01: The June issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion is devoted to the theme of religion and secrecy. Although several of the articles deal with (naturally) esoteric and historical topics, others touch on secrecy in contemporary religion. Michael Barkun looks at religion and secrecy after 9/11, noting that the Attorney General’s Guidelines on surveillance replaces the concept of privacy within religions with that of “transparency,“ a term once used mainly for governments.
Barkun argues that this shift may have the chilling effect of increasing conformity and risk-aversion among some religions; there are already reports of declines of attendance in mosques which have been the most heavily investigated. In another article, D. Michael Lindsay examines the use of secrecy by the evangelical leaders involved in the National Prayer Breakfast. The much publicized annual event is sponsored by a shadowy group known as the Fellowship, which runs a series of prayer groups and residences in the Washington area for elite national and international leaders. Lindsay finds that the group’s private and public (the National Prayer Breakfast) roles account for its wide influence.
For more information on this issue, write:JAAR, Oxford University Press, 2001 Evans Rd., Cary, NC 27513.
02: Since its publication over a year ago, the book Evangelical Christian Executives: A New Model for Business Corporations (Transaction Publishers, $34.95) has been underreviewed by journals and the media (including RW), but the volume sheds much needed light on the phenomenon of evangelical businesses.
Author Lewis Solomon, a business professor at George Washington University, examines six case studies of evangelicals who have founded or lead business firms. Solomon focuses on those executives who try to apply and integrate their faith into their businesses rather than those keeping their faiths largely private. He finds that there are various approaches even among those seeking to apply their faith to their companies. A fairly common “preacher model“ explicitly interweaves evangelical Christianity into the company‘s mission;
Solomon profiles the firm Covenant Transport and its CEO David Parker as an example of this approach. The “stewardship“ approach is also popular among evangelicals (with several “preacher” type executives eventually taking up this approach), as it stresses the role of the leader as “servant“ (a concept that has become widespread among many secular companies), putting the interests of the employees and customers over those of the CEO. The book finds that it is the executives that do the difficult work of translating and adapting their faith to more general spiritual or ethical “core values” that have the best chance of carrying out organizational transformation of their firms.
03: The Devil Is A Gentleman: Exploring America’s Religious Fringe(Random House, $25.95) by J.C. Hallman is another book in a new genre of “religious road books,” where skeptical authors travel the U.S. in search of exotic and intense religious experiences and groups. Hallman’s book stands out from these other works in that his accounts of such groups and practices as Druid circles, Satanic rituals, and the strategies of Scientology are interwoven with biographical reflections on William James and his century-old classic study, The Varieties of Religious Experience.
Following James’ dictum that the religious spirit is best understood through studying its more extreme forms, Hallman manages to gain access to fairly exclusive groups, giving the reader a sense that these new movements have their counterparts and roots in James’ 19th century America and earlier. Other chapters explore the Unariuns, a UFO cult, Wicca, an atheist group, and– somewhat out of place– the New Skete Monastery, founded by an Orthodox order attempting to bridge the East-West chasm, and best known for its dog training program.
04: Although religious markers of Europe’s identity “lurk below the surface” and are not always easily recognized behind secularization, they nevertheless persist. Moreover, the expansion of Europe under the European Union might force many to find new terms of coexistence between secularism and religion on the continent. Those are some of the assumptions of the essays published in Religion in an Expanding Europe(Cambridge University Press, $34.99), edited by Timothy A. Byrnes (Colgate University) and Peter J. Katzenstein (Cornell University).
Since European expansion has the potential primarily for bringing in additional numbers of Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim faithful, the volume focuses on those three religious traditions. In an informative overview, Daniel Philpott and Timothy Shah show that postures of religions toward European integration are influenced by institutional relationship with the State and the historical experiences of Europe. While Roman Catholicism has a strong transnational tradition, Orthodox Churches have put the emphasis on autocephalous churches within the borders of a national territory: thus, the Serbian Orthodox Church has found its “ideal order” in the Serbian national state, according to Vjekoslav Perica.
There are widespread Orthodox fears that the European project might erode Orthodoxy – in a way similar to that of ecumenism, “the ecclesiastical counterpart to EU integration,” writes Sabrina Ramet. However, attitudes toward the EU are more complex than rejection: the approach of the Serbian Church is thus a mixture of cooperation and defiance. Changes may well happen, and “Europeanization” is a real possibility, although it will take time.
The issue of Islam raises questions both pertaining to immigrant communities on EU territory and Turkey’s application for EU membership Turkey indeed represents an important issue, as Jose Casanova underlines appropriately: are the boundaries of Europe defined by its Christian heritage and Western civilizations, or by modern, secular values? The volume offers two chapters with strongly contrasting views regarding Turkey. Contributor Bassam Tibi claims that all Islamists in Turkey keep the Islamic state as their ultimate goal and see European membership as only a way to achieve their aims (and consequently a project incompatible with European aspiration).
Hakan Yavuz puts the emphasis on changes and shifts, with European membership seen as an opportunity by most Turkish Islamists. At the same time, the fact that Turkey’s Islamic heritage has become such an issue of debate in the EU, or that some Poles dream of re-Christianizing Europe, offer evidence not only that religion will continue to affect “secular” Europe more than many would wish, but that the expansion process will constitute a crucial factor from this angle. — By Jean-Francois Mayer