• Creating Charisma Online: The Role of Digital Presence in the Formation of Religious Identity

      Tee, Caroline; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2019-04-23)
      This article investigates the construction and transmission of charisma through online channels, and its role in the formation of religious identities. Mindful of Max Weber’s observation that charisma inhabits the relationship between a leader and their followers, I argue for a critical reappraisal of the theoretical model in light of the ubiquity in the 21st century of new, virtual forms of social encounter. I focus my analysis on the Christian creationist movement in the USA, and particularly on an influential leader called Ken Ham. Using digital ethnographic methods, I show how Ham constructs charisma online, and how a virtual community forms itself around his charismatic claims. I illustrate how this virtual community intersects with offline worlds, and suggest that the theme park attractions that Ham’s organisation runs (Creation Museum, Ark Encounter) are imbued with deflected charisma by virtue of their association with his online avatar.
    • The embodied Deaf God: a God just like us

      Morris, Wayne; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2019-05-22)
      The body, whether understood positively or negatively, has always been a part of Christian thinking and practice. However, the body has often been viewed as a ‘prison’ from which humans should seek to escape. In this paper, I suggest that, despite dominant theological discourses that have sought to negate the human body – and especially bodies that do not conform to certain norms – we find in the Christian tradition extra-ordinary theologies and spiritualities of survival and resistance expressed through the body. Deaf perspectives on God provide one example of this. By giving attention to the ways in which Deaf people imagine God as embodied, I argue that we can imagine ourselves as just like God – concretely in God’s image in our embodied condition, and that in this discovery, we can learn to affirm our embodied states in all their diversity.
    • The Gülen Movement in London and the politics of public engagement: producing 'Good Islam' before and after 15 July

      Tee, Caroline; University of Chester; University of Cambridge (Taylor & Francis, 2018-03-22)
      Since the failed coup of 15 July 2016, for which it is held responsible, the Gülen Movement (GM) has been in crisis. With no foreseeable future in its homeland, the GM is now tasked with regrouping abroad. This article investigates the GM in London, a city that, for various reasons, is likely to become a significant centre for Gülenist activity in the post-coup era. Taking the Dialogue Society (DS) as its focus, it investigates the prospects of the GM’s survival by analyzing its activities, both before and after the coup, in light of Mamdani’s discussion of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims in the post9/11 world. The article shows how the GM has established itself as a voice of ‘good’ Islam in the context of British debates on Islam and radicalization. It suggests that the public presence the GM has established for itself through its public engagement activities in the UK could constitute a central part of its fight back against resident Erdoğan, and be catalytic to its creation of a dynamic future in exile.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • The Picture of Artificial Intelligence and the Secularization of Thought

      Leung, King-Ho; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2019-04-17)
      This article offers a critical interpretation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a philosophical notion which exemplifies a secular conception of thinking. One way in which AI notably differs from the conventional understanding of “thinking” is that, according to AI, “intelligence” or “thinking” does not necessarily require “life” as a precondition: that it is possible to have “thinking without life.” Building on Charles Taylor’s critical account of secularity as well as Hubert Dreyfus’ influential critique of AI, this article offers a theological analysis of AI’s “lifeless” picture of thinking in relation to the Augustinian conception of God as “Life itself.” Following this critical theological analysis, this article argues that AI’s notion of thinking promotes a societal privilege of certain rationalistic or calculative ways of thought over more existential or spiritual ways of thinking, and thereby fosters a secularization or de-spiritualization of thinking as an ethical human practice.
    • The Rabbi on the Train: Reflections on Forgiveness

      Vincent, Alana M.; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2015-10-02)
      This essay explores the theme of forgiveness in 20th century Jewish thought.
    • Towards a Liberation Theology of Indigenous Minority Language Groups: A Case Study on the Welsh Language.

      Morris, Wayne; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2016-06-02)
      The status of indigenous minority language groups in Europe has been underresearched in theology and religious studies. In the United Kingdom alone, besides English, there are at least ten languages that are indigenous to these islands and many who use those languages see all that is associated with their linguistic identity under threat: music, arts and literature; communities; ways of thinking; ways of being in the world. This article focuses on Welsh language users in particular as both a minority and oppressed group in the United Kingdom. Along with a concern for other experiences of oppression, this paper argues that the experiences of minority language groups need to be taken seriously by scholars of religion and theology and invites contributions from our disciplines to debates about the place and status of minority language groups. To that end, this paper begins to map the contours of a liberation theology of the Welsh language.