Tag Archives: American History

Pinheiro, “Missionaries of Republicanism: A Religious History of the Mexican-American War”

Next month, Oxford will publish Missionaries of Republicanism: A 9780199948673_140Religious History of the Mexican-American War, by John C. Pinheiro (Aquinas College). The publisher’s description follow.

The term “Manifest Destiny” has traditionally been linked to U.S. westward expansion in the nineteenth century, the desire to spread republican government, and racialist theories like Anglo-Saxonism. Yet few people realize the degree to which Manifest Destiny and American republicanism relied on a deeply anti-Catholic civil-religious discourse. John C. Pinheiro traces the rise to prominence of this discourse, beginning in the 1820s and culminating in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.

Pinheiro begins with social reformer and Protestant evangelist Lyman Beecher, who was largely responsible for synthesizing seemingly unrelated strands of religious, patriotic, expansionist, and political sentiment into one universally understood argument about the future of the United States. When the overwhelmingly Protestant United States went to war with Catholic Mexico, this “Beecherite Synthesis” provided Americans with the most important means of defining their own identity, understanding Mexicans, and interpreting the larger meaning of the war. Anti-Catholic rhetoric constituted an integral piece of nearly every major argument for or against the war and was so universally accepted that recruiters, politicians, diplomats, journalists, soldiers, evangelical activists, abolitionists, and pacifists used it. It was also, Pinheiro shows, the primary tool used by American soldiers to interpret Mexico’s culture. All this activity in turn reshaped the anti-Catholic movement. Preachers could now use caricatures of Mexicans to illustrate Roman Catholic depravity and nativists could point to Mexico as a warning about what America would be like if dominated by Catholics.

Harlow, “Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830-1880″

Next month, Cambridge University Press will publish Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830-1880 by Luke Harlow (University of Tennessee, Knoxville). The publisher’s description follows.Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830–1880

This book sheds new light on the role of religion in the nineteenth-century slavery debates. In it, Luke E. Harlow argues that ongoing conflict over the meaning of Christian ‘orthodoxy’ constrained the political and cultural horizons available for defenders and opponents of American slavery. The central locus of these debates was Kentucky, a border slave state with a long-standing antislavery presence. Although white Kentuckians famously cast themselves as moderates in the period and remained with the Union during the Civil War, their religious values showed no moderation on the slavery question. When the war ultimately brought emancipation, white Kentuckians found themselves in lockstep with the rest of the Confederate South. Racist religion thus paved the way for the making of Kentucky’s Confederate memory of the war, as well as a deeply entrenched white Democratic Party in the state.

Tarango, “Choosing the Jesus Way: American Indian Pentecostals and the Fight for the Indigenous Principle”

Next month, the University of North Carolina will publish Choosing the Jesustarango_choosing_PB Way: American Indian Pentecostals and the Fight for the Indigenous Principle, by Angela Tarango (Trinity University). The publisher’s description follows.

Choosing the Jesus Way uncovers the history and religious experiences of the first American Indian converts to Pentecostalism. Focusing on the Assemblies of God denomination, the story begins in 1918, when white missionaries fanned out from the South and Midwest to convert Native Americans in the West and other parts of the country. Drawing on new approaches to the global history of Pentecostalism, Angela Tarango shows how converted indigenous leaders eventually transformed a standard Pentecostal theology of missions in ways that reflected their own religious struggles and advanced their sovereignty within the denomination.

Key to the story is the Pentecostal “indigenous principle,” which encourages missionaries to train local leadership in hopes of creating an indigenous church rooted in the culture of the missionized. In Tarango’s analysis, the indigenous principle itself was appropriated by the first generation of Native American Pentecostals, who transformed it to critique aspects of the missionary project and to argue for greater religious autonomy. More broadly, Tarango scrutinizes simplistic views of religious imperialism and demonstrates how religious forms and practices are often mutually influenced in the American experience.

Kundnani, “The Muslims Are Coming!”

Next month, Random House will publish The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundnani. The Muslims are Coming! The publisher’s description follows.

Death came instantly to Imam Luqman, as four FBI agents fired semiautomatic rifles at him from a few feet away. Another sixty officers surrounded the building on that October morning, the culmination of a two-year undercover investigation that had infiltrated the imam’s Detroit mosque. The FBI quickly claimed that Luqman Abdullah was “the leader of a domestic terrorist group.” And yet, caught on tape, he had refused to help “do something” violent, as it might injure innocents, and no terrorism charges were ever lodged against him.

Jameel Scott thought he was exercising his rights when he went to challenge an Israeli official’s lecture at Manchester University. But the teenager’s presence at the protest with fellow socialists made him the subject of police surveillance for the next two years. Counterterrorism agents visited his parents, his relatives, his school. They asked him for activists’ names and told him not to attend demonstrations. They called his mother and told her to move the family to another neighborhood. Although he doesn’t identify as Muslim, Jameel had become another face of the
presumed homegrown terrorist.

The new front in the War on Terror is the “homegrown enemy,” domestic terrorists who have become the focus of sprawling counterterrorism structures of policing and surveillance in the United States and across Europe. Domestic surveillance has mushroomed—at least 100,000 Muslims in America have been secretly under scrutiny. British police compiled a secret suspect list of more than 8,000 al-Qaeda “sympathizers,” and in another operation included almost 300 children fifteen and under among the potential extremists investigated. MI5 doubled in size in just five years.

Based on several years of research and reportage, in locations as disparate as Texas, New York, and Yorkshire, and written in engrossing, precise prose, this is the first comprehensive critique of counterradicalization strategies. The new policy and policing campaigns have been backed by an industry of freshly minted experts and liberal commentators. The Muslims Are Coming! looks at the way these debates have been transformed by the embrace of a narrowly configured and ill-conceived antiextremism.

Dreisbach & Hall (eds.), “Faith and the Founders of the American Republic”

9780199843350This April, Oxford University Press will publish Faith and the Founders of the American Republic edited by Daniel L. Dreisbach (American University) and Mark David Hall (George Fox University). The publisher’s description follows.

The role of religion in the founding of America has long been a hotly debated question. Some historians have regarded the views of a few famous founders, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Thomas Paine, as evidence that the founders were deists who advocated the strict separation of church and state. Popular Christian polemicists, on the other hand, have attempted to show that virtually all of the founders were pious Christians in favor of public support for religion.

As the essays in this volume demonstrate, a diverse array of religious traditions informed the political culture of the American founding. Faith and the Founders of the American Republic includes studies both of minority faiths, such as Islam and Judaism, and of major traditions like Calvinism. It also includes nuanced analysis of specific founders-Quaker John Dickinson, prominent Baptists Isaac Backus and John Leland, and Theistic Rationalist Gouverneur Morris, among others-with attention to their personal histories, faiths, constitutional philosophies, and views on the relationship between religion and the state.

This volume will be a crucial resource for anyone interested in the place of faith in the founding of the American constitutional republic, from political, religious, historical, and legal perspectives.

Bowman, “The Urban Pulpit”

Next month, Oxford University Press will publish The Urban Pulpit by Matthew Bowman (Hampden Sydney College). The publisher’s description follows.The Urban Pulpit New York City and the Fate of Liberal Evangelicalism

Matthew Bowman explores the world of a neglected group of American Christians: the self-identified liberal evangelicals who began in late nineteenth-century New York to reconcile traditional evangelical spirituality with progressive views on social activism and theological questions. These evangelicals emphasized the importance of supernatural conversion experience, but also argued that scientific advances, new movements in art, and the decline in poverty created by a new industrial economy could facilitate encounters with Christ.

The Urban Pulpit chronicles the struggle of liberal evangelicals against conservative Protestants who questioned their theological sincerity and against secular reformers who grew increasingly devoted to the cause of cultural pluralism and increasingly suspicious of evangelicals over the course of the twentieth century. Liberal evangelicals walked a difficult path, facing increasing polarization in twentieth-century American public life; both conservative evangelicals and secular reformers insisted that religion and science were necessarily at odds and that evangelical Christianity was incompatible with cultural diversity. Liberal evangelicals rejected these simple dichotomies, but nonetheless found it increasingly difficult to defend their middle way.

Drawing on history, anthropology, and religious studies, Bowman paints a complex portrait of these understudied Christians at work, at worship, and engaged in advocacy in the public square.

Abraham Lincoln, None?

Today is Presidents Day in the United States, a national holiday. Actually, that’s not quite right. Officially, the federal holiday is still called Washington’s Birthday, and that’s the official name here in New York, too. (Who knew?) But, unofficially, America uses this day to commemorate all its presidents–including, especially, two born in February, George Washington (February 22) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12).

I wasn’t surprised, therefore, when I saw in my twitter feed this afternoon Pew ‘s list of American presidents and their religious identities. About one-quarter have been Episcopalians; several have been Presbyterians; only one, John Kennedy, has been a Catholic. Pew lists three as having no religious identity: Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Johnson, and Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln, in particular, is an interesting case. People have been fighting over his religious identity since just after he died. He never formally joined a church. But some people who knew him said that, although he had been skeptical about organized religion in his youth, and may in fact have written an atheist pamphlet at one point, he became receptive to Christianity during his time in the White House, especially after the death of his son. One report says he was about to join the Presbyterian Church right before he was assassinated. Others who knew him, however, said they noticed no such transformation.

In his definitive 2003 study, Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power, historian Richard Carwardine surveys the evidence and, in the end, says that Mary Todd Lincoln probably had the best assessment. Her husband, she explained, was never “a technical Christian.” In particular, he seems not to have accepted the divinity of Christ. On the other hand, almost everyone who knew him agreed that he was “naturally religious.” Those lines in the Second Inaugural Address were not just for show. Lincoln believed that the universe was governed by an omnipotent God who worked things out for His own righteous, often inscrutable purposes. And Lincoln thought the better part of wisdom was to submit to God’s plan.

So, was the Great Emancipator a None? I leave it to you, gentle reader.

Abrams, “God and Blackness”

Next month, New York University Press will publish God and Blackness: Race, Gender and Identity in a Middle-Class Afrocentric Church by Andrea C. God and BlacknessAbrams (Centre College).  The publisher’s description follows.

Blackness, as a concept, is extremely fluid: it can refer to cultural and ethnic identity, socio-political status, an aesthetic and embodied way of being, a social and political consciousness, or a diasporic kinship. It is used as a description of skin color ranging from the palest cream to the richest chocolate; as a marker of enslavement, marginalization, criminality, filth, or evil; or as a symbol of pride, beauty, elegance, strength, and depth. Despite the fact that it is elusive and difficult to define, blackness serves as one of the most potent and unifying domains of identity.
God and Blackness offers an ethnographic study of blackness as it is understood within a specific community—that of the First Afrikan Church, a middle-class Afrocentric congregation in Atlanta, Georgia. Drawing on nearly two years of participant observation and in‑depth interviews, Andrea C. Abrams examines how this community has employed Afrocentrism and Black theology as a means of negotiating the unreconciled natures of thoughts and ideals that are part of being both black and American. Specifically, Abrams examines the ways in which First Afrikan’s construction of community is influenced by shared understandings of blackness, and probes the means through which individuals negotiate the tensions created by competing constructions of their black identity. Although Afrocentrism operates as the focal point of this discussion, the book examines questions of political identity, religious expression and gender dynamics through the lens of a unique black church.

Hackett, “That Religion in Which All Men Agree: Freemasonry in American Culture”

Next month, the University of California Press will publish That Religion in Which All Men Agree: Freemasonry in American Culture by David G. Hackett (University of Florida). The publisher’s description follows.Cover Image

This powerful study weaves the story of Freemasonry into the narrative of American religious history. Freighted with the mythical legacies of stonemasons’ guilds and the Newtonian revolution, English Freemasonry arrived in colonial America with a vast array of cultural baggage, which was drawn on, added to, and transformed during its sojourn through American culture. David G. Hackett argues that from the 1730s through the early twentieth century the religious worlds of an evolving American social order broadly appropriated the beliefs and initiatory practices of this all-male society. For much of American history, Freemasonry was both counter and complement to Protestant churches, as well as a forum for collective action among racial and ethnic groups outside the European American Protestant mainstream. Moreover, the cultural template of Freemasonry gave shape and content to the American “public sphere.” By including a group not usually seen as a carrier of religious beliefs and rituals, Hackett expands and complicates the terrain of American religious history by showing how Freemasonry has contributed to a broader understanding of the multiple influences that have shaped religion in American culture.

Wadsworth, “Ambivalent Miracles: Evangelicals and the Politics”

Next month, University of Virginia Press will publish Ambivalent Miracles: Evangelicals and the Politics by Nancy D. Wadsworth (University of Denver).  Wadsworth sk6.612345678.inddThe publisher’s description follows.

Over the past three decades, American evangelical Christians have undergone unexpected, progressive shifts in the area of race relations, culminating in a national movement that advocates racial integration and equality in evangelical communities. The movement, which seeks to build cross-racial relationships among evangelicals, has meant challenging well-established paradigms of church growth that built many megachurch empires. While evangelical racial change (ERC) efforts have never been easy and their reception has been mixed, they have produced meaningful transformation in religious communities. Although the movement as a whole encompasses a broad range of political views, many participants are interested in addressing race-related political issues that impact their members, such as immigration, law enforcement, and public education policy.

Ambivalent Miracles traces the rise and ongoing evolution of evangelical racial change efforts within the historical, political, and cultural contexts that have shaped them. Nancy D. Wadsworth argues that the stunning breakthroughs this movement has achieved, its curious political ambivalence, and its internal tensions are products of a complex cultural politics constructed at the intersection of U.S. racial and religious history and the meaning-making practices of conservative evangelicalism. Employing methods from the emerging field of political ethnography, Wadsworth draws from a decade’s worth of interviews and participant observation in ERC settings, textual analysis, and survey research, as well as a three-year case study, to provide the first exhaustive treatment of ERC efforts in political science.