Upcoming Event: Religious Vilification & Augustine’s Politics of Psalmody (29th May)

Upcoming Event: Religious Vilification & Augustine’s Politics of Psalmody (29th May) April 26, 2013
Campion College‘s political theology project, the Seminars in Political and Religious Life series, resume with its first semester installment for 2013.
This first seminar for the year will be held at Campion College on 29th May at 5pm. It will feature Dr. Benjamin Myers of the United Theological College (readers might be familiar with his Faith & Theology blog) and Dr. Steve Chavura, who has lectured in sociology and political philosophy in universities across Sydney.
Chavura will speak on how the project of multiculturalism and argues that the success of the multicultural project requires a treatment of speech against religions or religious groups (often labelled as “religious vilification”) which is distinct from vilification on the basis of other traits. The proceedings will take a decisively Augustinian turn with Myer’s presentation, looking at how psalmody formed the basis of Augustine’s political philosophy, which is encapsulated in his City of God.
Abstracts for the presentations are attached below:
Steve Chavura, “Multiculturalism & Freedom of Expression”
Since 9/11 anti-Islamic sentiments have raised the issue of appropriate limitations on freedom of expression. Cultural egalitarians support state action against such speech on the grounds that it is an affront to the goals of the liberal democratic state, which looks towards social inclusion and civic participation for all, regardless of religion or cultural background. The argument is that anti-Islamic rhetoric creates a social condition more conducive to discrimination and also makes the public sphere seem hostile to members of minority cultures who otherwise would participate. This paper argues that speech directed against religions and religious groups should not be treated in the same way as racist speech. Indeed, part of what actually gives value to this speech is the multicultural project itself, which seeks to remodel society in line with controversial religious comprehensive views. So-called religious vilification may be the price that must be paid while multicultural projects are underway.
Benjamin Myers, ‘Sing From Where your Hearts Are’: Augustine’s City of God & the Politics of Psalmody”

Augustine’s great work of political philosophy, the City of God, derives its title, as well as some of its fundamental concepts, from the Psalms. The work begins with a string of quotations from the Psalms, and some of the main transitions in its argument are marked by verses from the Psalms. The idea of the two cities first appears in Augustine’s sermons on the Psalms. Augustine contrasts the two cities of Babylon and Jerusalem, and argues that “two loves create the two cities.” The love that binds together the city of God is sustained by the practice of psalmody. In psalmody, we “sing from where [our] hearts are”; such singing “arouses [our] longing to return to that most fair city, to that vision of peace.” It is in the context of these rather homely meditations on psalm-singing that Augustine first sketches out the basic concepts that would later be elaborated in the City of God. This is the story that I will tell in this paper – the story of how Augustine’s reflections on the practice of psalmody laid the foundations for one of the most powerful and far-reaching political visions in the history of the West.


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