War & Peacemaking
William T. Cavanaugh (Oxford University Press: September 3, 2009), 296 pages.
The idea that religion has a dangerous tendency to promote violence is part of the conventional wisdom of Western societies, and it underlies many of our institutions and policies, from limits on the public role of religion to efforts to promote liberal democracy in the Middle East. William T. Cavanaugh challenges this conventional wisdom by examining how the twin categories of religion and the secular are constructed. A growing body of scholarly work explores how the category 'religion' has been constructed in the modern West and in colonial contexts according to specific configurations of political power. Cavanaugh draws on this scholarship to examine how timeless and transcultural categories of 'religion and 'the secular' are used in arguments that religion causes violence. He argues three points: 1) There is no transhistorical and transcultural essence of religion. What counts as religious or secular in any given context is a function of political configurations of power; 2) Such a transhistorical and transcultural concept of religion as non-rational and prone to violence is one of the foundational legitimating myths of Western society; 3) This myth can be and is used to legitimate neo-colonial violence against non-Western others, particularly the Muslim world. ~ Synopsis
Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice (InterVarsity Press: Nov 2008), 165 pages.
This book inaugurates the Resources for Reconciliation series, a joint venture of the publisher and Duke Divinity Schoola's Center for Reconciliation. The two authors, codirectors of the center, bring perspectives that pair perfectly: Catholic and evangelical Protestant, African and American, academic and practitioner, ordained and lay. Each also brings powerful life experience in confronting oppression and injustice: Katongole grew up under Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and lived near the Rwandan genocide. After growing up a missionary kid in South Korea, Rice worked for 17 years in an urban ministry in Jackson, Miss. Against a background of difference, the two argue for a vision of reconciliation that is neither trendy nor pragmatically diplomatic, neither cheaply inclusive nor heedless of the past. The reconciliation they explain and hold out hope for is distinctively Christian: a God-ordained transformation of the consequences of the fall into the new creation spoken about by the apostle Paul. Deeply theological, this short book needs slow reading by anyone interested in harnessing the power of the spirit for social change. ~ Publishers Weekly
Philip Broadhead and Damien Keown, eds. (I.B. Tauris: Feb 6, 2007), 240 pages.
It is often alleged that religion is a major cause of war and dissent. History is littered with the wreckage of religious conflict, from the crusades onwards, and it is frequently maintained that it is religion which is the tinderbox that ignites so many regional disputes - from Bosnia's ethnic cleansing to the ongoing conflict in Iraq. If religion is on trial, the evidence against it so often seems damning. But is the picture really as grim as has been painted? Very little is heard in defence of religion and few attempts have been made to put the other side of the case. The essays in this volume are among the first systematically to explore the role of religion as a force for peace, both historically and in the contemporary world. They focus on the efforts that have been made by individuals, communities and religious groups to secure conflict-resolution and replace hostility with tolerance and mutual respect. Specific topics explored include: nationalism and religious conflict; revolution and religious wars; the impact of secularisation; ethnicity and religion; conflict over holy places; and making and keeping the peace. ~ Product Description
Give War a Chance: Eyewitness Accounts of Mankind's Struggle Against Tyranny, Injustice, and Alcohol-Free Beer
PJ O'Rourke (Grove Press: Nov 1, 2003)
O'Rourke runs hilariously amok by tackling the death of Communism, sanctimonious liberals, and America's perennial bad guy Saddam Hussein in a series of classic dispatches from his coverage of the 1991 Gulf War. Here is our most mordant and unnervingly funny political satirist on: Kuwait City after the Gulf War: "It looked like all the worst rock bands in the world had stayed there at the same time." On Saddam Hussein, O'Rourke muses: "He's got chemical weapons filled with ... chemicals. Maybe he's got The Bomb. And missiles that can reach Riyadh, Tel Aviv, Spokane. Stock up on nonperishable foodstuffs. Grab those Diet Coke cans you were supposed to take to the recycling center and fill them up with home heating oil. Bury the Hummel figurines in the yard. We're all going to die. Details at eleven."