Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In With the New: Dangerous Sisters, Unlimited Love, and Heaven and Earth

Fathers, sons, and mothers take center stage in the Bible's grand narratives, Amy Kalmanofsky observes. Sisters and sisterhood receive less attention in scholarship but, she argues, play an important role in narratives, revealing anxieties related to desire, agency, and solidarity among women playing out (and playing against) their roles in a patrilineal society. Most often, she shows, sisters are destabilizing figures in narratives about family crisis, where property, patrimony, and the resilience of community boundaries are at risk. Kalmanofsky demonstrates that the particular role of sisters had important narrative effects, revealing previously underappreciated dynamics in Israelite society.

 What if we could prove that love heals mental illness and is vital to successful therapeutic outcomes in all areas of health care? What if we could prove that people who live more for others than for self have greater psychological well-being?
Professor Stephen G. Post, who heads the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, is developing a new positive scientific program that integrates practice with high-level empirical research and religious-ethical ideas in order to explore these questions. The goal is to understand how our complex brains, unique imaginations, communicative abilities, reasoning powers, moral sense, and spiritual promptings give rise to the remarkable practice of unselfish love for our neighbors—or for those we do not even know.

In Unlimited Love, Post examines the question of what we mean by "unlimited love"; his focus is not on "falling" into love, which is "altogether natural, easy, and delusional." Rather, he focuses on the difficult learned ascent that "begins with insight into the need for tolerance of ubiquitous imperfection, and matures into unselfish concern, gratitude, and compassion." He considers social scientific and evolutionary perspectives on human altruistic motivations, and he analyzes these perspectives in a wide interdisciplinary context at the interface of science, ethics, and religion.

Teilhard de Chardin commented that the scientific understanding of the power of unselfish love would be as significant in human history as the discovery of fire.

In Unlimited Love, Stephen Post presents an argument for the creation of a new interdisciplinary field for the study of love and unlimited love, "engaging great minds and hoping to shape the human future away from endless acrimony, hatred, and violence."

Christian theology and religious belief were crucially important to Anglo-Saxon society, yet this book is the first full-length study investigating how it permeated and underpinned society. For whilst the influence of the Church as an institution is widely acknowledged, its abstract theological speculation is still generally considered to be the preserve of a small educated elite. However, as this book makes clear, theology had a much greater and more significant impact in the wider Saxon world than has been realised by modern scholars. The rationale of this book is that taking account of many of these beliefs allows a far greater understanding of many of the secular processes of Anglo-Saxon England which have been examined and discussed by historians. Previous studies that touch on Anglo-Saxon religious belief and ritual practices have been literary or historical in approach: such studies are valuable in their own right but have tended to focus either on sources and exemplars or on the interpretation of evidence to understand what happened on the ground. While such scholarship is important in interpreting Anglo-Saxon texts and evidence, it has not generally taken account of the impact of theological debate on society, and how this might have affected the way individuals - particularly laity - lived their lives. Only by interpreting these processes in the light of theology and theological debate can one see the world as the Anglo-Saxons did.Using a series of case-studies, this book shows how theology interacted with and was shaped by the secular world, while also exploring the ways in which lay individuals - although isolated for the most part from the intricacies of theological discussion - nevertheless were evidently influenced by these and responded to them in their own lives and actions.

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