Resources

I'm a patriotic American, grateful to God for the many achievements of our nation -- its democratic ideals of freedom and equality, the prosperity it has afforded so many immigrants over the last two centuries, and its willingness to engage in self-criticism (think of the Civil Rights movement). If you've read Earth, Empire and Sacred Text, you will know how much I opposed the Iraq invasion before it happened and the war there and in Afghanistan as they progressed.

Our last troops pulled out of Iraq this week (Dec. 17, 2011). I wished our President had not declared the war a success -- he of all people! But this is the logic of empire. With almost 1,000 army bases worldwide and a defense budget that nearly equals the combined military budgets of all other countries, we project massive, indeed colossal power. As a follower of Jesus, I take the phenomenon of human sin seriously, and huge concentrations of power terrify me. Yes, power can be used for good; but look around you today and throughout human history. Evil can so easily infiltrate it, and often hijack it entirely.

This is a small vignette of an instance in US history when power was badly misused (an excerpt from my book, Ch. 11). I bring this up because humantrustees is about building on global networks of faith and peacebuilding. In the ensuing dialogue, therefore, we must be be honest with ourselves, ready to recognize our own faults before we attempt to highlight anyone else's. As Jesus said, "take out the log from your own eye before mentioning the speck in your brother's eye." This works for us individually; but it's also good to remember while we interact as citizens of many different countries.

Steven P. Blackburn, scholar and librarian at the Hartford Seminary, wrote the first review of Earth, Empire and Sacred Text. It came out in October 2010 in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research. I will be posting three other reviews shortly.

This is a small excerpt from Chapter 10 of Earth, Empire and Sacred Text, which seeks to trace the Christian and Jewish exegesis of Genesis 1 and 2 over the centuries, particularly on the issue of humanity in the image of God (often referred to in Latin: imago dei) and God's mandate for humankind to rule over the earth in his stead. For the Jewish side, I was blessed to discover the following book:

Cohen, Jeremy. "Be Fertile and Increase, Fill the Earth and Master It”: The Ancient and Medieval Career of a Biblical Text (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Universtity Press, 1989).

Then in a conversation with ethicist Glen Stassen (Fuller Theological Seminary) a few years back I found out that he had written about the Puritan roots of the human rights concept. By the same occasion I want to recommend his pioneering work on "Just Peacemaking" -- a concept now that has caught on in several parts of the world.

 

 

This is an excerpt from Earth, Empire and Sacred Text, found in Ch. 2, "Beyond Modernism: Time, Space and the Self." I believe Muslims and Christians, in order to make their dialog more productive, must take a serious look at the intellectual, economic, social and political context of our contemporary world. Since Muslims live predominantly in poorer countries (Arabian Gulf Arabs are a small minority!), they are naturally more concerned about the disparity of power between rich and poor states, and about how the current "neoliberal" capitalist system on a global scale works to maintain the status quo rather than to empower the weak.

Hence, my book leans on a multi-disciplinary approach that seeks to bring the social sciences and the humanities to bear on how best to understand the challenges ahead of those who want to make the world more just and peaceful. Here I use one of the most quoted authors in the humanities, British geographer and social theorist David Harvey, now Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York CUNY.

This was written in the spring of 2010 as a resource for the Vineyard USA (a recent Protestant denomination). I just added a paragraph in the next to last section, so as to update it. The initial intended audience is American evangelical Christians who are trying to make sense of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Along with many others, I argue that the Christian Right's seeming unconditional support for the State of Israel is altogether one-sided, morally wrong, theologically problematic, and bad for Israel's security in the long run. As followers of Jesus, we should be fostering peace and understanding between all peoples -- as much as it is possible in each case.

For a wider audience, this may be your best primer on "Christian Zionism" -- the ideology that has secured solid backing for Israel in the US Evangelical community since the 1980s.

This article was published in the Brill journal Die Welt des Islams (vol. 47, issue 2, 2007) under the title, "Maqasid al-Shari'a: Epistemology and Hermeneutics of Muslim Theologies of Human Rights

 

Abstract:

This essay explores the purposive strategy of modern Islamic legal theory (i.e., based on maqāsid al-sharīa, with public benefit, or maslaha, as the sharīa's main purpose) and its use in articulating an Islamic theology of human rights. After a synopsis of contemporary research on Islam and human rights, the essay highlights the main issues involved in the twentiethcentury turn to a purposive approach in usūl al-fiqh (Islamic legal theory). The “maqāsidī ” strategy as it is applied to human rights is then monitored in three distinct currents: traditionalists (Muhammad al-Ghaz¯lī and Muhammad 'Amāra); progressive conservatives (Muhammad Talbi, Muhammad al-Mutawakkal, and Rāshid al-Ghannūshī); progressives working with a postmodern epistemology (Ebrahim Moosa and Khaled Abou El Fadl). In conclusion, this move toward ethical objectivism and an epistemological favoring of ethical values over particular formulations of the text could enable a greater number of conservatives and progressives to converge on some of the burning questions of human rights today.

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