University of Newcastle, 5-6 October 2012

Since the ‘religions of the book’ centre on calls to personal and social transformation (Hebrew shuv, Greek metanoia, Arabic tawbah), they have given rise to repeated radical and revolutionary movements. This radicalism continues, even in the context of the privatized and individualist faith of the West, but also in Eastern contexts, such as the Taiping Rebellion in China. The political and legal definition of such an act is ‘treason’: conspiring to overthrow the ‘state’, whether the political state or the states of our social and individual lives.

Theology is also notorious for supporting the status quo (see Romans 13). Thus, theology is caught between political reaction and radicalism: the same theological system – whether Christian, Islamic or Jewish – can foster support of an oppressive status quo and yet undermine that state. Or, one theological system – notably some forms of Islam – may challenge the dominance of another, such as Christianity (see Qur’an 5:51).

This tension between religious reaction and radicalism, between theology and treason, which takes place within and between theological traditions, is the focus of a two-day conference at the University of Newcastle, to be held on 5-6 October, 2012. It is part of the ‘Religion in Political Life’ project at the university. We will include speakers who bring new perspectives to this discussion, especially from Asia.

Topics include but are not limited to:

1. Permutations of theological treason in Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
2. Internal and systemic tensions between religious radicalism and conservatism.
3. Events when religion’s treasonable resources were deployed to overthrow the ‘state’.
4. Theological underpinnings – much denied – of Islamic-Western tension and misunderstanding.

The symposium will bring four international experts to Newcastle to present papers in the conference and mix with the locals. The speakers are Zhang Shuangli (Fudan University, Shanghai), Chin Kenpa (Chung Yuan Christian University, Zhongli, Taiwan), Ward Blanton (University of Glasgow) and James Crossley (University of Sheffield, to be confirmed).

Please send paper proposals to me by 1 September.

There is no registration cost for the conference and food will be included, but you will need to get here and find a bed.