Governments care about religion again—at least, they see religious leaders and movements as important to collaborate with, manage, shut down, or co-opt. Michael D. Driessen’s The Global Politics of Interreligious Dialogue explores how religion, theological belief, and state power function in the Muslim-majority world. Through studying several state-sponsored interreligious-dialogue initiatives in the Middle East involving Muslims, Christians, and other believers, Driessen catalogs the “ongoing renegotiation of religion and state in the region,” which is “reshaping the ideals and authority that religious forces hold in state and society.” How are religious groups responding to modernity and post-secularism? How is religious pluralism understood, particularly in Sunni Islam and Roman Catholicism? What concessions will authoritarian governments make to religious groups who demand democratic reforms? Driessen’s unique research combines geopolitics, sociology, and theological studies to paint a full picture of public religious life in the countries he studies.
The Global Politics of Interreligious Dialogue
Religious Change, Citizenship, and Solidarity in the Middle East
Michael D. Driessen
Oxford University Press
$83 | 272 pp.
We live in a time of unprecedented lack of trust in institutions, and though the contributors of these essays on the nature of trust in public life don’t dispute that, they don’t despair. Offering meaningful guidance and reflection on engendering trust, they stress the need for real encounters over abstract ideas, drawing from literature, philosophy, and spirituality to light the way. The contributions from Claire Gilbert and Anna Rowlands in particular provoke thought; the former draws on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure to stress the importance of self-knowledge, and the latter on Pope Francis’s interpretation of the Good Samaritan in Fratelli tutti (among other things) to hail “the communion formed in reciprocal living.” But every essay makes for absorbing reading, while collectively they sound a hopeful and forceful call to action.
Trust in Public Life
Anna Rowlands, Claire Gilbert, Josie Rourke, Anthony Ball, and James Hawkey
$17.95 | 70 pp.
At a crucial moment in Susie Boyt’s masterful Loved and Missed, a character plainly states, “I would. Happily, not happily, because obviously this whole thing is sadder than fuck, but you know what I’m saying.” The sentiment—at once profane and sincere, defiant and weary—speaks to the quiet genius of Boyt’s novel, the English writer’s seventh but the first to be published in the United States. Ruth is the mother of Eleanor, a young woman addicted to drugs. With no other choice, Ruth lives around Eleanor’s addiction, until Eleanor gives birth to a daughter of her own, Lily. Ruth raises Lily, while Eleanor, a widow to the world, struggles in the margins, “shadowy and powerful; like any ghost worth its salt, she made you feel that you were the intruder.” Indeed, the story is, at times, “sadder than fuck,” but in this slim volume is also laughter and love and tenderness, a delicate, resonant hope amidst so much heartbreak and fear.
Loved and Missed
New York Review Books
$17.95 | 208 pp.