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Interviews with Scholars of Religion about their New Books

Interviews with Scholars of Religion about their New Books
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Interviews with Scholars of Religion about their New Books




Naftali Rothenberg, "Rabbi Akiva’s Philosophy of Love" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

Is love between man and woman the source of wisdom and the cornerstone of moral life? Naftali Rothenberg says it is, based on the works and life of the first century Jewish scholar and sage, Rabbi Akiva. In Rabbi Akiva’s Philosophy of Love (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) Rothenberg explores the philosophy of love through the thought and life of Rabbi Akiva whose life was transformed by the love of his wife, Rachel. From this starting point, Naftali Rothenberg conducts a thorough examination of...


Betsy Perabo, "Russian Orthodoxy and the Russo-Japanese War" (Bloomsbury, 2017)

As Russian militarism becomes increasingly intertwined with Russian Orthodoxy theology in the 21st century, the history of the Church’s relationship to war and its justification becomes particularly relevant. Betsy Perabo’s book Russian Orthodoxy and the Russo-Japanese War (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017) is a unique and important contribution to this area of inquiry, representing a rare contemporary academic exploration of just war theory within Russian Orthodoxy in the context of the...


Marko Geslani, "Rites of the God-King: Śānti and Ritual Change in Early Hinduism" (Oxford UP, 2018)

Is “Vedic” fire sacrifice at odds with “Hindu” image worship? Through a careful study of ritual (śanti) texts geared towards appeasement of inauspicious forces (primarily the Atharva Veda and in the Bṛhatsaṃhitā, an Indian astrological work), Marko Geslani demonstrates the persistent significance and centrality of the work of Brahmanical priesthood from ancient to medieval to modern times. In doing so he aptly problematizes the scholarly tendency to demarcate Vedic ritual from popular...


Robert Louis Wilken, "Liberty in the Things of God: The Christian Origins of Religious Freedom" (Yale UP, 2019)

Robert Louis Wilken, the William R. Kenan Professor Emeritus of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia, has written an intellectual history of the ideas surrounding freedom of religion. Liberty in the Things of God: The Christian Origins of Religious Freedom (Yale University Press, 2019) offers a revisionist history of how the ideas of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion originated in the writings of the Christian fathers of the early Church, such as Tertullian...


Diana Pasulka, "American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology" (Oxford UP, 2019)

More than half of American adults and more than seventy-five percent of young Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. This level of belief rivals that of belief in God. In American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology (Oxford University Press, 2019), professor Diana Pasulka examines the mechanisms at work behind the thriving belief system in extraterrestrial life, a system she asserts is changing and even supplanting traditional religions. Over the course of a six-year...


Emily S. Johnson, "This Is Our Message: Women's Leadership in the New Christian Right" (Oxford UP, 2019)

Over the past 50 years, the architects of the religious right have become household names: Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson. They have used their massively influential platforms to build the profiles of evangelical politicians like Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, and Ted Cruz. Now, a new generation of leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Robert Jeffress enjoys unprecedented access to the Trump White House. What all these leaders share, besides their faith, is their gender. Men dominate...


Melvin C. Johnson, "Life and Times of John Pierce Hawley: A Mormon Ulysses of the American West" (Greg Kofford Books, 2019)

Life and Times of John Pierce Hawley: A Mormon Ulysses of the American West (Greg Kofford Books, 2019) narrates the wide-ranging life of John Hawley’s search for an authentic Mormon faith. Melvin C. Johnson has been researching Hawley’s adventurous life along the American borderlands and frontier for three decades. Hawley was an active member of several Latter Day Restoration denominations in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, Texas, the Indian Nations of Oklahoma, and Utah...


Christopher J. H. Wright, "The Old Testament in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic" (IVP Academic, 2019)

Some people find the Old Testament to be confusing, out of date, and essentially replaced by the New Testament. They are missing out. The Old Testament offers us a grand narrative that reveals God's work, God's purposes, and God's wisdom. In his new book The Old Testament in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic(IVP Academic, 2019), Christopher J. H. Wright fits the pieces together and shows us the coherent whole. Using seven key sentences drawn straight from the Old...


Ashley Thompson, "Engendering the Buddhist State: Territory, Sovereignty and Sexual Difference in the Inventions of Angkor" (Routledge, 2016)

Thanks to the international tourism industry most people are familiar with the spectacular ruins of Angkor, the great Cambodian empire that lasted from about the 9th to the early 15th century. We are especially familiar with those haunting images of the face of King Jayavarman VII, represented in the stone sculptures of the Bayon temple in Angkor Thom. Archaeologists and historians tend to relate the history of the Angkorean era through the dynasties of great kings. These are, of course, all...


George Kinder, "A Golden Civilization and the Map of Mindfulness" (Serenity Point Press, 2018)

In this interview, George Kinder, a global thought leader and mindfulness meditation teacher, talks about his latest book, A Golden Civilization & The Map of Mindfulness (Serenity Point Press, 2018). He states, “If we want our children to live in a Golden Civilization, the first step is for each of us to imagine it.” To do this, we must reflect upon what really matters and endeavor to work collectively to make mindful changes. George Kinder, known as the father of the Life Planning...


Darren Dochuk, "Anointed with Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America" (Basic Books, 2019)

Anointed with Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America (Basic Books, 2019) places religion and oil at the center of American history. As prize-winning historian Darren Dochuk reveals, from the earliest discovery of oil in America during the Civil War, citizens saw oil as the nation's special blessing and its peculiar burden, the source of its prophetic mission in the world. Over the century that followed and down to the present day, the oil industry's leaders and its ordinary...


Joan Wallach Scott, "Sex and Secularism" (Princeton UP, 2017)

Joan Wallach Scott’s contributions to the history of women and gender, and to feminist theory, will be familiar to listeners across multiple disciplines. Her latest book, Sex and Secularism (Princeton University Press, 2017) is a compelling analysis of the discourse of secularism in the modern democratic (imperial) nation-states of “the West”. A profound challenge to assumptions that secularism has come with the assurance of gender equality, the book moves from the processes of...


Kirsten Fermaglich, "A Rosenberg by Any Other Name: A History of Jewish Name Changing in America" (NYU Press, 2018)

Throughout the 20th century, especially during and immediately after WWII, New York Jews changed their names at rates considerably higher than any other ethnic group. Representative of the insidious nature of American anti-Semitism, recognizably Jewish names were often barriers for entry into college, employment, and professional advancement. College and job application forms were intentionally used as a means to “control” the Jewish population in a given college or institution. As such,...


Jeremy F. Walton, "Muslim Civil Society and the Politics of Religious Freedom in Turkey" (Oxford UP, 2017)

The social history of Turkey across the twentieth century has produced a tension between state governance and religion. This history informs and shapes modern subjects as they try to live out an authentic vision of the present. In Muslim Civil Society and the Politics of Religious Freedom in Turkey (Oxford University Press, 2017), Jeremy F. Walton, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, explores how members of three contemporary Muslim groups, the Nur...


Jeffrey T. Zalar, "Reading and Rebellion in Catholic Germany, 1770-1914" (Cambridge UP, 2019)

Popular conceptions of Catholic censorship, symbolized above all by the Index of Forbidden Books, figure prominently in secular definitions of freedom. To be intellectually free is to enjoy access to knowledge unimpeded by any religious authority. But how would the history of freedom change if these conceptions were false? In Reading and Rebellion in Catholic Germany, 1770-1914 (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Jeffrey T. Zalar exposes the myth of faith-based intellectual repression....


Scott Harrower, "God of All Comfort: A Trinitarian Response to the Horrors of This World" (Lexham Press, 2019)

In God of All Comfort: A Trinitarian Response to the Horrors of This World (Lexham Press, 2019), the Rev. Dr. Scott Harrower, Lecturer in Christian Thought at Ridley College, takes on the tremendous topic the problem of horrific evil that seems to omnipresent in today’s world. This new book covers topics ranging from pop culture and zombie movies to metaphysics and complex theological thought. Horror, as Harrower describes it, is the opposite of shalom, but even horrible things can point...


Rebecca Janzen, "Liminal Sovereignty: Mennonites and Mormons in Mexican Culture" (SUNY Press, 2018)

Liminal Sovereignty: Mennonites and Mormons in Mexican Culture (SUNY Press, 2018) examines the lives of two religious minority communities in Mexico, Mennonites and Mormons, as seen through Mexican culture. Mennonites emigrated from Canada to Mexico from the 1920s to the 1940s, and Mormons emigrated from the United States in the 1880s, left in 1912, and returned in the 1920s. Rebecca Janzen focuses on representations of these groups in film, television, online comics, photography, and legal...


John O'Brien, "States of Intoxication: The Place of Alcohol in Civilisation" (Routledge, 2018)

Is alcohol a universal feature of human society? Why is problematic in some countries and not others? How was alcohol helped build the modern state? These are just a few of the questions that sociologist John O'Brien addresses in States of Intoxication: The Place of Alcohol in Civilisation(Routledge, 2018). His book offers a broad and diverse perspective on alcohol use and suggests that booze has been an important element in developing communities and building up tax bases. In the era of...


Joseph Hill, "Wrapping Authority: Women Islamic Leaders in a Sufi Movement in Dakar, Senegal" (U Toronto Press, 2018)

Joseph Hill's new book Wrapping Authority: Women Islamic Leaders in a Sufi Movement in Dakar, Senegal (University of Toronto Press, 2018), is an ethnographic study of women Sufi leaders in the Taalibe Baay or Fayda branch of the Tijaniyya. Hill provides life stories of various fascinating and powerful female muqaddamas (or Sufi leaders) in Dakar and explores how they navigate the complexity of their gendered authority in religious, familial, and public domains. The book examines the...


Brett Grainger, "Church in the Wild: Evangelicals in Antebellum America" (Harvard UP, 2019)

We often credit the Transcendentalists with introducing a revolutionary new appreciation for nature into American spirituality when they claimed that God could be found in the forests, mountains, and fields. In Church in the Wild: Evangelicals in Antebellum America (Harvard University Press, 2019), Brett Grainger reconsiders the history of the years leading up to the Civil War. He argues that it was not the Transcendentalists but evangelical revivalists who transformed the everyday religious...