Tuesday, November 24, 2015

TWOsday ~ TWO books I heard about last week

St. Louis Rising: The French Regime of Louis St. Ange de Bellerive ~ by Carl J. Ekberg and Sharon K. Person, 2015
The standard story of St. Louis's founding tells of fur traders Pierre Lacl├Ęde and Auguste Chouteau hacking a city out of wilderness.  St. Louis Rising overturns such gauzy myths with the contrarian thesis that French government officials and institutions shaped and structured early city society.  Of the former, none did more than Louis St. Ange de Bellerive.  His commitment to the Bourbon monarchy and to civil tranquility made him the prime mover as St. Louis emerged during the tumult following the French and Indian War.  Drawing on new source materials, the authors delve into the complexities of politics, Indian affairs, slavery, and material culture that defined the city's founding period.  Their alternative version of the oft-told tale uncovers the imperial realities — as personified by St. Ange — that truly governed in the Illinois Country of the time, and provides a trove of new information on everything from the fur trade to the arrival of the British and Spanish after the Seven Years' War.
Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence ~ by Jonathan Sacks, 2015
Sacks tackles the phenomenon of religious extremism and violence committed in the name of God.  If religion is perceived as being part of the problem, he argues, then it must also form part of the solution.  When individuals are motivated by what he calls "altruistic evil" — and also think "my religion is the only right path to God, therefore your religion is by definition wrong" — then violence between peoples of different beliefs appears to be the only natural outcome.  But through an exploration of the roots of violence and its relationship to religion, Sacks shows that religiously inspired violence has as its source misreadings of biblical texts at the heart of all three Abrahamic faiths.  By looking anew at the book of Genesis, with its foundational stories of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Sacks offers a radical rereading of many of the Bible’s seminal stories of sibling rivalry:  Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, Rachel and Leah.
"Abraham himself sought to be a blessing to others regardless of their faith.  That idea, ignored for many of the intervening centuries, remains the simplest definition of Abrahamic faith.  It is not our task to conquer or convert the world or enforce uniformity of belief.  It is our task to be a blessing to the world.  The use of religion for political ends is not righteousness but idolatry.  To invoke God to justify violence against the innocent is not an act of sanctity but of sacrilege."
 Here is an eloquent call for people of goodwill from all faiths and none to stand together, confront the religious extremism that threatens to destroy us, and declare:  Not in God’s Name.

I Bad Faith
1 Altruistic Evil ... p. 3
2 Violence and Identity ... p. 27
3 Dualism ... p. 44
4 The Scapegoat ... p. 66
5 Sibling Rivalry ... p. 87
II Siblings
6 The Half-Brothers ... p. 107
7 Wrestling with the Angel ... p. 125
8 Role Reversal ... p. 144
9 The Rejection of Rejection ... p. 161
III The Open Heart
10 The Stranger ... p. 177
11 The Universality of Justice, the Particularity of Love ... p. 189
12 Hard Texts ... p. 207
13 Relinquishing Power ... p. 220
14 Letting Go of Hate ... p. 238
15 The Will to Power or the Will to Life ... p. 252
I've already gotten St. Louis Rising from the library, but I'm number 24 of 25 holds on the newly published Not in God's Name.  My library has twelve copies, but I suspect — if I want to read it anytime soon — I may have buy myself a copy.  I may do that, since my study groups want to discuss Syrian refugees, terrorism, and Islam.

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