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Research papers in the category Religion and Society.
The way Christians dispute and decide among themselves can be confusing for insiders and outsiders alike. The relative value, importance and emphasis on the Bible, tradition, reason and experience is often not perceived with any clarity, and terms like ‘liberal’, ‘literalist’ and ‘traditionalist’ are thrown around in the religious and secular media in a fairly cavalier fashion – often more to win arguments than shed light. In this essay, Savitri Hensman explores, through three straightforward examples, the actual way human beings appeal to text, to history, to rational thought and to their personal apprehensions. She demonstrates that trying to behave as if they were wholly independent is unfeasible as well as undesirable. Hensman also shows that the valid interpretation and application of Scripture in the life and ethics of the Christian community requires a willingness to listen and learn widely, and a shared commitment to a Gospel of loving transformation realised in the flesh, not in texts and arguments alone.
This report by our partners Christian Peacemakers Teams (www.cpt.org) was written after a number of interviews with Iraqis about how they see the future for their country as the United States withdraws. Their diverse expressed opinions show that the truth is much more complex than the US narrative seeks to present. The contribution of the “surge” to a reduction in violence in Iraq is questionable. Opinions on the reliability of the Iraqi security forces, although not entirely negative, vary widely. Iraq (www.cpt.org/work/iraq ) faces a highly uncertain future, perhaps becoming a success story, but perhaps experiencing more bloodshed. The US should think creatively about ways to support the people of Iraq as they rebuild their country.
In this groundbreaking new report on the long-running and (of late) controversial BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day feature, researcher Lizzie Clifford moves forward the debate about whether the prime-time ‘God slot’ should be preserved, reformed or abolished by carrying out a careful examination of the actual broadcast scripts themselves – with surprising results. Many of the claims made by both stout defenders and vigorous opponents of the current Thought for the Day format – which excludes non-religious and minority religious voices – prove questionable. What some regard as the feature’s weakness, its attenuated theological content, can in other respects assist with bridge-building and conversation between people of different belief commitments. On the other hand, the restriction of presenters to those who represent groups with a long-established liturgical and doctrinal base seems unnecessary, given that the actual content of their scripts does not always make such a requirement. Humanists and those from ‘alternative’ religious backgrounds also deserve to be heard. It is not enough for Thought for the Day to survive simply as a bastion of ‘religious’ speech, argues this report. TftD can be valuable, so long as it manages to offer a new angle on the stories making the news, triggering fresh ways of thinking, and by utilising high-quality writers and broadcasters, capable of contributing an arresting script that genuinely prompts reflection. Overall, if TftD is going to survive as prime-time broadcasting, and make a genuinely valuable contribution, it must not compromise its potential to challenge the status quo and to strive for peace and humility in the face of tensions over difference. Equally, dispute over Thought for the Day is a significant one, the report suggests, because it is symptomatic of wider questions surrounding the more general place of religious broadcasting and of religious speech in an increasingly plural society.
The regional and international fall-out from Israel's response to the Freedom Flotilla aid shipments for blockade Gaza has thrown into sharp relief the fractured politics of the region. In this paper, a seasoned and engaged commentator on the Middle East, himself involved as an ecumenical, legal and political consultant to the historic churches, looks at the claims and counter-claims involved; the reality of the blockade; the implications for Israel and its critics; and the apparent winners and losers in the Flotilla stand-off.
The Westminster Declaration is an attempt to win greater recognition and respect by politicians and society for what its supporters regard as Christian values, and policies in line with these. It has received significant media attention in the run-up to the 2010 UK General Election, and is being used as a rallying point for socially conservative Christians. In this paper, the author offers a carefully considered critique of the Declaration, finding that it is a flawed document overall. Some of the theology which underpins it is highly questionable. Where it is specific on policy issues some of the proposals are impractical or unhelpfully partial, and it may do more harm than good to the church.
Fear or Freedom?: Why a Warring Church Must Change by Simon Barrow (Ed)
The Subversive Manifesto: Lifting the Lid on God's Political Agenda by Jonathan Bartley
Faith and Politics After Christendom: The Church as a Movement for Anarchy by Jonathan Bartley
Consuming Passion: Why the Killing of Jesus Really Matters by Simon Barrow and Jonathan Bartley (Eds)
Threatened with Resurrection: The Difficult Peace of Christ by Simon Barrow