The concept of civil religion applies an adjective in front of the term 'religion' to recognise that it is a species of a much wider phenomenon. Interestingly, scholars such as Robert Bellah and Wald and Calhoun who have given extended consideration to the idea of civil religion refer to 'nations' as the fundamental units of social and political organisation. This chapter explores the concept of civil religion and utilised it to shed light on the historic rituals of the coronation ceremony. The contemporary statutory basis of the constitutional element of the coronation ceremony is the Coronation Oath Act of 1688 which requires the monarch to swear certain oaths at the coronation. Despite the significant secular elements of the coronation service, most interpreters of the more recent coronations have invested them with extremely deep religious significance.
This chapter examines the continuing traditional and official religious dimensions of the UK monarchy and Parliament and contrasts them with the newer forms of relationships with religion and belief that have emerged in the devolved UK legislature. It assesses what the relevant continuities and changes reveal about the perennial tensions between the religious and parliamentary spheres and contemporary pressures for new alignments between religion and state in the UK. In approaching these questions, there is value in utilising perspectives from the literature and debates on civil religion, ritual and power deriving from the classic work of Durkheim and related scholarship of writers such as Robert Bellah and Steven Lukes. The evolution of relationships between Christian denominations, other religions and the National Assembly of Wales which supervises the Welsh Assembly Government has followed an uncertain path, reflecting contemporary dilemmas of ordering the relationship between the spheres of government and religion.
Pentecost marks the birth of a people through the restoration of communication between people of different languages and stories. Pentecost has restored Babel by creating a people who have learned how to be at peace in a world of impatient violence. It was at Babel that people, seduced by the technological breakthrough of learning to make bricks, concluded that they had become god-like because they were now free from the limitations of nature and their particular histories. For after Babel, God, who had first made a covenant with all creation, chooses to call out one people that they might be a witness to God's will. If the church is rightly understood to be God's new language it is crucial that it not displace our particular languages. But learning the languages of peace cannot, in the name of universality, require that Jonathan Sacks forfeit the particularity of his tradition's memory.
At the heart of the history of post-revolutionary Christianity in America is the relationship between race and salvation. Compared with all the busy Enlightenment rationalisation, the unequivocal egalitarianism of Christian salvation, the admissibility of all to saving grace, had a much more obvious appeal to those in immediate need of bodily and spiritual redemption. Christian slaves, Charles Pinckney and many others argued, would be better workers, eternally grateful to their owners for showing them 'the light of the true Christian faith'. John Adams and Jefferson respected slavery as a form of property and refused to take seriously a proposal to arm a slave regiment that would win freedom for its service. A bit like M. Jourdain discovering that he had, all along been speaking Prose, author owned that until deep into the twentieth century almost every great conflict in British history had been in its essence one of religion.
This book addresses the relationship between human rights and religion. The original blurb for the Oxford Amnesty Lectures of 2008 invited speakers and audiences to ponder arguments for the God-given source of human rights. The book explains how biblical inspiration (both Old and New Testament) fuelled the anti-slavery protests and later the civil rights movement in the United States. It develops the particular relevance, for arguments over human rights within Islam, of the writings of the medieval philosopher Muhammad al-Ghazali who justified an openness towards constructive engagement with other traditions. The book shows where the philosophical worldviews that inform the religion of Islam and the rights discourse may be distant from each other. It illustrates the challenge of taking the real world of human practice seriously while avoiding simplistic arguments for pluralism or relativism. The book focuses on Simon Schama's evocation of the religious fervour which helped feed the long struggles for liberation among American slave communities. It discusses the understanding of human rights in the Roman Catholic tradition. The book also shows that the Christian experience of Pentecost and what it means to learn to speak as well as understand another's language, is a continuing resource God has given the church to sustain the ability to suffer as well as respond to those who suffer for the long haul. The book argues that moral progress consists in the universalisation of Western liberal democracy with its specific understanding of human rights.