chapter  5
Religion, Ethics, and the Discourses of Social Change
Pages 25

We began the preceding chapter with an overview of functionalist, Marxist, and Gramscian perspectives on religion, ethics, and social order. Yet from the revolt of Anabaptist peasants in sixteenth-century Germany to the Islamic revolution in twentieth-century Iran, from the abolitionist movement of the nineteenth century to the civil rights movement and the New Christian Right in the twentieth, history makes clear that religious and moral ideas do not always function in such a way as to maintain social order and reproduce the status quo. They can also serve as vehicles for criticism and social change. It is therefore necessary to move beyond a preoccupation with “religions of the status quo” in order to account for “religions of resistance,” “rebellion,” and “revolution” (Lincoln 2003: 77-92). It is necessary to add to the metaphor of religion as “opium” the notion of religion as a “weapon.” It is to a consideration of some of the theoretical issues surrounding the relationship between religious ethics and struggles for social change that we now turn.