2008 Conference

 

2008 Conference Program

The topic of the 2008 Camden Conference was “Religion as a Force in World Affairs”

The 21st Annual Camden Conference, Religion as a Force in World Affairs, was held February 22-24, 2008.

For the first time, the World Affairs Council of Maine and the Camden Conference offered a live presentation of the Camden Conference at the Hannaford Auditorium in Portland.

The Conference explored the role of religion as a potent influence upon the formation and the implementation of foreign policy—especially the shaping of foreign policy in the United States—as a crucial factor in ongoing conflicts and crisis settings; as a central component in the deepening clash between self-identities in various movements and communities; and as potential stimulus for mediation, peace-making, and constructive social action.

The program was as follows:

Friday, February 22:

  • Keynote Address: Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, Kennedy School, Harvard University “Religion, World Politics, and United States Foreign Policy”

Saturday, February 23:

Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy

  • Andrew Preston, Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge University, England “A Look Back at Religious Influences on American Foreign Relations”
  • Scott Appleby, Professor of History and Director of the Kroc Center, Notre Dame University “The Role of Fundamentalists in Recent U.S. Foreign Policy”
  • Andrew Natsios, Professor at Georgetown University, former head of A.I.D., President’s Special Envoy to Sudan “The Influence of Religion in American Diplomacy and Development Policies”

Religion and the Middle East

  • Philip C. Wilcox Jr., President, Foundation for Middle East Peace “Religious Identities in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”
  • Rend al-Rahim Francke, President, Iraq Foundation, currently at U.S. Institute of Peace “The Clash Between Sunni and Shia Muslims Across the Middle East”
  • Ellen Laipson, President, Henry L. Stimson Center “The Struggle Between Modern Governance and Resurgent Islam”

Sunday, February 24

Global Issues

  • Katherine Marshall, Professor at Georgetown University, formerly with the World Bank “Religious and Ethical Challenges in Seeking Global Social Justice”
  • Douglas M. Johnston, President, International Institute for Religion and Diplomacy “Faith-Based Diplomacy: Bridging the Religious Divide”

The moderator for the 2008 Camden Conference was Graham Phaup, Executive Director, Institute for Global Ethics.


2008 Conference Speakers

The following speakers joined us at the 2008 conference.

Rev. J. Bryan Hehir

Rev. J. Bryan Hehir

Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, our 2008 keynote speaker, is an internationally renowned theologian and public intellectual dealing with issues of Catholic social teaching, religion and society, war and the use of force, and the interplay between ethics and foreign policy. He is currently the Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University where he teaches such courses as “The Politics and Ethics of the Use of Force” and “Religion and Government: Choices of Morality, Law and Policy.” He was on the faculty of Georgetown University from 1984 to 1992 and also served for twenty years as principal advisor on international affairs to the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference for whom he drafted major position papers on topics such as Nuclear Weapons. From 1993 to 2001 Bryan Hehir was on faculty at Harvard Divinity School and served as its executive head for three years. For many years he has held major leadership roles with Catholic Relief Services and with Catholic Charities while also maintaining his service as a parish priest. Hehir has been awarded honorary degrees from 25 institutions. His writings include The Moral Measurement of War: A Tradition of Continuity and Change; Military Intervention and National Sovereignty; Liberty and Power: A Dialogue on Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy in an Unjust World.

Scott Appleby

R. Scott Appleby

Scott Appleby is Professor of History and Director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame University. He teaches courses in American religious history and comparative religious movements with special attention to the roots of religious violence as well as the potential of religious peacebuilding. From 1988 to 1993 Appleby was co-director of the Fundamentalism Project, an international public policy study led by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He previously chaired the Religious Studies department at St. Xavier College in Chicago. His writings include: The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence and Reconciliation (2000); editor of Spokesmen for the Despised: Fundamentalist Leaders of the Middle East (1997); co-editor of the five volumes issued by the Fundamentalism Project; and co-editor of Being Right: Conservative Catholics in America (1995)

Amb. Phil Wilcox (ret.)

Ambassador Philip C. Wilcox, Jr. (Ret.)

Phil Wilcox is President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, a Washington, D.C.-based foundation devoted to fostering peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 1997 after thirty-one years of service. After graduation from Stanford Law School, Wilcox taught in Sierra Leone before becoming a Foreign Service Officer in 1966. His overseas posts included Laos, Indonesia, and Bangladesh with a last assignment as Chief of Mission and U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem. Within the Department of State Wilcox served in many posts including Deputy Director of UN Political Affairs, Director of Regional Affairs for Middle East and South Asia, Director for Israel and Arab-Israel Affairs, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs. Late in his career, Wilcox served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research as well as Ambassador at Large for Counter Terrorism. He also graduated from the National War College and has been awarded the Department of State’s Meritorious, Superior, and Presidential Honor Awards.

Rend al-Rahim Francke

Rend al-Rahim Francke

Rend al-Rahim Francke (U.S. Institute of Peace) is expected to speak on “The Sunni/Shia Clash”

Rend al-Rahim Francke is Executive Director of the Iraq Foundation in Washington, D.C. She was born in a Shia family in Iraq and educated in Lebanon, at the Sorbonne in France, and at Cambridge University in Great Britain. Rend became an American citizen in 1987. In 1991 she established the Iraq Foundation in Washington, D.C. to lobby for democracy, human rights, and regime change in Iraq. As Executive Director she represented the Foundation with government and non-governmental institutions including testimony before Congressional committees. In 2003 Rend was appointed as Ambassador to the United States on behalf of the new government in Iraq. She co-authored with Graham Fuller The Arab Shia—The Forgotten Muslims (2000) and currently serves as a fellow at the United States Institute of Peace.

Katherine Marshall

Katherine Marshall

Katherine Marshall is currently a Senior Fellow at the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs as well as Visiting Professor at Georgetown University. She has worked for over three decades on issues of international development with a focus on concerns for the world’s poorest countries. From 1971 to 2006, Marshall served with the World Bank in a wide range of leadership assignments with special attention to Africa. Her long experience as a manager with the bank included many endeavors to address leadership issues, conflict resolution, the role of women, and the role of values. From 2000 to 2006, Marshall was Counselor to the bank’s President with a mandate to cover ethics, values, faith, and religious liaison in development work. She serves on Boards and as an advisor to leading non-governmental organizations including the World Faiths Development Dialogue, the Fez Forum, and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ellen Laipson

Ellen Laipson

Ellen Laipson is President and CEO of the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. She joined the Center in 2002 after 25 years of government service is such key positions as Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (1997-2002) and Special Assistant to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations (1995-1997). Laipson’s earlier service focused upon analysis and policymaking on Middle East and South Asian issues. She served as Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs for the National Security Council (1993-1995), National Intelligence Officer for Near East and South Asia (1990-1993), and a member of the State Department’s policy planning staff after being a specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs for the Congressional Research Service. Ellen Laipson is a frequent speaker and media interviewee on Middle East issues, U.S. foreign policy, and global trends. Her writings include: “Iraqi Kurds and Iraq’s Future” (2006), “Security Sector Reform: The Final Frontier” (2005), and Relating to the Muslim World: Maybe Less is More (2004).

Andrew Natsios

Andrew Natsios

Andrew Natsios is Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and Advisor on International Development on the faculty of the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. From 2001 to 2006 Natsios served as Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development including management of USAID’s reconstruction programs in Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan. He previously served in the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, as Special Coordinator for International Disaster Assistance and Special Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, and as Washington Office Director for World Vision. Natsios graduated from Georgetown University and earned an M.A. in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1975 to 1987 and as chairman of the Republican State Committee. Natsios has written numerous articles on foreign policy and two books: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1997) and The Great North Korean Famine (2001).

Douglas M. Johnston

Douglas M. Johnston

Douglas Johnston is President and founder of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy. He led the seven year study that produced the book, Religion–The Missing Dimension of Statecraft (Oxford Univ. Press–1994) which made clear the role that religion could play in dealing with identity-based conflicts. Johnston graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and was the youngest officer in the service to qualify for command of a nuclear submarine. He went on to earn an M.A. in Public Administration as well as a Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University where he later taught at the Kennedy School. Johnston served in high positions in Federal government including Director of Policy Planning and Management in the Office of Secretary of Defense and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Also in Washington he was Chief Operating Officer at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Among his books are: Foreign Policy into the 21st Century: The U.S. Leadership Challenge (1996) and Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpoliltik (2003).

Andrew Preston

Andrew Preston

Andrew Preston teaches History as a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge University in England. Preston is also a Fellow at the Cold War Studies Center of the London School of Economics. He received an Honors B.A. in History and Political Science from the University of Toronto, an M.Sc. in International History from the London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in History from Cambridge University. He has taught at the University of Victoria and at Yale University where he was twice an Olin Fellow. Preston specializes in the history of American foreign relations. His current project is a study of the intersection between religion and politics and the resulting influences upon the course of American war and diplomacy from the Colonial period to the present. He published The War Council: McGeorge Bundy, the NSC, and Vietnam in 2006 (Harvard University Press). Preston co-edited Nixon in the World: American Foreign Relations, 1969-1977, which will soon be issued by Oxford University Press.


2008 Conference Booklist

The following books provide background information on the subject of the 2008 Conference.

Essential Reading

Strong Religion

Strong Religion: The Rise of Fundamentalisms around the World (The Fundamentalism Project) by Gabriel A. Almond, R. Scott Appleby, and Emmanuel Sivan. Chicago University Press, October 2003.

After the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States, religious fundamentalism has dominated public debate as never before. Policymakers, educators, and the general public all want to know: Why do fundamentalist movements turn violent? Are fundamentalisms a global threat to human rights, security, and democratic forms of government? What is the future of fundamentalism?

To answer questions like these, Strong Religion draws on the results of the Fundamentalism Project, a decade-long interdisciplinary study of antimodernist, antisecular militant religious movements on five continents and within seven world religious traditions. From inside flap.

The Battle for God

The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong. Ballantine Books, February 2001.

“About 40 years ago popular opinion assumed that religion would become a weaker force and people would certainly become less zealous as the world became more modern and morals more relaxed. But the opposite has proven true, according to theologian and author Karen Armstrong ( A History of God ), who documents how fundamentalism has taken root and grown in many of the world’s major religions, such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Even Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism have developed fundamentalist factions. Reacting to a technologically driven world with liberal Western values, fundamentalists have not only increased in numbers, they have become more desperate, claims Armstrong, who points to the Oklahoma City bombing, violent anti-abortion crusades, and the assassination of President Yitzak Rabin as evidence of dangerous extremes.

“Yet she also acknowledges the irony of how fundamentalism and Western materialism seem to urge each other on to greater excesses. To ‘prevent an escalation of the conflict, we must try and understand the pain and perception of the other side,’ she pleads. With her gift for clear, engaging writing and her integrity as a thorough researcher, Armstrong delivers a powerful discussion of a globally heated issue. Part history lesson, part wake-up call, and mostly a plea for healing, Armstrong’s writing continues to offer a religious mirror and a cultural vision.” — Gail Hudson, for the publisher.

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter. Simon & Schuster, November 2006.

Jimmy Carter’s latest book derives from his personal experiences in both arenas: as chief executive of the nation and as founder of the Carter Foundation, his post-presidency organization dedicated to world peace. In essence, the reader is presented with a history of Arab-Israeli discord and the search for a successful resolution.

He cites the lack of permanent peace in the Middle East as a “persistent threat to global peace” and posits that the stumbling blocks to a lasting cessation of armed conflict are to be found within two contexts: Israel’s unwillingness to comply with international law and honor its previous peace commitments, and Arab nations’ refusal to openly acknowledge Israel’s right to live undisturbed. Brad Hooper. From Booklist.

Divided by God

Divided by God: America’s Church-State Problem–and What We Should Do About It by Noah Feldman. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, July 2005.

Having examined Islam and democracy in his first book, After Jihad, Feldman, a law professor at N.Y.U., turns his attention to America’s own fraught religious-secular divide. Much of the book consists of an agile account of the evolution of church-state relations, from the creation of the First Amendment to the 2003 Supreme Court ruling against a public display of the Ten Commandments. Feldman identifies two polarized camps today: “values evangelicals,” who uphold religious values as integral to political decisions, and “legal secularists,” whose aim is to keep religion and government separate. He downplays the heterogeneity within these groups, perhaps in order to bolster his solution for reconciliation: sanctioning “public manifestations of religion,” while withholding government funding from religious institutions. From The New Yorker.

America at the Crossroads

America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy by Francis Fukuyama. Yale University Press, March 2006.

Francis Fukuyama here gives the most lucid and knowledgeable account of the neoconservative vision of America’s place and role in world affairs, and where it has overreached disastrously. He argues effectively for an American foreign policy more aware of the limits of American power, less dependent on the military, and more respectful of the interests and opinions of other countries and emerging international norms and institutions. By Nathan Glazer, Professor of Sociology and Education Emeritus, Harvard University.

Liberty and Power

Liberty and Power: A Dialogue on Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy in an Unjust World (Pew Forum Dialogues on Religion & Public Life) by J. Bryan Hehir (editor), Michael Waltzer, Louise Richardson, Shibley Telhami, Charles Krauthammer and James Lindsay. Brookings, September 2004

Hehir is our opening keynote speaker. His edited book addresses what role religion should play in shaping and implementing U.S. foreign policy.

How a nation “commits itself to freedom” has long been at the heart of debates about foreign aid, economic sanctions, and military intervention. Moral and faith traditions have much to say about what is required to achieve this end. And after September 11, no one can doubt the importance of religious beliefs in influencing relations among peoples and nations.

The contributors (Michael Walzer, Louise Richardson, Shibley Telhami, Charles Krauthammer, James Lindsay) to this volume come at the issue from very different perspectives and offer exceptional and unexpected insights on a question now at the forefront of American foreign policy.

God’s Continent

God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis by Philip Jenkins. Oxford University Press, May 2007.

Common knowledge has it that European Christianity is sick unto death, and falling church attendance, baptisms, and church weddings bolster that notion. Yet in Europe independent congregations are mushrooming, a sizable proportion of new immigrants are Christian, and the trend of population growth indicates that Christianity will remain the majority faith in Europe for the foreseeable future.

Jenkins also inspects Islam in Europe [and believes] that Western European political elites have been monumentally insensitive to the complaints of ordinary Muslims and non-Muslims alike. He thoroughly discusses the moderate, peacable Islam most Muslims practice and argues that European Muslims well may settle into amicable coexistence as their incomes and comforts rise. This immensely informative, quintessentially balanced, utterly lucid volume completes Jenkins’ Future of Christianity trilogy magnificently. From Booklist, starred review.

Faith-Based Diplomacy

Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik by Douglas Johnston (Editor). Oxford University Press, April 2003.

The world-class authors writing in this volume suggest how the peacemaking tenets of five major world religions can be strategically applied in ongoing conflicts in which those religions are involved. Finally, the commonalities and differences between these religions are examined with an eye toward further applications in peacemaking and conflict resolution. From publisher.

The Diminishing Divide

The Diminishing Divide: Religion’s Changing Role in American Politics by Andrew Kohut, John C. Green, Skott Keeter, and Robert C. Toth. Brookings, April 2000.

“At a time when America needs international support more than ever, Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes explain why the United States is distinct and sometimes disliked. Rather than rely on conjecture, they use international surveys to answer these critical questions. Anyone worried about America’s place in the world will find new evidence and unconventional answers in this well-written book.” By Joseph S. Nye, Jr., author of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics.

Finding Global Balance

Finding Global Balance: Common Grounds Between the Worlds of Development And Faith by Katherine Marshall, Lucy Keough. World Bank Publications. June 2005.

This book relates the latest chapter in the story of a remarkable partnership between the worlds of faith and development, launched in 1998 by Jim Wolfensohn and then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, when they convened a meeting of faith and development leaders in Lambeth Palace.

The intervening years have seen the growth and enhancement of a network of world faith and development leaders who share a common passion to eradicate global poverty, extend social justice and ensure global security for all of the world’s people.

The uniqueness of this partnership is the fresh perspective it offers on critical development issues and the opportunity for faith leaders and development leaders to seek new avenues for collaboration. This book tells the story of this partnership, within the context of the Dublin meeting. Publisher’s description.

God and Gold

God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World by Walter Russell Mead. Knopf, 2007. October 2007.

Mead recounts what is, in effect, the story of a centuries-long war between the English-speaking peoples and their enemies. Since Oliver Cromwell’s day, the English-speakers have seen their enemies as haters of liberty and God who care nothing for morality, who will do anything to win. Those enemies, from Catholic Spain and Louis XIV to the Nazis, communists, and Al-Qaeda, held similar beliefs about their British and American rivals, but we see that though the Anglo-Americans have lost small wars here and there, they have won the major conflicts. So far.

The stakes today are higher than ever; technological progress makes new and terrible weapons easier for rogue states and terror groups to develop and deploy. Mead sees the current conflicts in the Middle East as the latest challenge to the liberal, capitalist, and democratic world system that the Anglo-Americans are trying to build. What we need now, he says, is a diplomacy of civlizations based on a deeper understanding of the recurring conflicts between the liberal world system and its foes. In practice, this means that Americans generally, and especially the increasingly influential evangelical community, must develop a better sense of America’s place in the world. (From publisher.)

Mead is Senior Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

American Theocracy

American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century by Kevin Phillips. Viking, March 2006.

The title of Phillips’s latest book may overstate his case (in the text, he prefers the term “theocratic direction”), but his analysis likely will strike chords among those troubled by our current political moment. Phillips (American Dynasty) expounds upon historical parallels for each of his three subjects. In his section on “Oil and American Supremacy,” for example, he points to Britain’s post-WWI involvement in the Middle East as an analogy to Iraq, and in his section on radicalized religion, he warns of “the pitfalls of imperial Christian overreach from Rome to Britain.” The five major measures of U.S. debt—from national to household—keep setting records, he observes in his section on “Borrowed Prosperity,” and the real estate boom spurred by the Federal Reserve, he argues, cannot continue. The lesson of the past, he warns, is that intractable national issues “generate weak and compromising politicians or zealous bumblers.” Edited from Publishers Weekly.

God’s Politics

God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It by Jim Wallis. HarperSanFrancisco, 2005. Reprint edition September 2006.

New York Times bestseller God’s Politics struck a chord with Americans disenchanted with how the Right had co-opted all talk about integrating religious values into our politics, and with the Left, who were mute on the subject. Jim Wallis argues that America’s separation of church and state does not require banishing moral and religious values from the public square. God’s Politics offers a vision for how to convert spiritual values into real social change and has started a grassroots movement to hold our political leaders accountable by incorporating our deepest convictions about war, poverty, racism, abortion, capital punishment, and other moral issues into our nation’s public life. Who can change the political wind? Only we can. From publisher.

Power, Faith and Fantasy

Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present, by Michael B. Oren. Norton, January 2007.

This engrossing, informative, and frequently surprising survey of U.S. involvement in the Middle East over the past 230 years is particularly timely. Oren, a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and New Republic, illustrates that American interests have frequently combined elements of romanticism, religious fervency, and hardheaded power politics. In the early nineteenth century, President Jefferson, perhaps acting against his own instincts to remain aloof from the affairs of the Old World, sent the infant American navy to confront the Barbary pirates off the coast of North Africa. Like many of our future endeavors in the region, the results were a mixture of success, failure, and farce. Other episodes covered here that are particularly interesting include previously obscure American efforts to locate the source of the Nile and the efforts by American missionaries to convert vast numbers of Ottoman subjects. But Oren is at his best when describing American involvement in the twentieth century as the U.S. replaced Britain as the dominant “imperial” power in the area. (Jay Freeman in Booklist.)

Secularism Confronts Islam

Secularism Confronts Islam, by Olivier Roy. Columbia University Press, June 2007.

The denunciation of fundamentalism in France, embodied in the law against the veil and the deportation of imams, has shifted into a systematic attack on all Muslims and Islam. This hostility is rooted in the belief that Islam cannot be integrated into French–and, consequently, secular and liberal–society. However, as Olivier Roy makes clear in this book, Muslim intellectuals have made it possible for Muslims to live concretely in a secularized world while maintaining the identity of a “true believer.” They have formulated a language that recognizes two spaces: that of religion and that of secular society.

Western society is unable to recognize this process, Roy argues, because of a cultural bias that assumes religious practice is embedded within a specific, traditional culture that must be either erased entirely or forced to coexist in a neutral, multicultural space. Instead, Roy shows that new forms of religiosity, such as Islamic fundamentalism and Christian evangelicalism, have come to thrive in post-traditional, secular contexts precisely because they remain detached from any cultural background.

In recognizing this, Roy recasts the debate concerning Islam and democracy. Analyzing the French case in particular, in which the tension between Islam and the conception of Western secularism is exacerbated, Roy makes important distinctions between Arab and non-Arab Muslims, hegemony and tolerance, and the role of the umma and the sharia in Muslim religious life. He pits Muslim religious revivalism against similar movements in the West, such as evangelical Protestantism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and refutes the myth of a single “Muslim community” by detailing different groups and their inability to overcome their differences. (From publisher.)

Roy, a previous Camden Conference speaker, is a professor at l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris.

Terror in the Name of God

Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill, by Jessica Stern. Ecco, August 2003 (paper 2004, Harper Perennial).

This sophisticated examination of religiously motivated terrorism is a welcome antidote to the armchair analyses of Islamic extremism that surfaced in the wake of September 11th. Stern spent five years interviewing religious terrorists of all stripes, including anti-abortion crusaders, Hamas leaders, and militants in Pakistan and Indonesia. She found men and women who were driven not by nihilistic rage or lunacy but by a deep faith in the justice of their causes and in the possibility of transforming the world through violence. That faith, Stern suggests, is fuelled by poverty, repression, and a sense of humiliation, and then exploited by “inspirational leaders” who turn confused people into killers. The West cannot fight terror by intelligence and military means alone, she argues; a “smarter realpolitik approach” toward the developing world would use policy to deprive terrorists of not only funding and weapons but potential recruits. (From The New Yorker.)

Stern is a U.S. expert on terrorism, is a lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and a faculty affiliate of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. From 1994 to 1995, she served as director for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council; from 1998 to 1999.

The Preacher and the Presidents

The Preacher and the Presidents, by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. Center Street, August 2007.

No one man or woman has ever been in a position to see the presidents, and the presidency, so intimately, over so many years. They called him in for photo opportunities. They called for comfort. They asked about death and salvation; about sin and forgiveness. At a time when the nation is increasingly split over the place of religion in public life, The Preacher and the Presidents reveals how the world’s most powerful men and world’s most famous evangelist, Billy Graham, knit faith and politics together.

The Stillborn God

The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West, by Mark Lilla. Knopf, 2007.

“Mark Lilla is a master of the history of ideas. The Stillborn God . . . is a study of ‘political theology,’ the central question in the relation of religion to politics, as to which has the highest authority in moral discourse. The Enlightenment and the thinkers that followed had posited a ‘great separation,’ between the two, but that liberal view has collapsed, and we face the question anew as to the idea of God in the world today. Lilla follows this question from Kant to Hegel, to Karl Barth in Christianity and Franz Rosenzweig in Judaism. It is a tale told with lucidity and spareness, and challenges all serious thought in the modern world. The Stillborn God will be a landmark in political philosophy.” (Daniel Bell, Henry Ford Professor of Social Sciences Emeritus, Harvard University.)

Mark Lilla is Professor of Humanities and Religion at Columbia University.

Also Recommended Reading

The Illustrated Guide to World Religions

The Illustrated Guide to World Religions, edited by Michael D. Coogan. Oxford, January 2004.

This book is for those who want a reference book about the world’s major religions.

Moyers on America

Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times by Bill Moyers. New Press, May 2004.

Selected for his chapter “Many Faiths, One Nation.”

Iraqi Kurds and Iraq’s Future

“Iraqi Kurds and Iraq’s Future.” Thomson Gale, 2005. By Ellen Laipson and Henri J. Barkey, from December issue of Middle East Policy. Laipson is speaker at the 2008 Camden Conference. This is a digital version of their article which can be purchased from amazon.com.

The authors examine the role of Iraqi Kurds in shaping post-war Iraq and their prospects for remaining part of a federal state. It argues that while the overwhelming majority of Iraqi Kurds favor independence, their precarious geographical and political position will, at least in the short run, temper those aspirations. Iraqi Kurds control most economic activity in their territories, have their own militia, the pesh merga, and maintain a strong relationship with Washington. They were instrumental in shaping the draft constitution and advocating for federalism that ensures protection of their minority status. A key factor in shaping their political preferences will be Iraqi Kurds’ relations with their neighbors, especially those with large Kurdish populations–Syria, Iran and most importantly Turkey. Issues of security, distribution of oil revenue, and the role of religion in politics will also play an important role in deciding whether Iraqi Kurds follow the secessionist route or not. In the end, it remains to be seen whether Iraqi Kurds can reconcile their two identities and envision a future in which their interests converge with those of the majority of Iraqis. (From MEP.)

Wayward Christian Soldiers

Wayward Christian Soldiers: Freeing the Gospel from Political Captivity, by Charles Marsh. Oxford University Press, June 2007.

In Wayward Christian Soldiers, leading evangelical theologian Charles Marsh offers a powerful indictment of the political activism of evangelical Christian leaders and churches in the United States. Over the past several years, Marsh observes, American evangelicals have achieved more political power than at any time in their history. But access and influence have come at a cost to their witness in the world and the integrity of their message. The author offers a sobering contrast between the contemporary evangelical elite, which forms the core of the Republican Party, and the historic Christian tradition of respect for the mystery of God and appreciation for human fallibility. The author shows that the most prominent voices in American evangelicalism have arrogantly redefined Christianity on the basis of partisan politics rather than scripture and tradition. (From publisher.)

A Secular Age

A Secular Age, by Charles Taylor. Belkamp, 2007

In his characteristically erudite yet engaging fashion, Taylor, winner of the 2007 Templeton Prize, takes up where he left off in his magnificent Sources of the Self (1989) as he traces the emergence of secularity and the processes of secularization in the modern age. Challenging the idea that the secular takes hold in a world where religion is experienced as a loss or where religions are subtracted from the culture, Taylor discovers the secular emerging in the midst of the religious.

The Protestant Reformation, with its emphasis on breaking down the invidious political structures of the Catholic Church, provides the starting point down the road to the secular age. Taylor sweeps grandly and magisterially through the 18th and 19th centuries as he recreates the history of secularism and its parallel challenges to religion. He concludes that a focus on the religious has never been lost in Western culture, but that it is one among many stories striving for acceptance. Taylor’s examination of the rise of unbelief in the 19th century is alone worth the price of the book and offers an essential reminder that the Victorian age, more than the Enlightenment, dominates our present view of the meanings of secularity. Taylor’s inspired combination of philosophy and history sparkles in this must-read virtuoso performance. From Publishers Weekly.

Charles Taylor is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at McGill University.


2008 Conference Articles

The articles below provide information and background on the subject of the 2008 Conference.

Know Your Enemy

This commentary, written by Arnaud de Borchgrave, appeared in the Nov. 18, 2007, edition of the Washington Times.

Radical Islam — or Islamofascism, as conservatives are prone to call it — conveys the impression of a political movement. It is no such animal. Al Qaeda’s suicide bombers and assorted gunslingers are not individual al Qaeda terrorists, inspired by Osama bin Laden, that have hijacked a religion. Like it or not, the West is fighting a religion “that arose in enraged reaction to the West,” writes Fergus Kerr in “20th Century Catholic Theologians.”

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Divisions in Our World are Not the Result of Religion

This article, written by Karen Armstrong and Andrea Bistrich, appeared Nov. 14, 2007 at the website countercurrents.org.

Karen Armstrong was a Catholic nun for seven years before leaving her order and going to Oxford. Today, she is amongst the most renowned theologians and has written numerous bestsellers on the great religions and their founders. She is one of the 18 leading group members of the Alliance of Civilizations, an initiative of the former UN General Secretary, Kofi Anan, whose purpose is to fight extremism and further dialogue between the western and Islamic worlds. She talks here to the German journalist, Andrea Bistrich, about politics, religion, extremism and commonalities.

ANDREA BISTRICH: 9/11 has become the symbol of major, insurmountable hostilities between Islam and the West. After the attacks many Americans asked: “Why do they hate us?” And experts in numerous round-table talks debated if Islam is an inherently violent religion. Is this so?

KAREN ARMSTRONG: Certainly not. There is far more violence in the Bible than in the Qur’an; the idea that Islam imposed itself by the sword is a Western fiction, fabricated during the time of the Crusades when, in fact, it was Western Christians who were fighting brutal holy wars against Islam. The Qur’an forbids aggressive warfare and permits war only in self-defence; the moment the enemy sues for peace, the Qur’an insists that Muslims must lay down their arms and accept whatever terms are offered, even if they are disadvantageous. Later, Muslim law forbade Muslims to attack a country where Muslims were permitted to practice their faith freely; the killing of civilians was prohibited, as were the destruction of property and the use of fire in warfare.

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Science and the Islamic World — A Quest for Rapprochement

Written by Pervez Hoodbhoy and appearing on the website Modern Discussion, a “media news cultural tribune to publicize objective and critical dialogues and opinions about the vital issues concerning the secularism, democracy, human rights, women’s rights, development, environment, human heritage in order to build a humane, civil and secular society that guarantee basic political, economic, socio­logical, cultural rights for humanity. This includes enjoying national, religious, cult, intellectual, and political rights.”

This article grew out of the Max von Laue Lecture that I delivered earlier this year to celebrate that eminent physicist and man of strong social conscience. When Adolf Hitler was on the ascendancy, Laue was one of the very few German physicists of stature who dared to defend Albert Einstein and the theory of relativity. It therefore seems appropriate that a matter concerning science and civilization should be my concern here.

The question I want to pose—perhaps as much to myself as to anyone else—is this: With well over a billion Muslims and extensive material resources, why is the Islamic world disengaged from science and the process of creating new knowledge? To be definite, I am here using the 57 countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) as a proxy for the Islamic world.

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A Six-Day War

A Six-Day War: Its Aftermath in American Public Opinion, by Robert Ruby, Senior Editor, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

“It was famously a six-day war, and in varying guises the conflict has so far lasted another 40 years.

For six days, beginning June 5, 1967, Israel battled Egypt, Jordan and Syria. As a result of the fighting, Israel won control of the Sinai desert, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

For all of the 40 years since then, substantially larger numbers of Americans have placed their primary sympathy with Israel rather than with Arab states or with the Palestinians. That support is a near constant in American public opinion about the Middle East, beginning with Israel’s creation as a state in May 1948 …”

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Religion, Politics and Assassination in the Middle East

Religion, Politics and Assassination in the Middle East, a paper delivered by Sonia L. Alianak, Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas–Pan American, at the 1996 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, CA, 29 August-1 September 1996.

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The Dignity of Difference

The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations, a talk given by Rabbi Professor Jonathan Sacks at the 7th Annual Templeton Lecture on Religion and World Affairs (May 21, 2002).

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God’s Country?

God’s Country? by Walter Russell Mead (Foreign Affairs, September/October 2006). Religion has always been a major force in U.S. politics, but the recent surge in the number and the power of evangelicals is recasting the country’s political scene — with dramatic implications for foreign policy. This should not be cause for panic: evangelicals are passionately devoted to justice and improving the world, and eager to reach out across sectarian lines.

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The Sacred and the Profane

The Sacred and the Profane: Judaism and International Relations, the 2001 Templeton lecture on religion and world affairs by Harvey Sicherman, Ph.D., President of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and former aide to three secretaries of state.

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Religion in Diplomatic History

Religion in Diplomatic History by Walter A. McDougall. The author is Alloy-Ansin Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania. This essay, adapted from a special issue of Orbis (Spring of 1998) on the topic “Faith and Statecraft” appeared in the Foreign Policy Research Institute WIRE in March of 1998.

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2008 Conference Links

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