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81. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
G. Scott Davis The Elimination of “Violence” in Just War Thinking
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This article applauds the rich collection of texts assembled by Reichberg, Syse, and Hartwell, but agrees with the other commentators that those texts must be situated in their social time and place if they are to be understood. Furthermore, the term “violence” is analytically worthless and should be eliminated from our critical vocabulary as an impediment to understanding how different communities have attempted to regulate recourse to lethal force in the pursuit of their ends.
82. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
Reuven Firestone War Policies in Judaism as Responses to Power and Powerlessness
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The premise underlying this article is that religions, like all institutions, do what is necessary to endure. Like other religions, Judaism has adjusted survival strategies ranging from quietism to militarism. The Jews of antiquity engaged actively and successfully in bloody wars that were considered to be divinely and ethically sanctioned, but after crushing defeats against the Roman Empire, militant responses to communal threat came to be regarded as self-destructive. “Holy war” was then removed from the repertoire of Jewish endurance strategies through the development of safeguards intended to prevent zealots from declaring war and thus endangering a weak and dispersed community. This move was sustainable within a particular historical context, which lasted until the modern period. Following traumatic modern pogroms and the Holocaust, however, military passivity came to be regarded as endangering Jewish survival. Consequently, the traditional safeguards were effectively removed for a significant sector of Jews, thereby allowing for a return to biblical-influenced militancy.
83. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
Rosemary B. Kellison Texts and Traditions in the Comparative Study of Religion, Morality, and Violence
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In this response to the commentaries by Torkel Brekke, Reuven Firestone, Michael Jerryson, and Nahed Zehr on Religion, War, and Ethics, I reflect on the ways in which these commentaries help to illuminate the role that texts play in the construction and reconstruction of moral traditions. I describe the texts in the anthology as contributions to ongoing conversations in which participants draw on precedential texts to authorize, prohibit, endorse, or condemn particular uses of armed force. As a collection that places these texts side by side, Religion, War, and Ethics helpfully enables both intratraditional comparison demonstrating the diversity of positions within any one tradition and intertraditional comparison illustrating similarities and differences in both the arguments and historical development of different religious traditions’ discussions of ethics of war. I conclude with some cautions regarding how such comparison is best carried out.
84. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Ian Linden, Thomas Thorp Religious Conflicts and Peace Building in Nigeria
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Historical analysis confirms the home-grown character of Nigeria’s conflicts and the complexity of their peaceful resolution. Religious leaders have traditionally contested political space with other actors and continue to do so. But the religiosity of popular culture is such that Nigerian religious leaders can make a substantive contribution to peace building and countering religious extremism if given the time, space and tools to do so. Elections have been critical moments in the evolution of religious tensions and conflicts owing to the country’s geographical demographic and history, and the popular hope of correcting injustice that they evoke. There is a need to distinguish between genuine religious conflicts and conflicts that are essentially socio-economic or about competition for political power which become “religionised.” The evolution of the terrorist organisation, Boko Haram, can be traced back to intra-Muslim conflicts and anti-Sufi movements. But it reflects no less the underdevelopment and poverty of the Northeast and the impact of corruption on the perception of state and national government. The crude and violent narrative of Abubakar Shekau, its leader, shows a deterioration beyond that of its founder Malam Yusuf, who was able to offer financial and economic inducements over and above a rejection of most aspects of modernity and Western education. Increasingly, efforts are being made by religious leaders at both national, and local levels through formal, and grassroots networks to build better understanding and awareness between faiths to change and challenge narratives. With the appropriate support, these networks have great potential for improving communal relations and overcoming Boko Haram’s narratives of hate.
85. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Mary Nyangweso Negotiating Cultural Rights to Affirm Human Rights: Challenges Women Face in the Twenty-First Century
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Leyla Hussein, a 32-year-old Londoner and leading activist against female genital cutting, conducted an experimental study to test the influence of “political correctness” on attitudes toward female genital cutting. With a signed petition supporting female genital cutting, she approached shoppers and told them that she wanted “to protect her ‘culture, traditions and rights.’” She received nineteen signatures to her petition in thirty minutes. Some of those who signed the petition stated that they believed that female genital cutting was wrong, but they agreed to sign the petition out of respect of Ms. Hussein’s culture. In a world that affirms both cultural and human rights, negotiation of both human and group rights tend to lead to “political correctness.” When these values are justified by religion, they are even harder to negotiate. How can one reconcile human and corporate rights without compromising the rights of women? This essay explores implications of political correctness on efforts to affirm women’s rights. Drawing examples from female genital cutting, the paper examines implications of moral theories like moral universalism and cultural relativism to argue for cross-cultural universals approach as possible reconciliatory approach towards affirming human rights.
86. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Palwasha L. Kakar, Melissa Nozell Engaging the Religious Sector for Peace and Justice in Libya: Analysis of Current Discourses
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The paper will problematize the boundaries between “religious” discourse and “political” discourse as they are drawn in the midst of violent conflict and contestation in Libya, by exploring the historical context, current religious trends and influential religious leaders as identified in the interviews. This paper sheds significant light on the little understood relationship between violence, political contestation, and the religious sector in Libya, mapping community perceptions of religious actors’ relationship to violent conflict, interactions between political and religious phenomena, and the actual responses of major religious actors to external violence such as that perpetrated by the so-called Islamic State. As the voices of those interviewed throughout Libya as part of this study reveal, both the perception and reality of the relationship between what is political and religious are not easily parsed, and episodes of violence often highlight the complicated interconnectedness between these realms.
87. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Elias Kifon Bongmba Homosexuality, Ubuntu, and Otherness in the African Church
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In this essay I argue that the notion of ubuntu offers a way of rethinking the negative discourses on homosexuality in Africa and in the African church. Ubuntu promotes accepting communication within the ecclesial community in Africa. The essay selectively reviews some of the negative discourses from political and religious leaders, and then discusses the possibilities which ubuntu philosophy offers for addressing the divisions over homosexuality.
88. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Margo Kitts Whose “Religion” and Whose “Violence”? Definition and Diversity in African Studies
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This introduction explores some complications in identifying religion and violence in the indigenous imaginations of Africa. The meaning of both terms can be contested when applied to sub-Saharan Africa, where “reenchanted traditions” (J.-A. Mbembé, “African Modes of Self-Writing”) have emerged as features of African regional wars. Examples show the necessity for expanded perspectives on religion and violence, beyond European categories of thought. Then the introduction summarizes the essays within issue 4.1.
89. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Michael Jerryson Introduction: Buddhism, Blasphemy, and Violence
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This special issue explores the relationship between Buddhism and blasphemy. The articles chart new territory within the study of religion and violence and Buddhist Studies. The first essay outlines the Indian Buddhist doctrinal and ethical foundations for such an inquiry. The second, third, and fourth essays locate their examination within a particular Buddhist tradition: Burmese Buddhism and the prosecution of anti-blasphemy laws, Thai Buddhism and its jailing of people for insulting photographs, and Mongolian Buddhist concerns over purity and sacrilege in early twentieth-century monastic education
90. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Stephen Jenkins Debate, Magic, and Massacre: The High Stakes and Ethical Dynamics of Battling Slanderers of the Dharma in Indian Narrative and Ethical Theory
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This paper examines Indian Buddhist debate narratives, royal historiographies, and hagiographies in conjunction with Buddhist systematic thought on wrong-view, wrong-speech, slander and the sins of immediate retribution. Buddhists narratives are rich with examples of debates in which the wealth and estates of both monastic institutions and their donors were at stake. Forced conversion is a common feature. Slandering the Dharma had a direct relationship to sins considered forms of harm to the Buddha, such as confiscation of property or desecration of sacred objects, and defined as the worst sins leading directly to hell. Buddhist texts often denigrate others’ beliefs and practices and, although their responses to being reviled preclude anger, use of force against enemies of Buddhism is modeled by the Buddha, ideal kings, deities, and wizards. Many examples of mass violence by Buddhist kings against those who oppose the Dharma or harm its saints are exhibited.
91. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Paul Fuller The Idea of ‘Blasphemy’ in the Pāli Canon and Modern Myanmar
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There are many terms in the Pāli Canon that refer to “disrespect” committed against venerated objects or people. Some of these ideas come close to the idea of “blasphemy” in other religious traditions. In traditional forms of Buddhism, the stress is on protective and auspicious acts. Images, texts and chanting are partly concerned with averting danger. Primarily it is the Buddha (and images of him), because of his great meritorious and ethical deeds, who accomplishes this. In this context blasphemy against sacred objects is a perfectly coherent idea in Buddhism. In Myanmar, monks from the Ma Ba Tha movement have expressed outrage at what they perceived to be the manipulation of images of the Buddha. These will be compared to ideas in the Pāli Canon to suggest how the idea of blasphemy is a constant feature in the history of Buddhism.
92. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Matthew King Giving Milk to Snakes: A Socialist “Dharma Minister” and a “Stubborn” Monk on How to Reject the Dharma in Revolutionary Buryatia and Khalkha
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This article explores the blasphemy concept in relation to the historical study of competing visions of doctrine and institutional modeling in revolutionary-era Mongolia and Buryatia (c. 1911–1940). I focus on a close reading of a previously unstudied letter exchange between a prominent socialist leader and Buddhist reformer named Ts. Zhamtsarano and a conservative (Khalkha) Mongol abbot that disputed reforms aiming to allow the laity to study alongside monks in monastic settings. In relation to those sources, I reject a straightforward application of “blasphemy” as an analytical category. However, noting that micro-encounters such as that of the reformer and the abbot not only reference, but actively produce, macro-level social registers and institutions (like Buddhism, “the monastic college,” Tibet, Mongolia, and the like), I argue that in these materials we do see the generative practices of rejection and extension of received tradition that the blasphemy concept (especially in its Islamic iterations) expresses. Such a process-based analytic, motivated by “blasphemy” but not a straightforward application of it to Buddhist case studies, is immensely useful in the comparative study of social and intellectual history in Buddhist societies, especially during periods of profound socio-political transition.
93. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Shane Strate The Sukhothai Incident: Buddhist Heritage, Mormon Missionaries, and Religious Desecration in Thailand
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In 1972, two Mormon missionaries were arrested in Thailand on charges that they had insulted Buddhism. Photographic evidence of their offensive behavior appeared in national newspapers, and for weeks the press debated the meaning and significance of their crime. This article examines the media’s reaction to the “Sukhothai Incident,” and situates the controversy within the larger context of Thai anxieties regarding the influence of ‘Americanization’ on local culture. It argues that Thai elites used the incident to promote pre-existing nationalist narratives that warned against the destructive influences of Western materialism, Christianity, and neo-colonialism. Reaction to the case became a touchstone that separated true defenders of “Thai-ness” from those “outside the religion.” The incident illustrates how ruling factions perceived that the American presence, not just Communism, threatened to undermine traditional symbols of authority.
94. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
James R. Lewis A Burning Faith in the Master: Interpreting the 1.23 Incident
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Falun Gong (FLG) is a qi gong group that entered into conflict with the Chinese state around the turn of the century, and gradually transformed into a political movement. Qi gong, in turn, is an ancient system of exercises that have been compared with yoga, though qi gong exercises more closely resemble the gentle, meditative movements of Tai Chi. Falun Gong was founded in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by Li Hongzhi (LHZ) in 1992, in the latter part of what has been termed the qi gong “boom.” As the leadership of the PRC became increasingly critical of the traditional folk religion and superstition that was emerging within some of the qi gong groups, Li Hongzhi and his family emigrated to the United States. From the safety of his new country of residence, LHZ directed his Chinese followers to become increasingly belligerent, eventually staging a mass demonstration in front of government offices in Beijing on 25 April 1999. The movement was subsequently banned.
95. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
Carole M. Cusack Self-Murder, Sin, and Crime: Religion and Suicide in the Middle Ages
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From around 1000 CE, evidence for suicide in the West becomes more plentiful. Sources include chronicles, legal records, saints’ lives, and other religious texts. Motivations for suicide are familiar: “bereavement, poverty, and sudden disgrace or dismissal from a high post,” and some “suicides without obvious external motive” which clerics focused on, as they viewed acedia (apathy) as demonic (Alexander Murray, “Suicide in the Middle Ages,” 3). Among Christian objections to suicide are that it deprived lords of their property, it offended against humanity, it was linked to Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, and it violated the commandment “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20: 13). Religious aspects of suicide motivations and punishments are here examined in terms of victims and perpetrators. Émile Durkheim’s sociology, which foregrounds anomie, dialogues with medieval historians to argue that suicide as a sin against God outweighed secular ideas of crime, and that claims of lenience toward women and those driven to self-murder are overstated.
96. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
Paul Middleton The “Noble Death” of Judas Iscariot: A Reconsideration of Suicide in the Bible and Early Christianity
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This essay problematizes the often repeated claim that Jewish and Christian traditions have always and unambiguously opposed suicide. By examining the suicide narratives in the Hebrew Bible and late Second Temple texts, alongside early Christian martyr texts which demonstrate not only enthusiasm for death, but suicide martyrdom, I argue that many Jewish and Christian self-killings conform to Greco-Roman patterns Noble Death. Finally, I consider the death of Judas Iscariot, and having removed any a priori reason to interpret his suicide negatively, I argue Matthew’s account of his self-killing compares favourably with Luke’s narrative, in which he is the victim of divine execution. Moreover, I conclude that Matthew’s main concern is to transfer the blame for Jesus’ death from Judas to the Jewish authorities, and that he has Judas impose on himself to the appropriate and potentially expiatory penalty for his action. Thus, I conclude, even Judas’s iconic suicide can be read quite plausibly as an example of Noble Death.
97. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
Mary Storm Speculation on Hindu Self-Sacrifice Imagery at Nalgonda
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This is a study of ca. 13th–14th century self-sacrificial memorial stones (vīrakkal) from Nalgonda, India. Suicide is usually condemned, but sometimes accepted as self-sacrifice, during periods of social upheaval or religious crisis. The article asks why and when voluntary death was accepted in the medieval Indian culture of the Deccan Plateau. The hero stones discussed here probably represent Hindu Vīraśaiva worshippers. Hindu monotheistic Śaiva Vīraśaivism originated in The South-West of the Indian Deccan Plateau in the 10–11th centuries, then travelled to the Southeast of the Deccan by the 13th–14th centuries. Vīraśaivism (“The Heroic Worship of Śiva”) reflects distinctive elements of medieval South India. It upended Brahmanical authority, gender and caste exclusions, and it reflected the merger of the transgressive religious devotionalism of Tantra and Bhakti. Vīraśaivism also reflected the social, and biological stressors of the day, such as Hindu inter-sectarian tensions, Muslim invasions, civil warfare, famine, and epidemic disease.
98. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
Margo Kitts The Martys and Spectacular Death: From Homer to the Roman Arena
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The notion of a martyr, or martys, has undergone a significant conceptual shift since its first attestation in the Iliad, where the martyroi are those witnesses who punish oath-violators with gruesome deaths rather than those who suffer gruesome deaths, as in later usage. This essay traces the conceptual shift of the Greek term martys from the Homeric precedent through the Book of Revelation. Then it explores the visual focus on dying in the Iliad and in ancient martyr texts, as well as some rhetorical means for conveying it. It concludes with a glance at some common ritual features between the Iliad’s oath-sacrifices and Christian martyr spectacles.
99. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
George D. Chryssides Suicide, Suicidology, and Heaven’s Gate
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There are insufficient examples of collective religious suicides such as Heaven’s Gate (1997) to enable firm explanation when considered on their own. One must therefore look beyond such religious groups, drawing on the contribution of suicidology. Since Durkheim’s analysis of suicide relates principally to individuals, the phenomenon of suicide pacts affords a better model for explaining the phenomenon. Suicide pacts typically involve using poison, and the Heaven’s Gate group employed Derek Humphry’s precise recommendations for this. Suicide pacts involve mutual trust, and hence discussion is given to the way in which a charismatic leader secures group loyalty, typically asserting superhuman status, drawing on a pool of potential supporters, securing assent rather than discussion, and isolating the group from conventional reality. Although the ideas of leader Marshall Herff Applewhite seem irrational compared with conventional worldviews, his teachings had an inner logic that the group found persuasive.
100. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 7 > Issue: 2
Pieter Nanninga Introduction: Jihadi Culture and Ideology