Special Issue "Religion and Genocide"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 March 2017)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Steven Leonard Jacobs

Department of Religious Studies, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: (205) 348-0473
Interests: genocide and holocaust studies; religion and violence; history of judaism; ancient israelite religion; hebrew bible; modern religion and politics in the middle east

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The under-explored topic of the nexus between religion and genocide in both its institutional (churches, mosques, agencies, etc.) and intellectual (philosophical and theological) settings is worthy of a much fuller exploration and investigation in the field of Genocide Studies where the predominant academic disciplines have been history, political science, and law. Specifically, scholars of religion and religious studies have been among the last to sit at the table and enter into the conversation. The Special Issue of Religions is a contribution towards that end.

Prof. Dr. Steven Leonard Jacobs
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Religion
  • Genocide
  • Church
  • Synagogue
  • Mosque
  • Philosophy
  • Theology

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle From “a Theology of Genocide” to a “Theology of Reconciliation”? On the Role of Christian Churches in the Nexus of Religion and Genocide in Rwanda
Religions 2018, 9(2), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9020034
Received: 13 December 2017 / Revised: 17 January 2018 / Accepted: 18 January 2018 / Published: 23 January 2018
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Abstract
This paper explores the role of a specific religious actor, namely Christian churches, in the nexus of religion and genocide in Rwanda. Four factors are identified that point to the churches’ complicity in creating and sustaining the conditions in which the 1994 genocide
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This paper explores the role of a specific religious actor, namely Christian churches, in the nexus of religion and genocide in Rwanda. Four factors are identified that point to the churches’ complicity in creating and sustaining the conditions in which the 1994 genocide could occur, leaving up to one million people dead. These factors include the close relationship between church and state, the churches’ endorsement of ethnic policies, power struggles within the churches, and a problematic theology emphasizing obedience instead of responsibility. Nevertheless, the portrayal of all Christian churches as collaborators of the genocide appears too simplistic and one-sided. Various church-led initiatives for peace and reconciliation prior to the genocide indicate a more complex picture of church involvement. Turning away from a “Theology of Genocide” that endorsed ethnic violence, numerous Christian churches in Rwanda now propagate a “Theology of Reconciliation.” A modest empirical case study of the Presbyterian Church (EPR) reveals how their “Theology of Reconciliation” embraces the four dimensions of theology, institutions, relationships, and remembrance. Based on their own confession of guilt in the Detmold Confession of 1996, the EPR’s engagement for reconciliation demonstrates religion’s constructive contribution in Rwanda’s on-going quest for sustainable peace and development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Genocide)
Open AccessArticle Christianity, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust
Religions 2018, 9(1), 26; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9010026
Received: 7 December 2017 / Revised: 10 January 2018 / Accepted: 12 January 2018 / Published: 16 January 2018
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Abstract
There is, in principle, a fundamental difference between Nazi racial antisemitism and the traditional anti-Judaism of Christianity. The church’s official view has been that conversion transforms a Jew into a Christian, whereas the Nazi view was that a Jewish convert to Christianity remained
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There is, in principle, a fundamental difference between Nazi racial antisemitism and the traditional anti-Judaism of Christianity. The church’s official view has been that conversion transforms a Jew into a Christian, whereas the Nazi view was that a Jewish convert to Christianity remained a Jew. Nevertheless, the distinction between racial and religious antisemitism has often been less clear-cut than is often claimed by those who claim that Christian churches bear no responsibility for the Holocaust. That is not to say that it is illusory, just that it has often been less clear-cut than is often claimed. During the Holocaust and the decades that preceded it, Christian clergy often stressed the same themes as the Nazis, notably with respect to the Jews being “parasitic” capitalists exploiting Christians, as well as communists seeking to overthrow the governments and traditional Christian values of Europe (Passelecq and Suchecky 1997, pp. 123–36). We shall see that these clerics often also spoke of Jews in racial, as well as religious terms. Conversely, the Nazis often exploited traditional Christian themes, such as the diabolical nature of the Jew, the image of the Jew as “Christ-killer,” and the contrast between “carnal” (materialistic) Judaism and spiritual Christianity. In other words, the Nazis effectively exploited two millennia of Christian demonization of the Jew. Most scholars who have studied the role of the Christian churches during the Holocaust are well aware of most of these facts (Barnett 1992; Bergen 1996; Ericksen and Heschel 1999a; Kertzer 2001). Yet many comparative studies of religion and violence ignore the role played by Christian churches during the Holocaust—apparently on the assumption that the most horrific mass murder in human history was a purely secular phenomenon. In fact, some prominent scholars, including the best-selling authors Karen Armstrong and—incredibly—Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, go so far as to attribute the Shoah to the demise of religious values in Europe (Armstrong 2014; Sacks 2015)! This article is an attempt to correct these mistaken assumptions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Genocide)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Rethinking Amalek in This 21st Century
Religions 2017, 8(9), 196; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8090196
Received: 16 May 2017 / Revised: 15 September 2017 / Accepted: 15 September 2017 / Published: 18 September 2017
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Abstract
Twice in the Hebrew Bible—Exodus 17:14–16 and Deuteronomy 25: 17–19—the ancient Israelites were commanded to “blot out” the memory of Amalek, their enemy for all time (as God intended to do as well). Yet, because these texts are a part of Jewish (and
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Twice in the Hebrew Bible—Exodus 17:14–16 and Deuteronomy 25: 17–19—the ancient Israelites were commanded to “blot out” the memory of Amalek, their enemy for all time (as God intended to do as well). Yet, because these texts are a part of Jewish (and Christian) religious traditions, annually these passages are read in the synagogue on the appropriate Sabbath occasions in the annual reading cycle, and linked to the Festival of Purim that is based on the Book of Esther. Over the course of Jewish history, Amalek has served as the symbolic enemy of the Jewish people (e.g., Armenians, Nazis, Palestinians); indeed, all of the enemies of the Jews were and are understood to be descendants of the original Amalekites, and thus worthy not only of enmity but of destruction as well (e.g., Haman, Antiochus, Titus, Hadrian, Torquemada, Khmelnitsky, Hitler). Today, many of those in Israel allied with the so-called “settler movement” associated with right-of-center Orthodox Judaism and located among populations primarily of Palestinian Muslims, and Arabs view them as the descendants of Amalek as well, and thus sanction and legitimate their own at times violent actions and behaviors. At its most transparent level, responding to Amalek is a response to antisemitism, both historical and contemporary. This paper examines the history of Amalekut (“Amalek-ness”) within the Jewish (and Christian) religious tradition, the role of memory and forgetting of those survivors and their descendants traumatized by their enemies, the current manner of branding one’s enemies as descendants of Amalek, and whether, in truth, reconciliation is even possible among enemies of long standing. The implications and consequences for all of the divided groups thus becomes an enormous challenge. Practical suggestions are offered at the end as potential models for both present and future work as well. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Genocide)
Open AccessArticle Religion and Genocide Nexuses: Bosnia as Case Study
Religions 2017, 8(6), 112; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8060112
Received: 3 April 2017 / Revised: 6 June 2017 / Accepted: 8 June 2017 / Published: 14 June 2017
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Abstract
Social scientists have been involved in systematic research on genocide for over forty years, yet an under-examined aspect of genocide literature is a sustained focus on the nexuses of religion and genocide, a lacuna that this article seeks to address. Four ways religion
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Social scientists have been involved in systematic research on genocide for over forty years, yet an under-examined aspect of genocide literature is a sustained focus on the nexuses of religion and genocide, a lacuna that this article seeks to address. Four ways religion and genocide intersect are proposed, of which two will receive specific attention: (1) how religious rhetoric and (2) how religious individuals and institutions foment genocide. These two intersections are further nuanced by combining a Weberian method of typologies, the Durkheimian theory of collective violence, and empirical data in the form of rhetoric espoused by perpetrators and supporters of the 1995 Bosnian genocide. This combination yields the three typologies of “othering”, justification, and authorization, which are further supported by a review of genocide literature. The typologies provide a framework for analyzing the synergistic relationship between religion and genocide in the interest of devising a model that can be applied to other genocides for investigative and comparative purposes and reveal that religion is both instrumentalized by individuals and institutionally instrumental in genocide perpetration. Individuals explicitly employ religious rhetoric to prey on the fear of the masses, and religious institutions and individuals are indispensable to lending religious justification and moral authority to genocidal campaigns. These results may serve as a starting point for devising strategies that neuter the destructive links between genocide and religion as well as leveraging the ambiguity of religion in favor of its constructive and obviating potential. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Genocide)
Open AccessArticle Icons of Just Is: Justice, Suffering, and the Artwork of Samuel Bak
Religions 2017, 8(6), 108; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8060108
Received: 22 April 2017 / Revised: 2 June 2017 / Accepted: 5 June 2017 / Published: 13 June 2017
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Abstract
This paper examines select paintings by Holocaust survivor and painter Samuel Bak from his recent Just Is series. The essay explores ways Bak’s art bears witness to suffering. He creatively interrogates and reanimates the iconic figure of Lady Justice and the biblical principle
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This paper examines select paintings by Holocaust survivor and painter Samuel Bak from his recent Just Is series. The essay explores ways Bak’s art bears witness to suffering. He creatively interrogates and reanimates the iconic figure of Lady Justice and the biblical principle of the lex talionis (“eye for an eye”) in order to fashion alternative icons fit for an age of atrocity and loss. Bak’s artwork gives visual expression to Theodor Adorno’s view of the precariousness of art after Auschwitz. It is art’s responsibility to attend to the burden of real suffering experiences (the burden of the empirical) and to think in contradictions, which renders art both adequate and inadequate in standing up against the injustice of other’s suffering. Through inventive juxtaposition of secular and sacred symbols, Bak displays the paradox of representation after the Holocaust and art’s precarious responsibility giving voice to suffering. Bak fashions visual spaces in which barbarity and beauty coincide and collide. He invites viewers into this space and into dialogue about justice’s standing and promises. Do Bak's remade icons of Just Is lament a permanent loss of justice and peace, or do they point tentatively to possibilities of life lived in a damaged world with an alternative Just Is? Bak’s artwork prompts such vexing questions for his viewers to contemplate and leaves them to decide what must be done. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Genocide)
Figures

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Open AccessArticle Religion and Violence: Thinking again about the Link
Religions 2017, 8(6), 111; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8060111
Received: 28 March 2017 / Revised: 31 May 2017 / Accepted: 1 June 2017 / Published: 12 June 2017
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Abstract
This article is a contribution to a Special Issue on religion and genocide edited by Dr. Steven Jacobs. The aim of the article is to suggest a dimension of research not often considered to be part of the discussion. Because genocidal events have
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This article is a contribution to a Special Issue on religion and genocide edited by Dr. Steven Jacobs. The aim of the article is to suggest a dimension of research not often considered to be part of the discussion. Because genocidal events have happened in conjunction with religious holidays, the article suggests that researchers must consider the role that worship and the texts of worship play in shaping the context for genocide. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Genocide)
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