In May, the Oxford University Press released “Inherit the Holy Mountain: Religion and the Rise of American Environmentalism,” by Mark Stoll (Texas Tech University). The publisher’s description follows:
In Inherit the Holy Mountain, historian Mark Stoll introduces us to the religious roots of the American environmental movement. Religion, he shows, provided environmentalists both with deeply-embedded moral and cultural ways of viewing the world and with content, direction, and tone for the causes they espoused.
Stoll discovers that specific denominational origins corresponded with characteristic sets of ideas about nature and the environment as well as distinctive aesthetic reactions to nature, as can be seen in key works of art analyzed throughout the book.
Stoll also provides insight into the possible future of environmentalism in the United States, concluding with an examination of the current religious scene and what it portends for the future. By debunking the supposed divide between religion and American environmentalism, Inherit the Holy Mountain opens up a fundamentally new narrative in environmental studies.
In April, the University of North Carolina Press released Christian Reconstruction: R. J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism, by Michael J. McVicar (Florida State University). The publisher’s description follows:
This is the first critical history of Christian Reconstruction and its founder and champion, theologian and activist Rousas John Rushdoony (1916–2001). Drawing on exclusive access to Rushdoony’s personal papers and extensive correspondence, Michael J. McVicar demonstrates the considerable role Reconstructionism played in the development of the radical Christian Right and an American theocratic agenda. As a religious movement, Reconstructionism aims at nothing less than “reconstructing” individuals through a form of Christian governance that, if implemented in the lives of U.S. citizens, would fundamentally alter the shape of American society.
McVicar examines Rushdoony’s career and traces Reconstructionism as it grew from a grassroots, populist movement in the 1960s to its height of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. He reveals the movement’s galvanizing role in the development of political conspiracy theories and survivalism, libertarianism and antistatism, and educational reform and homeschooling. The book demonstrates how these issues have retained and in many cases gained potency for conservative Christians to the present day, despite the decline of the movement itself beginning in the 1990s. McVicar contends that Christian Reconstruction has contributed significantly to how certain forms of religiosity have become central, and now familiar, aspects of an often controversial conservative revolution in America.
In July, Oxford University Press will release “Inventing a Christian America: The Myth of the Religious Founding” by Steven K. Green (Williamette University, College of Law). The publisher’s description follows:
Among the most enduring themes in American history is the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. A pervasive narrative ineverything from school textbooks to political commentary, it is central to
the way in which many Americans perceive the historical legacy of their nation. Yet, as Steven K. Green shows in this illuminating new book, it is little more than a myth.
In Inventing a Christian America, Green, a leading historian of religion and politics, explores the historical record that is purported to support the popular belief in America’s religious founding and status as a Christian nation. He demonstrates that, like all myths, these claims are based on historical “facts” that have been colored by the interpretive narratives that have been imposed upon them. In tracing the evolution of these claims and the evidence levied in support of them from the founding of the New England colonies, through the American Revolution, and to the present day, he investigates how they became leading narratives in the country’s collective identity. Three critical moments in American history shaped and continue to drive the myth of a Christian America: the Puritan founding of New England, the American Revolution and the forging of a new nation, and the early years of the nineteenth century, when a second generation of Americans sought to redefine and reconcile the memory of the founding to match their religious and patriotic aspirations. Seeking to shed light not only on the veracity of these ideas but on the reasons they endure, Green ultimately shows that the notion of America’s religious founding is a myth not merely in the colloquial sense, but also in a deeper sense, as a shared story that gives deeper meaning to our collective national identity.
Offering a fresh look at one of the most common and contested claims in American history, Inventing a Christian America is an enlightening read for anyone interested in the story of-and the debate over-America’s founding.
In March, the Catholic University of America Press released “A Partisan Church: American Catholicism and the Rise of Neoconservative Catholics” by Todd Scribner (Education Outreach Coordinator at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). The publisher’s description follows:
In the wake of Vatican II and the political and social upheavals of the 1960s, disruption and disagreement rent the Catholic Church in America. Since then, a diversity of opinions on a variety of political and religious questions found expression in the church, leading to a fragmented understanding of Catholic identity. Liberal, conservative, neoconservative and traditionalist Catholics competed to define what constituted an authentic Catholic worldview, thus making it nearly im- possible to pinpoint a unique “Catholic position” on any given topic. A Partisan Church examines these controversies during the Reagan era and explores the way in which one group of intellectuals—well-known neoconservative Catholics such as George Weigel, Michael Novak, and Richard John Neuhaus—sought to reestablish a coherent and unified Catholic identity.
Their efforts to do so were multilayered, with questions related to Cold War politics, US foreign relations with Central American dictator- ships, the economy, abortion, and the state of American culture being perhaps the most contentious subjects. Throughout these debates neo- conservative intellectuals voiced their opposition to positions staked out by the Catholic bishops of the United States and to other schools of thought within American Catholicism.
While policy questions were an important component of Catholic identity, a more fundamental disagreement was reflected in the neo- conservative concern that a significant fraction of church leadership had embraced a misguided ecclesiology, one that misconstrued the re- lationship between the church’s mission and political life. In this book, Todd Scribner, of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, traces out the contours of these disagreements by focusing on neoconservative Cath- olic thought and identifying the distinct manner in which they ad- dressed matters of grave importance to the post-Vatican II church.
The figure of the military chaplain is perhaps not as celebrated today as it once was; like many traditions, it, too, is challenged by the imperatives of change. Here is an interesting study of a successful chaplain who served both his country and his faith honorably: Catholic University Press’s recently released Navy Priest: The Life of Captain Jake Laboon, SJ, by Richard Gribble, CSC. The publisher’s description follows.
Navy Priest is a compelling biography of the Jesuit priest and Navy chaplain John Francis (Jake) Laboon. Father Jake made a significant contribution to the United States Navy, both as a World War II submarine officer and, most prominently, during a 22-year career as a chaplain. Laboon served as the first chaplain for the Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine Program, but also served as chaplain at his alma mater the United States Naval Academy, undertook a tour of duty with the US Marines in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Legion of Merit, and later served as Fleet Chaplain of the United States Atlantic Fleet.
Father Jake Laboon was born on April 11, 1921 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The third of nine children, he was raised in a faith-filled family. He attended Catholic schools until his matriculation to the United States Naval Academy in June 1940. A tight end for the USNA football team and an All American in lacrosse, Laboon graduated with his classmates in June 1943. He served with distinction in the Pacific submarine force, winning the Silver Star for gallantry aboard USS Peto (SS 265).
Laboon left the Navy in 1946 and immediately entered formation for the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). He was ordained a priest in 1956. Two years later he reentered the Navy as a chaplain, where he stayed until 1980. He then joined the pastoral staff serving at Manresa Retreat Center, in Annapolis, and was for four years the pastor of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Parish in Woodstock, Maryland. In 1995 the destroyer USS Laboon was commissioned in his honor. Loved by all with whom he had contact, Father Jake was a model of Christian fidelity, faith and complete dedication to God and country.
This month, Random House releases On Slavery and Abolitionism, a new collection of writings by the Grimké Sisters, Sarah and Angelica, with an introduction by Mark Perry. The publisher’s description follows:
Sarah and Angelina Grimké’s portrayal in Sue Monk Kidd’s latest novel, The Invention of Wings, has brought much-deserved new attention to these inspiring Americans. The first female agents for the American Anti-Slavery Society, the sisters originally rose to prominence after Angelina wrote a rousing letter of support to renowned abolitionist William Garrison in the wake of Philadelphia’s pro-slavery riots in 1935. Born into Southern aristocracy, the Grimkés grew up in a slave-holding family. Hetty, a young house servant, whom Sarah secretly taught to read, deeply influenced Sarah Grimké’s life, sparking her commitment to anti-slavery activism. As adults, the sisters embraced Quakerism and dedicated their lives to the abolitionist and women’s rights movements. Their appeals and epistles were some of the most eloquent and emotional arguments against slavery made by any abolitionists. Their words, greeted with trepidation and threats in their own time, speak to us now as enduring examples of triumph and hope.
This May, Oxford University Press will release “Baptists in America” by Thomas S. Kidd (Baylor University) and Barry Hankins (Baylor University). The publisher’s description follows:
The Puritans called Baptists “the troublers of churches in all places” and hounded them out of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Four hundred years later, Baptists are the second-largest religious group in America, and their influence matches their numbers. They have built strong institutions, from megachurches to publishing houses to charities to mission organizations, and have firmly established themselves in the mainstream of American culture. Yet the historical legacy of outsider status lingers, and the inherently fractured nature of their faith makes Baptists ever wary of threats from within as well as without.
In Baptists in America, Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins explore the long-running tensions between church, state, and culture that Baptists have shaped and navigated. Despite the moment of unity that their early persecution provided, their history has been marked by internal battles and schisms that were microcosms of national events, from the conflict over slavery that divided North from South to the conservative revolution of the 1970s and 80s. Baptists have made an indelible impact on American religious and cultural history, from their early insistence that America should have no established church to their place in the modern-day culture wars, where they frequently advocate greater religious involvement in politics. Yet the more mainstream they have become, the more they have been pressured to conform to the mainstream, a paradox that defines–and is essential to understanding–the Baptist experience in America.
Kidd and Hankins, both practicing Baptists, weave the threads of Baptist history alongside those of American history. Baptists in America is a remarkable story of how one religious denomination was transformed from persecuted minority into a leading actor on the national stage, with profound implications for American society and culture.
This June, Oxford University Press will release “The Prophet and the Reformer: The Letters of Brigham Young and Thomas L. Kane” edited by Matthew J. Grow and Ronald W. Walker (Professor Emeritus, Brigham Young University). The publisher’s description follows:
Until his death in 1877, Brigham Young guided the religious, economic, and political life of the Mormon community, whose settlements spread throughout the West and provoked a profound political, legal, and even military confrontation with the American nation. Young first met Thomas L. Kane on the plains of western Iowa in 1846. Young came to rely on Kane, 21 years his junior, as his most trusted outside adviser, making Kane the most important non-Mormon in the history of the Church. In return, no one influenced the direction of Kane’s life more than Young. The letters exchanged by the two offer crucial insights into Young’s personal life and views as well as his actions as a political and religious leader. The Prophet and the Reformer offers a complete reproduction of the surviving letters between the Mormon prophet and the Philadelphia reformer. The correspondence reveals the strategies of the Latter-day Saints in relating to American culture and government during these crucial years when the “Mormon Question” was a major political, cultural, and legal issue. The letters also shed important light on the largely forgotten “Utah War” of 1857-58, triggered when President James Buchanan dispatched a military expedition to ensure federal supremacy in Utah and replace Young with a non-Mormon governor.
This annotated collection of their correspondence reveals a great deal about these two remarkable men, while also providing crucial insight into nineteenth-century Mormonism and the historical moment in which the movement developed.
This June, Cambridge University Press will release “Godless Democrats and Pious Republicans: Party Activists, Party Capture, and the ‘God Gap’” by Ryan L. Klaassen (Kent State University). The publisher’s description follows:
Do Evangelical activists control the Republican Party? Do secular activists control the Democratic Party? In Godless Democrats and Pious Republicans?, Ryan Claassen carefully assesses the way campaign activists represent religious and non-religious groups in American political parties dating back to the 1960s. By providing a new theoretical framework for investigating the connections between macro social and political trends, the results challenge a conventional wisdom in which recently mobilized religious and Secular extremists captured the parties and created a God gap. The new approach reveals that very basic social and demographic trends matter far more than previously recognized and that mobilization matters far less. The God gap in voting is real, but it was not created by Christian Right mobilization efforts and a Secular backlash. Where others see culture wars and captured parties, Claassen finds many religious divisions in American politics are artifacts of basic social changes. This very basic insight leads to many profoundly different conclusions about the motivations of religious and non-religious activists and voters.
This May, University of Chicago Press will release “Holy Nation: The Transatlantic Quaker Ministry in an Age of Revolution” by Sarah Crabtree (San Francisco State University). The publisher’s description follows:
Early American Quakers have long been perceived as retiring separatists, but in Holy Nation Sarah Crabtree transforms our historical understanding of the sect by drawing on the sermons, diaries, and correspondence of Quakers themselves. Situating Quakerism within the larger intellectual and religious undercurrents of the Atlantic World, Crabtree shows how Quakers forged a paradoxical sense of their place in the world as militant warriors fighting for peace. She argues that during the turbulent Age of Revolution and Reaction, the Religious Society of Friends forged a “holy nation,” a transnational community of like-minded believers committed first and foremost to divine law and to one another. Declaring themselves citizens of their own nation served to underscore the decidedly unholy nature of the nation-state, worldly governments, and profane laws. As a result, campaigns of persecution against the Friends escalated as those in power moved to declare Quakers aliens and traitors to their home countries.
Holy Nation convincingly shows that ideals and actions were inseparable for the Society of Friends, yielding an account of Quakerism that is simultaneously a history of the faith and its adherents and a history of its confrontations with the wider world. Ultimately, Crabtree argues, the conflicts experienced between obligations of church and state that Quakers faced can illuminate similar contemporary struggles.