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In Volume 1 of Christianity and Freedom, leading historians uncover the unappreciated role of Christianity in the development of basic human rights and freedoms from antiquity through today. These include radical notions of dignity and equality, religious freedom, liberty of conscience, limited government, consent of the governed, economic liberty, autonomous civil society, and church-state separation, as well as more recent advances in democracy, human rights, and human development. Acknowledging that the record is mixed, scholars document how the seeds of freedom in Christianity antedate and ultimately undermine later Christian justifications and practices of persecution. Drawing from history, political science, and sociology, this volume will become a standard reference work for historians, political scientists, theologians, students, journalists, business leaders, opinion shapers, and policymakers.
Imago Dei is the Christian theological view that all people are made in the image and likeness of God and thus have surpassing equal worth and dignity. It gained prominence in the late Roman Empire when Christianity began to offer a broad critique of common practices that we now see as unjust, cruel, or exploitative – such as slavery, sexual coercion, and indifference to the poor. It was in these arenas that the gulf between Christian dignity and societal practices seemed most glaring. In his chapter on the Christian responses to this gulf in late antiquity (Volume 1), Kyle Harper documents how the idea of universal dignity provided the underpinning and fulcrum for the later development of human rights in the modern era. In other words, he shows how the liberal revolutions of the eighteenth century proclaiming the “universal rights of man” are inconceivable without the concept of all humans as beings of incomparable worth and value, made in the image and likeness of God. To be sure, Christian-influenced societies fall short of this ideal, sometimes egregiously so. But as Harper and other contributors to these volumes show, Christianity carries deep in its DNA this radical notion of universal dignity, which serves as a challenge or rebuke to societal conditions and practices of the age.
What we find stunning is the resonance between the concerns raised by Christians in the ancient world and those expressed through global Christian networks in the twenty-first century. Today we see campaigns against human trafficking, sexual coercion, slavery, poverty, illiteracy, religious persecution, exploitation, violence, and war – echoing and expanding on the early social witness of Christians in the ancient world. But today these are global campaigns fueled by the resources of transnational Christian networks. The momentous globalization of Christianity marries the idea of dignity with the striking capacities of transnational Christian networks of communication, solidarity, and assistance. This chapter focuses on the global impact of the Christian ethic by examining some of its most important contemporary initiatives. We will see how the Christian DNA reaches across the globe, magnified by considerable resources and unparalleled transnational linkages.
FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING THE ROLE OF GLOBAL CHRISTIAN NETWORKS
One of the driving factors in the emergence and clout of international Christian networks has been the tectonic shift of the Christian population to the developing nations of the Global South.
The seizure of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, by Islamic State militants in the summer of 2014 stunned the world. Especially shocking was their brutal efficiency in killing or expelling the entire, and ancient, Christian population from the city. But for those following developments in the region over the past decade this was, sad to say, less of a shock. Since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, Western advocates such as Nina Shea and local leaders including Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako of Baghdad have sounded the alarm about the catastrophic assault on Christian minorities, which accelerated with the civil war in Syria and the rise of ISIS. But what has also become evident is that the fate of other vulnerable religious minorities, not to mention the pluralist fabric of these societies, rides on the fate of Christians. Thus the scenario playing out in the Middle East underscores the importance of assessing the role and fate of Christian communities around the globe.
As the historical volume demonstrates, Christianity, with all of its human frailties, nonetheless carries in its DNA a transcendent conception of human dignity and equality conducive to free institutions and societies. Because the experiences of Christian minorities today mirror those that spawned earlier churches’ historic innovations, the contemporary situation offers an unprecedented opportunity – a kind of vast global laboratory – to probe how diverse Christian communities are replicating the historical findings of Volume 1 of this project.
But how do Christian communities under various forms of pressure or hardship instantiate the faith's transcendent vision? In what ways, or where, are they advancing freedom, building civil society, or providing economic uplift in diverse societies around the world? What are the causes and dimensions of the persecution they face and how are they responding to that pressure? What resources – theological, social, or transnational – do they marshal in leavening their societies? And what will be lost if the Christian presence is marginalized or, in the case of parts of the Middle East, vanishes?
These questions are of enormous relevance to understanding contemporary religious persecution and to devising adequate policy responses to it. To answer them the Christianity and Freedom Project commissioned original field research guided by common questions, along with global demographic overviews, thematic investigations, and surveys by leading scholars, to understand how Christian minorities and transnational institutions contribute to societies across the globe.
Volume 2 of Christianity and Freedom illuminates how Christian minorities and transnational Christian networks contribute to the freedom and flourishing of societies across the globe, even amidst pressure and violent persecution. Featuring unprecedented field research by some of the world's most distinguished scholars, it documents the outsized role of Christians in promoting human rights and religious freedom; fighting injustice; stimulating economic equality; providing education, social services, and health care; and nurturing democratic civil society. Readers will come away surprised and sobered to learn how this very Christian link to freedom often invites persecution. What are the dimensions of persecution and how are Christians responding to that pressure? What resources - theological, social, or transnational - do they marshal in leavening their societies? What will be lost if the Christian presence is marginalized? The answers to these questions are of crucial relevance in a world awash with religious extremism and deepening instability.
Although scholars use the term moral ecology and commentators frequently employ environmental analogies in depicting the cultural milieu, the profound implications of such formulations remain unexplored. This article provides the first systematic analysis of the theory of moral ecology as a philosophical, empirical, and practical construct. It applies environmental thought, particularly insights from the “tragedy of the commons,” to the moral and cultural realm. It suggests that the concept of moral ecology is a compelling depiction of genuine human dynamics. Corroboration flows from the way the theory of moral ecology synthesizes a vast empirical literature on media violence, family decline, and gambling into a parsimonious nomological formulation.
On November 8, 1994, Oklahoma Democrats were stunned by an unprecedented GOP tide in the midterm elections. Just two years before, the Democrats still looked like the majority party: they held the governor's office, a 5-3 majority in the congressional delegation, and huge majorities in the state legislature. On Wednesday morning they woke up to a new reality. Republicans swept the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, picked up seats in the state legislature, and seized a remarkable 7-1 majority in the congressional delegation. Not since 1920 had the Republicans sent a majority to Washington, and never by such a margin.
Of equal significance is the nature of that congressional delegation. All five of the victorious Republican House members and both of the senators have ties to the Christian Right and received strong backing from conservative Evangelical voters. The lone surviving Democrat is conservative Representative Bill Brewster. From the standpoint of the Christian Right, therefore, the elections were a smashing success; Oklahoma's delegation to Washington will be highly sympathetic to their policy goals.
What produced this outcome was a fortuitous blend of discontent, resources, and opportunity. Successful social movements need resources to channel discontent and favorable opportunities to exploit. All of these came together in Oklahoma. Discontent with the drift of secular society, accentuated by deep displeasure with President Clinton (who embodied the “counterculture” in the White House), galvanized conservative Evangelicals. In turn, this discontent was channeled by sophisticated Christian Right leaders and fueled by expanding resources (money, media outlets, and a volunteer corps).