufficient fore-knowledge with regard to the process of creation so that God’s omniscience and omnipotence seem in danger. On the other hand, the option of total predestination faces the problem that in its view the Creator seems to be responsible for everything, including all evil.

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Creole and Indigenous Muslims in Venezuela  

Philipp Bruckmayr

The number of Creole and Indigenous Muslims in Venezuela has been steadily growing in the 21st century, and the number of converts is by now undoubtedly in the thousands. Until the 2000s, this process of conversion concerned almost exclusively Creoles (i.e., the white and mestizo Venezuelan majority population) in urban settings with a strong presence of Arab(-descended) Muslims. Islam in Venezuela had long been strongly associated with Arab ethnicity, and its representatives had shown comparably little interest in proselytization among the local population. This changed in the early 1990s, however, with the greater influx of funds from transnational Islamic organizations. Nevertheless, the process only gained traction once also individual Creole converts themselves became active in proselytization. Among Venezuela’s Indigenous peoples, Islam only began to have a limited appeal in the 2000s. The most prominent case in this regard, are the Wayúu people of the Guajira peninsula, which is shared by Colombia and Venezuela. Due to political factors, however, the conversion process among Wayúu has been greatly exaggerated by observers. Despite pervasive reports of mass conversions, the pattern among Wayúu falls in squarely with that among Creoles, in being one of individual and not mass conversions to Islam. This said, the available evidence suggests that Creole and Indigenous Muslims in Venezuela have so far remained primarily urban phenomena. Nevertheless, the Wayúu represent a remarkable case of how Islam has been preached and adopted among Indigenous peoples in Latin America in the 21st century.

Article

Culture, Entertainment, and Religion in America  

Randall J. Stephens

Throughout American history, religion and entertainment have influenced each other and have intersected in fascinating ways. Native American rituals and games entertained and inspired. Early white settlers like the Puritans, though defining their faith over and against profane pastimes, engaged in sport, play, and elaborate storytelling. Still, stark contrasts appeared in the 17th and 18th centuries when it came to how Catholics and Protestants in the New World thought of the theater, music, and performance. The evangelical surge in the 18th century brought with it a lively and riveting preaching style—represented by celebrity ministers like George Whitfield and Gilbert Tennent—that faced the ire of their more traditional foes for using “vulgar” methods to reach the masses. In the 19th century, African Americans, in slavery and freedom, expressed their faith in ways that combined religious systems, dancing, and music traditions from Africa and the Americas. Evangelical churches and prominent figures used entertainment to proselytize, illustrate the drama of salvation and damnation, and to enliven services. Temperance, anti-slavery, and other reformist groups employed music, novels, and theater to spread their earnest message. Pentecostals and other evangelicals took up new forms in the 20th century. They eagerly made use of radio, film, and later, television. The well-known evangelist Billy Graham was a skillful pioneer of new media. In the 20th century, Hollywood films drew on Jewish and Catholic themes, as Jewish and Catholic writers, directors, and actors put their stamp on the silver screen. Late 20th and early 21st century combinations of religion and entertainment included Muslim rap music, Christian rock, Jewish folk music, and much more. A great deal of this innovation coincided with the rise of the performance-driven megachurch and the proliferation of religious organizations that catered to athletes and drew on sports imagery and symbols for the cause. In the long sweep of American history, the devout have found new, elaborate ways to draw on popular culture and to entertain as well as enlighten the faithful.

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Cybernetics and Religion  

Noreen Herzfeld

Cybernetics is the study of systems of control and communication. While often used to refer to control systems in or by machines, such as computers, cybernetic theory can be applied to control and communication within a variety of areas, including human interaction and systems of production, distribution, or design, systems that may be comprised of humans, machines, or a combination of humans and machines. A cybernetic view of any system focuses on information and the flow of information, for that is what effects both control and communication. While cybernetics is a concept that can be used to describe any system through which information flows, today most human generated information flows through computers or computer controlled networks; thus in the popular mind, cybernetics is frequently used as a referent to anything pertaining to computer design, use, and human-computer interaction. A cybernetic view of the human person finds each person’s identity in the information comprising our memories, feelings, emotions, and thoughts. Human beings are considered in this view to be biological machines, each of whose unique identity is found in the patterns stored in the neuronal structures of the brain. In such an anthropology, there is no soul. Each of us is merely a vast and ever-changing collection of information. However, there is the possibility of a form of immortality effected by uploading the human brain to a computer. Cybernetics is, historically, closely associated with the field of artificial intelligence. Though experiencing initial successes in fields such as game playing or mathematics, producing a full, human-like intelligence has so far been limited by the difficult problems of giving a robot a body similar to ours, in order to experience the world as we do, and the necessity of emotion for true cognition and autonomous decision making. We have come closer to realizing the dreams of cybernetics by using the computer to mediate human-to-human relationships, especially through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. This has implications for religion, in that the widespread dissemination of a variety of religious materials and discussions has led to increased contact with other religions, increased conversions, and an increase in fundamentalism. Cybernetic theories can also be used to describe the origin of religion and the development of ethical systems. In general, a cybernetic view of the development of religion focuses on religion as an adaptive mechanism for the survival of groups as they evolve and change in an atmosphere of physical and social competition.

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Cyberspace and Religion in America  

Douglas E. Cowan

Invented in 1989 and popularly accessible since the mid-1990s, the World Wide Web has always hosted a wide variety of religious content, ranging from early text-based discussion forums to live-stream video, and from rudimentary online communities to cross-platform social media activism. Known colloquially as “religion in cyberspace,” these computer-mediated, faith-based environments raise important questions in terms of how religious discourse is enacted and religious ritual performed. More than that, they challenge whether the notion of physical place will remain paramount in religious life, or if it can be displaced as believers and adherents shift aspects of their activity to electronically mediated communication space. Although initial enthusiasm for the Internet and its presumed potential led some scholars to predict large-scale uploading of religious life, there are a number of reasons to conclude that offline religious practice will continue to be important in the lives of believers despite any online activity they may pursue. That said, there are also significant ways in which online religious activity has encouraged adherents to reimagine the nature of sacred space, to envision new ways of understanding religious practice, and to enact new forms of religious community.

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Dance, Religion, and the Legacy of European Colonialism  

Kimerer LaMothe

In the waning days of the Renaissance, the race among Western Europeans to control, convert, and displace Indigenous peoples around the globe precipitated a collision of cultures, unprecedented in scope, between Christians who largely denied dance a constitutive role in religious life and Indigenous traditions from Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas for whom dancing and religion were inseparable. In the economic, political, and cultural conflicts that ensued, the practice of dancing as religion emerged as a contested site—both a nearly universal target of Christian imperial and colonial oppression, and an equally frequent agent of Indigenous resistance, resilience, and creative response. Focusing on the United States, this article documents how European colonization of Native American people, and European and American enslavement of Africans precipitated cultural shifts in how each of these cultures conceived and practiced “dancing” in relation to “religion.” Among European and Euro-American colonizers, these collisions fueled some of the most virulent expressions of hostility toward dancing in Christian history—as an activity punishable by death—especially when that dancing appeared in the form of Native American or African American religion. Nevertheless, Native American and African American dancing also inspired Euro-American artists to create techniques and aesthetics of dance that they claimed functioned as religion. Such cases of religious art-dance in turn not only catalyzed the use of dancing in Christian worship, they spurred Western philosophers, scholars of religion, and Christian theologians to reconsider the importance of dancing for the study and practice of religion, Christianity included. Meanwhile, Native and African peoples, as they navigated the challenges of ongoing racism and oppression, created new forms of their own dance traditions. Some of these forms emerged in explicit dialogue with Christian forms and even in Christian contexts; and others have appeared on secular concert stages, representing ongoing efforts to preserve and perpetuate Native and African identity, spirituality, creativity, and agency. These projects are dismantling the conceptual typologies that Euro-Americans have used to devalue Native and Indigenous dancing, including the assumption that religion and dance are separable dimensions of human life.

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Daoist Mysticism  

Judson B. Murray

Daoist mysticism is a subfield in academic areas of study including comparative mysticism, Chinese religions, and Daoist studies. Methodologies employed in it often adopt and adapt different definitions, categories, and theories formulated in contemporary Western scholarship on the subject of “mysticism” for the purpose of analyzing Daoist thinkers, texts, practices, and traditions throughout the religion’s history. Important topics examined in scholarly works on Daoist mysticism include, first, Daoist views of the human self, both as it exists in its problematic state of degeneracy—physically, intellectually, emotionally, and morally—and in the natural and optimal condition it can and should embody. A point of emphasis regarding the latter condition is the self’s experience or consciousness of, conformity to, and unity with that which is of ultimate significance for Daoists: the “Way” (Dao/Tao). Daoist mystics, by understanding themselves to be microcosmic embodiments of the world and its processes, grasp that they are inherent constituents of the Dao and are unified with the totality of existence that it encompasses. Second, there is an array of Daoist self-cultivation techniques that are combined into training regimens aimed at cultivating and actualizing this awareness. Methods range from practices relating to the optimal setting and lifestyle to adopt for training, proper preparation and maintenance of the body, qi/ch’i cultivation, ethical observances, visualizations, and other meditative techniques. Third, successful training in them achieves the mystical aims, experiences, and transformations that practitioners seek, including physical vigor to aid the body’s functioning and longevity, moral integrity, profound visions, true and omniscient insight, correct and effective conduct, self-divinization, and immortality. Fourth, the scholarship also identifies both notable continuities and intriguing innovations in comparing ancient Daoist mystical ideas, practices, and goals to later expressions and elaborations of them. Studying Daoist mysticism has also reciprocally contributed to Western scholarly inquiries into theories of mysticism and comparative mysticism, not only in providing a wealth of material that is relevant to these fields, but also in offering both additional perspectives on debated issues and new trajectories for future research. For example, recent scholarship has contributed to the debate between, on the one hand, Essentialist and Decontextualist theorists and, on the other, Contextualists concerning the subject of mystical experience. Scholars of Daoist mysticism have also underscored the distinctiveness of the content and the literary form of its mystical writings, as well as the vital role the practitioner’s body plays in its theories and practices, and how these defining features distinguish Daoist mysticism from some of the world’s other mystical traditions.

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The Debate between Martin Luther and Erasmus  

Robert Kolb

Martin Luther and Desiderius Erasmus played somewhat significant roles in each other’s lives. Their early relationship is not free from a sense of the serious differences that divided them, but it largely reflected their common commitment to the biblical humanist ideas of “back to the sources” and effective rhetoric. Erasmus’ need to demarcate his positions from those of the heretic and outlaw after 1521 strengthened his resolve to demonstrate publicly at least one important difference between them, resulting in his Diatribe (1524), which provoked a debate with Luther over the freedom or bondage of the will, which Luther treated in his De servo arbitrio (On Bound Choice, 1525) and commentary on Ecclesiastes (1526/1532).

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Debate in the Tibetan Tradition  

Jonathan Samuels

“Debate” (Tibetan: rtsod pa), in the present context, refers to a uniquely Tibetan method of structured analysis and discourse conducted between two (or more) parties on matters pertaining to religion. The practice is extremely technical and has traditionally been the province of monks. It has medieval roots, and it references logical principles derived from the Indian Buddhist pramāṇa system. Debate is also closely aligned with the tradition of commentarial writing, in which the evaluation and critiquing of earlier interpretations of Indian-origin Buddhist works has long been standard. A custom among Tibetan religious writers has been to deal with “rival” interpretations in a truculent fashion, redolent of an actual confrontation. There is also much in the dialectical approach, analytical process, and language that can best be described as shared between the literary and oral spheres (with frequent crossover and borrowing). But debate is primarily to be understood as a face-to-face practice, distinct from what is represented in the written medium, and only truly comprehensible in terms of the institutional context of its performance. Furthermore, while inspired by Indian scholastic traditions, this kind of argumentation is peculiarly Tibetan in its formulation. The practice of debate is especially associated with the largest school of Tibetan Buddhism, the Geluk (dGe lugs). In the school’s major scholastic centers, which were, for a number of centuries, the largest monasteries in the world, debate was employed as the primary tool of education, with those trained in the scholastic tradition, including its most prominent figures, such as various Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas, having been required to master it. Academic understanding of debate relies heavily on analysis of the so-called Collected Topics (bsDus grwa) works, primer materials, chiefly composed of sample debates, from which students (and academics) learn about the logical principles, basic taxonomies, and informal “rules” that structure debate.

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Debate Traditions in Premodern Japan  

Asuka Sango

In its simplest definition, debate is a formal discussion of a topic in which different (usually oppositional) arguments are submitted and examined. In premodern Japan, there were many overlapping practices that could be called debate, or rongi論義 (literally, “discussing meanings”). Originating in the intellectual traditions of Buddhism and Confucianism, rongi came to encompass a variety of activities, ranging from oral examinations and group discussions to formal debates and lecture and answer sessions. Some were specialized and targeted for a scholarly audience; others were held as public entertainment for secular audiences. Whereas scholars debated to advance their academic knowledge and gain status and promotion, secular authorities—be they the emperor or shogun—also sponsored scholarly debates to help legitimize their power. Rongi thus shows a bewildering variety of practices combining seemingly opposite qualities: the serious and the playful, or the political and the scholarly. Japan’s rich and diverse debate traditions traverse the realms of religion, politics, and the performing arts.

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Decorated, Illuminated, and Illustrated Bibles  

Jonathan Homrighausen

The earliest extant illustrated biblical manuscripts date to the 5th century, and their descendants continued through the medieval era and into the era of print, including children’s bibles, artists’ books, and comics. The study of this large corpus suggests a wide range of ways in which decorations, images, and other kinds of nontextual visualizations in Bibles generate meaning. Most obviously, biblical illustrations always involve interpretive decisions about biblical narratives. Traditions of visualizing biblical texts also respond to previous artistic representations of that scene or character, as well as textual exegesis; indeed, visual exegesis parallels its textual counterpart in complex ways. Further, decorated and illustrated Bibles often reflect the events of their time, including images of kingship, ecclesiastical concerns, ideologies of gender and ethnicity, and polemics within and between religious communities. Images also serve a wide range of functions: to teach, to accompany preaching, to facilitate memorization of text, and to instill moral and spiritual virtues. Finally, a wide range of nonillustrative features of Bibles create meaning: ornament, word-image interplays, and symbols.

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Denomination in American Public Life  

Russell E. Richey

A voluntary religious community and ecclesial creation of modernity, the denomination emerged alongside of and along with the political party, the free press, and free enterprise. By 1702 it acquired its modern religious meaning with the establishment of the “body of the Dissenting Ministers of the Three Denominations in and about the City of London.” The 17th-century experiences with religious conflict, revolution, and regicide had led England in its Glorious Revolution to reestablish the Church of England but pass the Act of Toleration. Thus began a century of identifying denominations, of experimentation in Britain and the colonies with (Protestant) religious pluralism, of defining prerogatives and limitations (for the Dissenters or Nonconformists—Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, and Quakers), of political jockeying between Whigs and Tories, and of exchanges of ideas through magazines, newspapers, and coffeehouses. So denominationalism emerged and defined itself in the Age of Enlightenment, John Locke voicing ideals and proposing policies that would be tested in the American colonies and gradually become normative in the new nation. Where existent beyond the United States and Britain, governments and social customs have provided some measure of religious freedom, permitted denominational pluralism, and controlled for conflict and repression. The denomination, then, is a voluntary religious community. As voluntary, it needs legally established or de facto toleration and religious freedom. In such an environment and as a voluntary or elective religious community, the denomination creates and sustains its membership. Adherents join, belong, bring in family (children), move to another of the same, or perhaps quit. Thus, the denomination needs “space” to exist (alongside or outside of any religious establishment if such persists). As voluntary, a denomination should and often does recognize the authenticity of other religions/churches even as it claims its own. It often does not concede that authenticity indiscriminately or fully. As religious, the voluntary community construes itself and claims to be a legitimate and self-sufficient, proper Christian church, Jewish denomination, or other world faith. The denomination functions with a sense of itself as located within time; knows its own boundaries, origins, history, and drama; and acknowledges awareness of its relation to its own longer religious tradition. Claiming its rightful place within the religious realm of the society, the denomination differs from movement, sect, and other “cause” impulses. As a community, the denomination is an organized religious movement. With its own, often distinctive polity, it intends its self-perpetuation, expects supportive efforts from leaders and people, labors to attract and retain members, funds its operations, aligns itself politically and socially with kindred movements, and determines how best to face various American publics. As such, the denomination provides its members self-designation, identity, agenda, calendar, place in American politics, societal locale, historical narrative, internal ordering, and religious affiliation. To some observers, the denomination is taboo or curse. Their public outreach and self-understandings have led denominations to function in different ways in the American environment (as have political parties, the press, and commerce). Successively, denominations have served as affinity groups, missionary societies, confessional bodies, corporate organizations, campaign causes, and electronic communities. In these several forms and with the above characterization, the denomination differentiates itself from reform impulses that may take similar structural form but construe themselves as belonging within a religion; from an established church, which does not regard itself as voluntary or as sharing societal space with other legitimate religious bodies; and from the sect, which, though also voluntary, does not locate itself easily in time or recognize boundaries or tolerate other bodies or concede their authenticity.

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Desire, Love, and Romance in the Hebrew Bible  

J. Cheryl Exum

In the Hebrew Bible human sexual desire is, for the most part, constructed as male and as dangerous. In the patriarchal economy of ancient Israel, in which women were subordinated to men and younger men to older men, desire poses a potential threat to the preservation of male status, privilege, and hierarchy, upon which the patriarchal system is based. It is viewed warily as an overwhelming urge that, unchecked, can cause a man to lose control and act in ways that might jeopardize his position in the patriarchal hierarchy and, if some texts are to be taken seriously (Proverbs, the story of Samson), even his life. Thus legal texts seek to regulate and control sexual behavior and thereby channel sexual desire in permissible directions; Proverbs responds to the threat that uncontrolled desire poses by offering the young man a patriarchally sanctioned object of desire, personified Wisdom, and narrative texts, such as the stories of Samson and Delilah and David and Bathsheba, provide object lessons in the dangerous consequences of desire. There are few places in the Hebrew Bible where one person is said to love (’ahab) another in an amorous or carnal sense, and in all these cases only one of the pair is said to love. This does not mean that love was not thought of as reciprocated in biblical times, but only that reciprocal love was not a concern of biblical writers, with the exception of the poet of the Song of Songs. The Song of Songs is the only text in the Hebrew Bible in which sex, desire, love, and romance can all be found. This short book, the Bible’s only love poem, gives its readers an unprecedented insight into what it is like to be in love from both points of view, a woman’s and a man’s.

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The Development of the “Apostolic Tradition” in Early Christian Worship  

Maxwell E. Johnson

Contrary to the assumptions often held by previous scholars, contemporary liturgical scholarship is coming increasingly to realize and emphasize that Christian worship was diverse even in its biblical and apostolic origins, multi- rather than monolinear in its development, and closely related to the several cultural, linguistic, geographical, and theological expressions and orientations of distinct churches throughout the early centuries of Christianity. Apart from some rather broad (but significant) commonalities discerned throughout various churches in antiquity, the traditions of worship during the first three centuries of the common era were rather diverse in content and interpretation, depending upon where individual practices are to be located. Indeed, already in this era, together with the diversity of Christologies, ecclesiologies, and, undoubtedly, liturgical practices encountered in the New Testament itself, the early history of the “tradition” of Christian worship is, simultaneously, the early history of the developing liturgical traditions of several differing Christian communities and language groups: Armenian, Syrian, Greek, Coptic, and Latin, We should not, then, expect to find only one so-called “apostolic” liturgical tradition, practice or theology surviving in this period before the Council of Nicea (325 ce) but, rather, great diversity both within the rites themselves as well as in their theological interpretations. This essay highlights the principal occasions for Christian worship in the first three centuries for which the textual and liturgical evidence is most abundant: Christian initiation, the eucharistic liturgy with its central anaphoral prayer, daily prayer (the liturgy of the hours), and the feasts and seasons of the liturgical year.