Synopses & Reviews
In a remarkably short period of time, the realization of religious freedom has achieved broad consensus as an indispensable condition for peace. Faced with widespread reports of religious persecution, public and private actors around the world have responded with laws and policies designed to promote freedom of religion. But what precisely is being promoted? What are the cultural and epistemological assumptions underlying this response, and what forms of politics are enabled in the process?
The fruits of the three-year Politics of Religious Freedom research project, the contributions to this volume unsettle the assumptionand#151;ubiquitous in policy circlesand#151;that religious freedom is a singular achievement, an easily understood state of affairs, and that the problem lies in its incomplete accomplishment. Taking a global perspective, the more than two dozen contributors delineate the different conceptions of religious freedom predominant in the world today, as well as their histories and social and political contexts. Together, the contributions make clear that the reasons for persecution are more varied and complex than is widely acknowledged, and that the indiscriminate promotion of a single legal and cultural tool meant to address conflict across a wide variety of cultures can have the perverse effect of exacerbating the problems that plague the communities cited as falling short.
“One of the most important voices in the contemporary study of law and religion, Sullivan shows how the chaplain has come to occupy a key role in the negotiation of law, politics, and religion in contemporary America. With subtlety and erudition, Sullivan brings her reader to the illuminating realization that the chaplain is a figure that sits at the complicated confluence of church and state, an emblem not only of contemporary constitutionalism, but also of modern economic and political life in the United States.”
“Fantastic and provocative. Sullivan takes readers into new territory where we can consider American religion and social life from a new angle. Her strong authorial voice keeps the many moving parts together and makes A Ministry of Presence a pleasure to read.”
“In this elegantly written and closely argued work, Sullivan shows that chaplains of all faiths in prisons, hospitals, and the military today find themselves at the nexus of forces that aim to make them into ‘priests of the secular, whose role it is to insure spiritually healthy and well adjusted prisoners, patients, and soldiers—as spiritual well-being is determined by the state and circumscribed by the courts. A Ministry of Presence is essential for understanding what has become—and what is becoming—of ‘religion in the United States today.”
"Thought-provoking. . . . Contemporary chaplaincy programs demonstrate that practices termed 'spiritual' are not unique to the political left or right, and chaplains from a wide variety of institutional backgrounds are grappling with how to provide this 'spiritual care.' A Ministry of Presence makes clear that this grappling has a particular history, and in so doing makes a valuable contribution to the study of American religion."
"An important contribution to ongoing scholarly discussions in religious studies, American history, politics, and legal studies. . . . Sullivan has contributed much to our understanding of the many ways religion continues to influence ‘secular’ legal trajectories, and vice versa."
andquot;This rich collection brings together scholars from different fields to dispel simplistic ideas about religious freedom. Through numerous case studies exploring complex and changeable meanings of the term in different parts of the world, the authors show that religious freedom is not the universal standard of democracy its proponents intend for it to be. At the same time, the contributors reach beyond their main topic to demonstrate the importance, and even necessity, of interdisciplinary work. Thus in dispelling simplistic ideas about a supposedly universal norm, this fine book announces a new era of academic collaboration.andquot;
“A dazzling, meticulous study of the interdependence of law and religion. . . . This book is an analytical feat of rare and beautiful complexity. No other scholarship on the topic of chaplaincies explores their legal significance with the intensity or range that Sullivan’s ‘legal anthropology of religion’ exhibits.”
andquot;The principle of religious freedom, central to the liberal politics of the modern world, is increasingly becoming an object of critical reflection. This collection, edited by four distinguished scholars, is a welcome contribution to this important topic. I have learnt something from each of these thoughtful essays. Everyone interested in recent debates on secularism will benefit from reading them.andquot;
andquot;This extraordinary volume brings together the leading scholars of the idea and practice ofand#160; and#39;religious freedomand#39; today, in conversation with each other and with their critics. Beyond any simple for/against dichotomy, the contributors show how the admirable resonance of and#39;religious freedomand#39; masks a more troubling reality, both at the historical origins of the concept and in its contemporary strategic deployments. Among the bookandrsquo;s many contributions is its sustained and careful examination of the mutual entanglement of and#39;religion,and#39; in its modern semantic range, and law, and the implication of both in national and global politics, from early modernity forward. The Politics of Religious Freedom is a definitive collection of the best critical work on the subject.andquot;
“[A] cogent, well-researched volume. . . . Recommended.”
“Excellent. . . . Highly recommended.”
American spirituality—with its focus on individual meaning, experience, and exploration—is usually thought to be a product of the postmodern era. But, as The New Metaphysicals makes clear, contemporary American spirituality has historic roots in the nineteenth century and a great deal in common with traditional religious movements. To explore this world, Courtney Bender combines research into the history of the movement with fieldwork in Cambridge, Massachusetts—a key site of alternative religious inquiry from Emerson and William James to today. Through her ethnographic analysis, Bender discovers that a focus on the new, on progress, and on the way spiritual beliefs intersect with science obscures the historical roots of spirituality from its practitioners and those who study it alike—and shape an enduring set of modern religious possibilities in the process.
Most people in the United States today no longer live their lives under the guidance of local institutionalized religious leadership, such as rabbis, ministers, and priests; rather, liberals and conservatives alike have taken charge of their own religious or spiritual practices. This shift, along with other social and cultural changes, has opened up a perhaps surprising space for chaplainsspiritual professionals who usually work with the endorsement of a religious community but do that work away from its immediate hierarchy, ministering in a secular institution, such as a prison, the military, or an airport, to an ever-changing group of clients of widely varying faiths and beliefs.
In A Ministry of Presence, Winnifred Fallers Sullivan explores how chaplaincy works in the United Statesand in particular how it sits uneasily at the intersection of law and religion, spiritual care, and government regulation. Responsible for ministering to the wandering souls of the globalized economy, the chaplain works with a clientele often unmarked by a specific religious identity, and does so on behalf of a secular institution, like a hospital. Sullivan's examination of the sometimes heroic but often deeply ambiguous work yields fascinating insights into contemporary spiritual life, the politics of religious freedom, and the never-ending negotiation of religion's place in American institutional life.
The concept of religious freedom has, in a relatively short time, achieved a remarkably broad consensus that considers it absolutely necessary to the establishment of a peaceful and productive world. and#160;In The Politics of Religious Freedom, editors Sullivan, Hurd, Danchin, and Mahmood marshal more than two dozen distinguished contributors to contest this narrative.and#160; The editors and contributors do not take a position for or against religious freedom as such.and#160; Instead, they argue that the indiscriminate promotion of a singular legal and cultural tool meant to address difference, discrimination, and conflict across a wide variety of societies and cultures has the perverse effect of foreclosing possibilities.and#160; Taking a genuinely global perspective, these essays unsettle the comfortable agreement that religious freedom is a singular achievement, an easily understood state of affairs, and that the problem lies in its incomplete realization.and#160; Instead, they seek to understand the different conceptions of religious freedom at play in the world today.and#160; The Politics of Religious Freedom represents an effort to craft a new view of law and of religion that is appropriately modest and respectful of the gaps in our knowledge of the world; an understanding of law and religion that understands both concepts to be not singular but very strongly plural.
About the Author
Winnifred Fallers Sullivan is professor in and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. She is also an affiliated professor of law at Indiana University Bloomington Maurer School of Law.Elizabeth Shakman Hurd is associate professor in the Departments of Political Science and (by courtesy) Religious Studies at Northwestern University.Saba Mahmood is professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.Peter G. Danchin is professor of law and director of the International and Comparative Law Program at the University of Maryland School of Law.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Long Shadows
1 Shamans in the Meetinghouse: Locating Contemporary Spirituality
2 Becoming Mystics
3 Tuning the Body
4 Karmic Laundry: Imagining and Embodying Spiritual History
5 “Zooming Around”: Mystical Lands and Cosmopolitanisms