• Go Forth and Shrink! Towards a Feminist Theology of Dieting

      Bacon, Hannah Jayne; University of Chester (Bloomsbury, 2019-04-18)
      The fat body has increasingly become a site for a confrontation of different ideologies about lifestyle, as it is increasingly stigmatized and concerns about the obesity 'epidemic' create headlines in the newspapers. Weight-loss industries are booming, and the rise in faith-based dieting among Protestant evangelical women in the US evidences a growing relationship between Christian devotion and the pursuit of female thinness. What exactly though is the relationship between Christianity and secular commercial diet plans? Bacon draws on qualitative research conducted inside one UK secular commercial weight loss group to show how Christian religious forms and theological discourses inform contemporary weight-loss narratives. Notions of sin and salvation resurface in secular guise, but in ways that repeat well-established theological meanings. Theological tropes help produce and sustain a set of contradictions and tensions about weight loss which conform the women's bodies to patriarchal norms while simultaneously providing opportunities for women's self-development. Taking into account these tensions, Bacon asks what a specifically feminist theological response to weight loss might look like. If notions of sin and salvation service hegemonic discourses about fat, how might they be rethought to challenge fat phobia and the frenetic pursuit of thinness? While naming as 'sin' principles and practices which diminish women's appetites and bodies, this book gives theological expression to the conviction of many women in the group, that food and the body can be important sites of power, wisdom and transformation.
    • Rituals of Reconciliation? How Consideration of Ritual can Inform Readings of Catholic-Jewish Dialogue after the Holocaust

      Vincent, Alana M.; University of Chester (Palgrave, 2018)
      One advantage of investigating inter-religious exchange through the lens of ritual is that it permits attention to a range of extra-textual phenomena such as tone, gesture, pacing, costume, and locatedness, which are capable of adding nuance to, or even subverting, a textual tradition. In the case of post-Holocaust reconciliation, it is worth considering whether and to what degree a consideration of ritual alters the conclusions that can be drawn from the record of published documents. This chapter will explore particular practices which have emerged in the context of post-Holocaust Catholic-Jewish dialogue, reading them as instances of inter-rituality and analysing the extent to which their inter-riting advances the project of reconciliation.
    • The "Noble Death" of Judas Iscariot: A Reconsideration of Suicide in the Bible and Early Christianity

      Middleton, Paul; University of Chester (Philosophy Documentation Center, 2018-08-22)
      This essay problematizes the often repeated claim that Jewish and Christian traditions have always and unambiguously opposed suicide. By examining the suicide narratives in the Hebrew Bible and late Second Temple texts, alongside early Christian martyr texts which demonstrate not only enthusiasm for death, but suicide martyrdom, I argue that many Jewish and Christian self-killings conform to Greco-Roman patterns Noble Death. Finally, I consider the death of Judas Iscariot, and having removed any a priori reason to interpret his suicide negatively, I argue Matthew’s account of his self-killing compares favourably with Luke’s narrative, in which he is the victim of divine execution. Moreover, I conclude that Matthew’s main concern is to transfer the blame for Jesus’ death from Judas to the Jewish authorities, and that he has Judas impose on himself to the appropriate and potentially expiatory penalty for his action. Thus, I conclude, even Judas’s iconic suicide can be read quite plausibly as an example of Noble Death.
    • The Violence of the Lamb: Martyrs as Agents of Divine Judgement in the Book of Revelation

      Middleton, Paul; University of Chester (T & T Clark, 2018-05-03)
      The act of martyrdom in the worldview of the Apocalypse has been considered to be an exemplification of non-violent resistance. Paul Middleton argues here, however, that it is in fact a representation of direct participation by Christians, through their martyrdom, in divine violence against those the author of Revelation portrays as God's enemies. Middleton shows that acceptance of martyrdom is to grasp the invitation to participate in the Revelation's divine violence. Martyrs follow the model laid down by the Lamb, who was not only slain, but resurrected, glorified, and who executes judgement. The world created by the Apocalypse encourages readers to conquer the Beast through martyrdom, but also through the experience of resurrection and being appointed judges. In this role, martyrs participate in the judgement of the wicked by sharing the Lamb's power to judge. Different from eschewing violence, the conceptual world of the Apocalypse portrays God, the Lamb, and the martyrs as possessing more power, might, and violent potential than the Emperor and his armies. Middleton believes that martyrdom and violence are necessary components of the worldview of Revelation.
    • Martyrdom

      Middleton, Paul; University of Chester (Routledge, 2017-05-23)
      An overview of martyrdom in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
    • A daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition

      Dossett, Wendy; University of Chester (Wiley, 2017-02-02)
      Beliefs and emotions are commonly accepted features of spirituality, but spirituality also includes ‘disciplines’ and ‘practices’. While ‘professional’ language and the ‘spiritual’ practices of 12-Step may be framed differently, they are not substantively different discourses.
    • Reflections on the Language of Salvation in Twelve-Step Recovery

      Dossett, Wendy; University of Chester (Bloomsbury, 2015-12-17)
      ‘In return for a bottle and a hangover we have been given the Keys to the Kingdom’ (The ‘Big Book’ Alcoholics Anonymous) Many who find recovery from alcoholism through the twelve steps speak implicitly or explicitly in terms of a salvific experience. Active alcoholism is experienced phenomenologically as a totally hopeless condition from which there is no escape; yet escape is made possible for millions by the discipline of the twelve steps and the support of twelve step mutual help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and/or treatment centres. For many, the profound transformation of recovery from a hopeless and terminal condition can be understood only by reference to a Higher Power, or even a transcendent being, and thus the experience is understood as ‘spiritual’ in nature. In a volume which interrogates and widens discourse about salvation, this chapter questions the utility of soteriological language in the context of addictions recovery. Is such language in this context descriptive, or normative? What are the risks in using it? Are new languages of release from addiction being developed? The chapter draws on some case studies from the Higher Power Project, a qualitative study of spirituality and recovery at the University of Chester to explore these questions.
    • George Jeffreys: Pentecostal and contemporary implications

      Kay, William K.; University of Chester (MDPI, 2018-02-15)
      The life and work of the Welsh evangelist George Jeffreys resulted in the planting of two denominations in the UK between 1915 and 1962, when he died. The Elim churches continue to this day to be one of the larger classical Pentecostal denominations in the UK, while the Bible Pattern Fellowship dispersed on Jeffreys’ death. The disputes that led to Jeffreys’ departure from Elim were said to have arisen from his adherence to British Israel doctrine, though his supporters believed they arose from his championing of local church ownership and democracy. This paper considers sociological and other reasons for Jeffreys’ remarkable success in the interwar years and his eventual departure from a denomination he founded. It concludes by reflecting on topics (such as the importance of debate and law) that have relevance for contemporary Pentecostalism.
    • How to speak of God? Toward a postsecular apologetics

      Graham, Elaine L.; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2018-04-11)
      Against most expectations religion has not vanished from Western culture. If anything, it exercises a greater fascination than ever before. Broadly, we might think of ourselves as occupying a new, 'postsecular' space between a renewed visibility of religion in public life, and a corresponding acknowledgement of the importance of religious values and actors; and persistent and widespread disillusion and scepticism towards religion, and objections to religion as a source of legitimate public discourse. In a world that is more sensitive than ever to religious belief and practice, yet often struggles to accommodate it into secular discourse, how do religious institutions justify their position in a contested and volatile public square? This article argues that the contemporary postsecular context requires a recovery of the ancient practices of Christian apologetics as a form of public, theological witness to the practical value of faith, articulated in both deed and word.
    • Twelve Step Mutual Aid: Spirituality, Vulnerability and Recovery

      Dossett, Wendy; University of Chester (Routledge, 2017-12-27)
      This chapter considers whether the lenses of counselling and New Religious Movements help to understand the phenomenon of Twelve Step recovery from addiction.
    • Religion, Equalities and Inequalities

      Llewellyn, Dawn; Sharma, Sonya; University of Chester; University of Kingston (Routledge, 2016-08-03)
      Presenting cutting edge research on how religion can confront and obscure social inequalities in everyday life, Religion, Equalities and Inequalities argues that when religion is left out of social scientific analyses, it can result in incomplete analyses that conceal pathways to social inclusion and exclusion. Bringing together an international and interdisciplinary group of contributors who operate at the vanguard of theoretical and empirical work on how social structures of power, institutions and bodies can generate equalities and inequalities in religion, the collection shows how religion can enable and challenge the inequities that affect people’s everyday lives.
    • Signs of Salvation: Insecurity, Risk and the End of the World in Late Modernity

      Knowles, Steve; University of Chester (Bloomsbury, 2015-12-17)
      This chapter is divided into three parts. First, an outline of Ulrich Beck’s world risk society thesis will provide an important part of the sociological context within which fundamentalism has flourished, particularly in the last 50 years. Second, an introduction to one specific aspect of Christian fundamentalism—namely ‘rapture culture’ (Frykholm 2004) provides the theological context for the discussion. Third, examples of contemporary ‘rapture culture’ are examined which demonstrates the influence of risk and the concomitant insecurity that serves such a theological perspective. Within this culture signs of the end of the world provide succour and point to the possibility that salvation is close at hand.
    • Brexit, prophecy, and conspiracy: A necessary rejection of an endtime empire

      Knowles, Steve; University of Chester (University of California Press, 2018-02)
      This study examines why some pretribulation premillennialist Christian leaders in the United Kingdom instructed their followers, both implicitly and explicitly, to vote to leave the European Union in the referendum in June 2016. The formation of the European Union is regarded as central to the fulfilment of prophecy by many premillennialists as it is purported to be the revived Roman Empire found in the books of Daniel and Revelation in the Bible. On the face of it, to vote to leave the European Union would seem to be contrary to such prophetic conjecture given the importance of the United Kingdom’s role in the Union, and the perceived destabilising impact this would have on it. This article argues, utilising evidence from interviews with two premillennialist leaders and other contemporary sources, that voting to leave did not necessarily contradict previous teaching. Rather, voting to leave was not only consistent with this teaching but also reflected the rejection of many features of the late modern condition. However, the rejection of the latter has sometimes resulted in a move beyond the premillennialist prophetic framework into the realm of conspiracy beliefs.
    • Reading, Feminism, Spirituality: Troubling the Waves

      Llewellyn, Dawn; University of Chester (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015-09-30)
      Through original interviews and research, Llewellyn uses spirituality to uncover new commonalities between the second and third feminist waves, and sacred and secular experiences. Her lively approach highlights the importance of reading cultures in feminist studies, connecting women's voices across generations, literary practices, and religions.
    • Invitation to Research in Practical Theology

      Bennett, Zoe; Graham, Elaine L.; Pattison, Stephen; Walton, Heather; Anglia Ruskin University; University of Chester; University of Birmingham; University of Glasgow (Routledge, 2018-05-29)
      Practical theology as a subject area has grown and become more sophisticated in its methods and self-understanding over the last few decades. In doing so, it has become increasingly methodologically sophisticated and theoretically self-aware. This book provides a complete and original research primer in the major theories, approaches and methods at the cutting-edge of research in contemporary practical theology. It represents a reflection on the very practice of the discipline itself, its foundational questions and epistemological claims. Each chapter examines different aspects of the research process: starting with experience and practice, aspects of research design and epistemology, communities of learning, the influence of theological norms and tradition on the practice of research, and ethical considerations about what constitutes ‘the good’ in advanced research. It offers worked examples from the authors, their colleagues and research students that serve to illustrate key ideas and approaches in practical theological research.
    • Apologetics without Apology: Speaking of God in a World Troubled by Religion

      Graham, Elaine; University of Chester (Cascade Books, 2017-07-31)
      Against many expectations, religion has not vanished from Western culture. If anything, it exercises a greater fascination than ever before. But people are troubled and fascinated in equal measure by this new visibility of faith, not least because those who ‘speak of God in public’ are now in a minority. Society as a whole is nervous about the public engagement of faith groups and whether it is right to (re)incorporate the vocabulary of faith into our common life. This unprecedented, unanticipated, agonistic co-existence of religion and secularism is sometimes termed the ‘post-secular’, and in this book I consider some of its implications and especially for the public witness of Christianity. I argue that everyone, from Church leaders, theologians to local activists and campaigners, needs to learn again how to ‘speak Christian’ in these contexts, not just to articulate credible theological justifications for their involvement in public life but to justify the very relevance of their faith to a culture that no longer grants automatic privilege or credence. This entails a retrieval of the practice of apologetics, in terms of Christians being prepared to defend their core principles and convictions in public. An apologetics of presence involves a three-fold process of discerning the actions of God in the world, participating in the praxis of God’s mission and bearing witness to the theological convictions that underpin that praxis. Rather than being an adversarial or argumentative process, however, the apologetics of presence is an invitation to dialogue and to the rejuvenation of the vocabulary and praxis of public life, as a way of enriching our shared commitment to the common good.
    • Urban Ecology and Faith Communities

      Baker, C. R.; Graham, Elaine L.; University of Chester (Brill, 2017-09-30)
      This chapter seeks to address a framing question of this volume, ‘What does a public theology look like in the 21st century?’ It will do so with reference to the strikingly pervasive and fluid material cultures and imaginaries of the urban which are influencing our increasingly globalized understandings of what it means to be ‘in community’ with others. The chapter will locate this contemporary context within an historical trajectory which moves from the origins of biblical theology and reflection on the city as site of divine providence and covenant, to the emergence of the modern industrial city of the mid-nineteenth century, when ‘[b]eing self-consciously urban’ definitively transformed the church’s understanding of ‘the context of mission and the possibilities of wider engagement’ with corresponding implications for the nature of public theology itself.
    • Reflexivity and Rapprochement: Explorations of a ‘Postsecular’ Public Theology

      Graham, Elaine; University of Chester (Brill, 2017-09-01)
      Accounts of secularization, decline and marginalization in relation to the public position of religion in Western society have failed to account for the continued vitality and relevance of religion in the global public square. It is important, however, to challenge simplistic accounts and think of the new visibility of religion (not least in Europe) in terms of complexity and multi-dimensionality. This article will ask how public theology might contribute constructively to repairing our fractured body politic and promoting new models of citizenship and civic engagement around visions of the common good.
    • Ecclesiasticus, War Graves, and the secularization of British Values

      Vincent, Alana M.; University of Chester (2017)
      This article reads the design of the British Imperial War Graves cemeteries in the context of the religious pluralism of the late Empire. Reviewing the deliberations of the design committee and parliamentary debates on the design of the cemeteries, it notes that the Christian character of the cemeteries was relatively muted, a design decision which caused no small amount of public and political controversy, but which permitted the cemeteries to present an image of a unified Empire. The paper argues that the choice of quotations specifically from the apocrypha was an important and deliberate aspect of this presentational strategy.
    • Moderating Religious Identity and the Eclipse of Religious Wisdoms: Lessons from Hans Frei

      Fulford, Ben; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2017-06-16)
      The multivalent binary distinction between radical and moderate religion plays a key part in the rhetoric and strategy of European governments in their attempts to produce European Muslim citizens whose primary political loyalty lies with the society and state in which they live. It also plays a key part in public discourse about European Muslims and their citizenship. In what follows, I focus especially on one relatively constructive use of the distinction in the UK, offer an account of its logic through a reading of the political theology of John Locke and a critique of its effects upon a religious tradition that draws on the analysis of Hans W. Frei. Frei’s account suggests that to the extent that this logic has shaped Christian self-understanding, it tends to eclipse the wellsprings of the critically constructive engagement of Christians in the public sphere and public institutions constitutive of a pluralist, democratic society. This assessment in turn raises questions about the impact of the moderate/radical binary in respect of sources of constructive critical engagement by citizens with other religious identities.