"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Russian Orthodox Church and the United Nations

In grade 7, I won the school debating championship and went on to the regional finals. Again in gr. 9 I lead the team; and on both occasions we were pretending to be members of the UN Security Council debating the merits, first, of the US bombings of Libya in 1985; and then whatever was in the news two years later. As children of late modernity, we thought we were just debating international politics and doing so with a kind of strategic ruthlessness; but what became obvious to me was that each position also made certain moral claims as to what was the best thing to do in circumstances of international terrorism. It would, however, take me many more years to be able to see--thanks to both Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue and John Milbank's Theology and Social Theory--how successfully and how often modernity's moral judgments are disguised, and how artificial its distinctions between the undefined "religious" vis-a-vis the political and the moral.

These thoughts came to mind in coming across a recent book by Ann Stensvold, Religion, State and the United Nations: Value Politics (Routledge, 2016), 200pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
This volume approaches the UN as a laboratory of religio-political value politics. Over the last two decades religion has acquired increasing influence in international politics, and religious violence and terrorism has attracted much scholarly attention. But there is another parallel development which has gone largely unnoticed, namely the increasing political impact of peaceful religious actors.
With several religious actors in one place and interacting under the same conditions, the UN is as a multi-religious society writ small. The contributors to this book analyse the most influential religious actors at the UN (including The Roman Catholic Church; The Organisation of Islamic Countries; the Russian Orthodox Church). Mapping the peaceful political engagements of religious actors; who they are and how they collaborate with each other - whether on an ad hoc basis or by forming more permanent networks - throwing light at the modus operandi of religious actors at the UN; their strategies and motivations. The chapters are closely interrelated through the shared focus on the UN and common theoretical perspectives, and pursue two intertwined aspects of religious value politics, namely the whys and hows of cross-religious cooperation on the one hand, and the interaction between religious actors and states on the other.
Drawing together a broad range of experts on religious actors, this work will be of great interest to students and scholars of Religion and Politics, International Relations and the UN.

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