Vol 28 No. 2 (2009)
In their 1998 publication of Religions of Rome, M. Beard, J. North and S. Price propound the view that the term “imperial cult” should be expanded to include a wide range of cultic activity related to the emperor, whether directly carried out in temples and other institutions of the Roman imperium or not. In particular, various forms of homage are to be included. This critical assessment weighs their contention and finds it wanting in several key areas, notably what the best sources themselves have to say on the topic. The conclusion is that there is much to gain by retaining the original meaning assigned to this phrase.
Beyond Anthropocentrism in Barth’s Doctrine of Creation: Searching for a Theology of Nature [+] 175-187
The critique raised most often regarding Karl Barth’s doctrine of creation concerns its anthropocentric nature. However, Barth himself moves beyond the anthropocentrism for which he is accused. Barth is indeed anthropocentric in that his creation/covenant thesis tends to present non-human creation as a means to an end, in his exposition of the Genesis creation narratives, in his christological focus, in his understanding of the covenant, and in his anthropocentric doctrine of election, which is foundational to his understanding of the covenant. Nevertheless, Barth does not completely neglect nature. There are insights within his doctrine of creation that might be incorporated into a theology of nature, particularly that all of creation participates in the covenant.
Birds Hill Park, the Dakota Eagle Sundance, and the Sweatlodge: Establishing a Sacred Site in a Provincial Park [+] 189-206
Little scholarly analysis has been made of the processes involved in returning Indigenous sacred locales to contemporary religious usage. In this paper, a historical and descriptive sketch is provided of the institutional and personal systems in place in the recovery of a Dakota sundance site in Birds Hill Provincial Park. After several meetings with various officials from the Manitoba Department of Conservation the White Buffalo Spiritual Society was given permission to hold a sundance ceremony at Birds Hill Provincial Park, located approximately twenty kilometers north of the City of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. From 2000 until 2007 an annual sundance and regular sweatlodge ceremonies were held at a site in the Park selected by members of the White Buffalo Spiritual Society in consultation with Conservation officials. This article outlines significant events in the process of establishing and maintaining a sacred space in a Provincial Park, introduces the reader to the Dakota Eagle sundance, and notes the reasons why the sundance and sweatlodge ceremonies are viewed as important for the individual and community well-being.
The Transformation of Blame: “Religious Thought” and the Genealogy of Scientific Explanation [+] 207-240
This essay discusses Donald Wiebe’s account of the relationship between “religious thought” and the mode of thought that he thinks typical of objective science and rational theology. First I present what I take to be Wiebe’s position. Then, drawing on René Girard’s fundamental anthropology and Michael Tomasello’s cultural-psychological work on joint attention, I offer a critique and articulate an alternative approach. I argue that the dichotomy between ostensibly objective modern scientific thought, on the one hand, and religious thought, on the other, is not an internal structural one, but concerns the radically differing value for social order accruing to otherwise commensurate modes of intersubjective attention to objects in a shared environment. I argue that the class of procedures aiming at relatively disinterested, nonagentic explanation is genetically related to the class of relatively parochial, affect-laden acts of blaming, a class that includes ex post facto (mythological) rationalizations of those proto-human reactions that engendered archaic ritual practices and systems of interdiction in the first place. The transition from religious thought to science, I conclude, is not a dichotomy in “kinds” of thought, as Wiebe argues, but arises with the historical emergence of a novel human potential for empathy and the concomitant erosion of the individual’s susceptibility, in the context of collective crises, to persuasion framed in terms of blame.
Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish woman living in Amsterdam, died on November 30th 1943 in Auschwitz when she was twenty-nine years old, leaving behind a diary (eleven exercise books) and seventy-eight letters which have drawn responses across the world in the form of books, reviews, articles, documentaries, plays and visual art. By adding this essay to the body of literature on Hillesum’s writings, I hope to change the process of recuperation so that her texts may be read differently. What I hope to contribute is a pluralist and universal’s perspective on the comprehension of love in Hillesum’s writings. This subject has not as yet been given enough thought and attention. And yet, when one tries to understand Hillesum’s spiritual path it is mandatory to interpret what she understood by the so common word of “love.” Hillesum’s writings do indeed articulate a remarkable experience of God in times when many just abandoned a faith that seemed so useless.