Religion Department

Grassley, Ayotte and the Burden of History

By vowing to block any Supreme Court nominee the president sends to Congress, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte and fellow Republicans are reinforcing the partisan gridlock that has paralyzed the nation for more than a decade, argues Randall Balmer in his Sunday, March 20, opinion piece in the Valley News, "Grassley, Ayotte and the Burden of History."  Instead, he urges Senator Ayotte to "fulfill her duties regardless of the political rancor she might incur from fellow Republicans. Even such a modest effort in these fraught political times counts as an act of courage." "Like Chuck Grassley [chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee], Kelly Ayotte's rendezvous with history has arrived. She can be remembered as simply another political hack, like Mitch McConnell or Harry Reid, or she can be remembered as a leader, one who faced down the rabid partisans in Congress and said 'Enough! I intend to lead, not stumble blindly along the pathway of political obstruction in the name of party loyalty.'"

Is Donald Trump a Tyrant?

To the ancient Greeks, "from whom we derive the political concepts that undergird our democracy," a tyrant (tyrannos) is "a figure who, usually through great personal wealth, circumvents established political processes to attain power. Often an outsider or one of the wealthy elite, the tyrant flouts conventions of discourse and forums for debate. The tyrant ignores traditions of deliberation and steamrolls opposition. Ultimately, a tyrant rises to power in ways that undermine democratic structures, leaving the ruler unaccountable to those ruled or to the checks and balances of the system." In his OpEd piece for Time, "This is What Ancient Greeks Would Have Called Donald Trump," Professor Devin Singh goes back to this definition and explores whether or not Donald Trump is a tyrant, fitting this definition, and if he poses a "fundamental threat to American democracy."

Evangelicals' Support of Trump Shouldn't Come as a Surprise

In an op-ed column in today's Los Angeles Times, Professor Randall Balmer observes that over the past several decades, evangelicals have become increasingly secular, more interested in the pursuit of wealth and political influence than fidelity to the teachings of Jesus, and that "it should come as little surprise that the candidate of choice for evangelicals so far in this 2016 election season is a twice-divorced, thrice-married billionaire famous for firing people on TV, who belittles the disabled and advocates policies - on immigration, for example, or the environment - utterly at odds with the 'biblical values' evangelicals purport to uphold."

"Dear Marco Rubio..."

"Dear Marco Rubio: Welcome to New Hampshire," writes Randall Balmer in his January 10, 2016, Valley News opinion piece. "It's come to my attention that you've been assailing the liberal arts on the campaign trail....Today, the liberal arts encompass, as Merriam-Webster defines it, 'areas of study (such as history, language, and literature) that are intended to give you general knowledge rather than to develop specific skills needed for a profession,'" he continues. "I'm sure you'll find a few voters here who will cheer your excoriations of the liberal arts; anti-intellectualism, after all, has a long and storied history in the United States. But you'll find others - many, many more, I hope - who believe that critical thinking is not such a bad thing, that it might even be crucial to the future of a democratic society."

Market Faith in Anxious Times

Coverage of market behavior, as shown in the articles on the recent stock market tumble in China, are "deeply tied to religion - and particularly the language of faith," observes Religion Professor Devin Singh in his OpEd article in the Huffington Post. "Both the religious background to equilibrium theory and the posture of faith that is expected of market actors raise questions about the ideal response to market panics. Just as various natural disasters...put theories of divine providence into question, so repeated financial crises are bringing equilibrium theory under greater scrutiny. It's not at all apparent that markets will self-regulate and should thus be left to themselves -- whatever that may mean.Does authentic market faith mean remaining calm in the face of collapse, trusting predictive models that tell of eventual return and restabilization? Shall we rationalize collateral economic damage as blips on a graph of the ordained 'greater good'?

"Speak Out Against Islamophobia"

Professor Susannah Heschel and two other prominent academics spoke out his week at Boston University, urging students to counter anti-Islam bigotry in the wake of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's controversial call to bar Muslims from entering the country, reports The Boston Globe. Professor Heschel told the crowd that gathered on the university campus that "it's not Islam that makes somebody decide, 'I want to kill someone.' It doesn't work that way."

Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, GR'15, Named Marshall Scholar

Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, GR'15, has been named a 2016 Marshall Scholar. The scholarship will allow Khan to pursue a Master's of Philosophy in Islamic studies and history at Oxford University. Khan's research at Oxford will focus on classical Islamic law from the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries. Associate Professor of Religion Kevin Reinhart, who advised him on a graduate research paper, says of Khan, "He will be great for the Marshall program because he is a very fine scholar and representative of Dartmouth and U.S. students. He is also a Muslim scholar with a strong commitment to his heritage and to academic research methods and approaches. I'm thrilled for Ibrahim and utterly confident that he will go on to be a major contributor in Islamicate history studies."

Up to 40 Americans each year are selected for the award, which was created by the government of the U.K. in 1953 to "strengthen the enduring relationships between the British and American peoples, their governments and their institutions." The scholarship is named in recognition of U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall's work to restore Europe in the aftermath of World War II.

West Africa's Women of God

Professor Robert Baum's new book, West Africa's Women of God: Alinesitoué and the Diola Prophetic Tradition, just published by Indiana University Press, examines the history of direct revelation from Emitai, the Supreme Being, which has been central to the Diola religion from before European colonization to the present day. He charts the evolution of this movement from its origins as an exclusively male tradition to one that is largely female, and traces the response of Diola to the distinct challenges presented by conquest, colonial rule, and the post-colonial era. Looking specifically at the work of the most famous Diola woman prophet, Alinesitoué, Baum addresses the history of prophecy in West Africa and its impact on colonialism, the development of local religious traditions, and the role of women in religious communities.

 

 

 

A Scottish Thanksgiving

Dartmouth Now's recent article, "Far-Flung Thanksgiving: Off-Campus Programs Celebrate," includes a description of how the Religion and Philosophy FSPs - led by Religion Professor Kevin Reinhart and Philosophy Professor Susan Brison and both held at the University of Edinburgh this term - are combining forces to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Their Thanksgiving dinner, which will include turkey with all the fixings as well as vegetarian haggis, will be hosted in the home of a Dartmouth alum from the Class of 1974 who teaches at the university. One of the students on the Religion FSP comments, "The Dartmouth network never ceases to amaze me."

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