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CIRIS Research Associate Edits Special Journal Issue on Religion and Violence

2 May 2017 – CIRIS Graduate Research Associate Matthew Rowley recently edited a collection of essays for the journal Transformation. The special issue, coedited with Dr Emma Wild-Wood, focuses on religion, hermeneutics and violence. Central to each essay is the relationship between readers, texts, and killing. Key questions addressed in the volume include:

  • What causes religious violence? 
  • What is the relationship between beliefs, texts and violence done in the name of God? 
  • How should one respond to historical violence within their own tradition? 
  • How should one respond to acts of violence performed by those in another faith community? 
  • How are harmful beliefs formed and what can be done to prevent believers from doing the unbelievable? 

Rowley contributed two articles to the collection. The co-authored introductory article summarises ‘the state of modern scholarship on key debates concerning religion and violence, [and] encourages the careful study of how individuals or groups in peculiar historical circumstances interact with their sacred texts and beliefs in a way that facilitates violence or oppression’.

Rowley’s second article examines how people come to ‘inhabit’ a particular sacred text and frame their violence through that text. As case studies, the article looks at individual violence (child sacrifice), communal violence (conquest), and eschatologically oriented violence (cosmic war). It ‘examines one common practice among many who believe their killing pleases or is willed by God—inhabiting biblical texts. Focusing on the Abrahamic and Mosaic narratives and on eschatology, [it explains] part of the process whereby individuals and groups come to believe that they are participating in killing patterned on or prophesied in scripture. Finally, this article [suggests] a scripture-based approach aimed at moving an individual or group away from the harmful habitation of sacred texts’.

Contents:

  1. ‘Religion, Hermeneutics and Violence: An Introduction’ (Matthew Patrick Rowley and Emma Wild-Wood).
  2. ‘The Use of Violent Biblical Texts by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda’ (Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala).
  3. ‘Early Modern Religious Violence and the Dark Side of Church History’ (John Coffey). 
  4. ‘Christian Responses to Islamism and Violence in the Name of Islam’ (Colin Chapman).
  5. ‘Child Sacrifice, Conquest and Cosmic War: On the Harmful Habitation of Biblical Texts’ (Matthew Patrick Rowley).
  6. ‘Christian Hermeneutics and Narratives of War in the Carolingian Empire’ (Robert A.H. Evans).

Sage has made articles 1, 3 and 4 open access.

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At CIRIS, we aim to equip students and scholars in Cambridge and beyond with a robust and nuanced appreciation for the role of religion in international politics that they will take with them into their future research and/or practice around the world. To this end, we host public lectures, academic seminars, and other events. We are also pursuing research projects that draw on the contributions of Cambridge-based academics.

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