In September, Brill released “Indigenous Evangelists and Questions of Authority in the British Empire 1750-1940,” edited by Peggy Brock (Edith Cowan University), Norman Etherington (University of Western Australia), Gareth Griffiths (University of Western Australia), and Jacqueline Van Gent (University of Western Australia). The publisher’s description follow:
This is the first full-length historical study of indigenous evangelists across a range of societies, geographical regions and colonial regimes and the first to focus on the complex issues of authority surrounding the evangelists. It answers a need frequently voiced in recent studies of Christian missions. Most scholars now acknowledge that the remarkable expansion of Christianity in Africa, Asia and the Pacific in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries owed far more to the efforts of indigenous preachers than to the foreign missionaries who loom so large in publications. This book addresses that concern making an excellent introduction to the role of indigenous evangelists in the spread of Christianity, and the many countervailing pressures with which these individuals had to contend. It also includes in the introductory discussions useful statements of the current state of scholarship and theoretical debates in this field.
In January, HarperCollins Publishers will release “Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars (Even When They Lose Elections): The Battles That Define America from Jefferson’s Heresies to Gay Marriage,” by Stephen Prothero (Boston University). The publisher’s description follows:
In this timely, carefully reasoned social history of the United States, the New York Times bestselling author of Religious Literacy and God Is Not One places today’s heated culture wars within the context of a centuries-long struggle of right versus left and religious versus secular to reveal how, ultimately, liberals always win.
Though they may seem to be dividing the country irreparably, today’s heated cultural and political battles between right and left, Progressives and Tea Party, religious and secular are far from unprecedented. In this engaging and important work, Stephen Prothero reframes the current debate, viewing it as the latest in a number of flashpoints that have shaped our national identity. Prothero takes us on a lively tour through time, bringing into focus the election of 1800, which pitted Calvinists and Federalists against Jeffersonians and “infidels;” the Protestants’ campaign against Catholics in the mid-nineteenth century; the anti-Mormon crusade of the Victorian era; the fundamentalist-modernist debates of the 1920s; the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s; and the current crusade against Islam.
As Prothero makes clear, our culture wars have always been religious wars, progressing through the same stages of conservative reaction to liberal victory that eventually benefit all Americans. Drawing on his impressive depth of knowledge and detailed research, he explains how competing religious beliefs have continually molded our political, economic, and sociological discourse and reveals how the conflicts which separate us today, like those that came before, are actually the byproduct of our struggle to come to terms with inclusiveness and ideals of “Americanness.” To explore these battles, he reminds us, is to look into the soul of America—and perhaps find essential answers to the questions that beset us.
Posted in Christina Vlahos, Scholarship Roundup
Tagged American History, Books, Christianity, Islam, Law and Culture, Law and Religion, Protestantism, Religion and Political Theory, Religion and Politics, Religion and Society, Religion in America, Same-sex Marriage, Secularism
In December, the Oxford University Press will release “Born of Conviction: White Methodists and Mississippi’s Closed Society,” by Joseph T. Reiff (Emory & Henry College). The publisher’s description follows:
The dominant narrative of the role of white citizens and the white church in Mississippi’s civil rights era focuses on their intense resistance to change. The “Born of Conviction” statement, signed by twenty-eight white Methodist pastors and published in theMississippi Methodist Advocate on January 2, 1963, offered an alternative witness to the segregationist party line. Calling for freedom of the pulpit and reminding readers of the Methodist Discipline’s claim that the teachings of Jesus permit “no discrimination because of race, color, or creed,” the pastors sought to speak to and for a mostly silent yet significant minority of Mississippians, and to lead white Methodists to join the conversation on the need for racial justice. The document additionally expressed support for public schools and opposition to any attempt to close them, and affirmed the signers’ opposition to Communism. Though a few individuals, both laity and clergy, voiced public affirmation of “Born of Conviction,” the overwhelming reaction was negative-by mid-1964, eighteen of the signers had left Mississippi, evidence of the challenges faced by whites who offered even mild dissent to massive resistance in the Deep South.
Dominant narratives, however, rarely tell the whole story. The statement caused a significant crack in the public unanimity of Mississippi white resistance. Signers and their public supporters also received private messages of gratitude for their stand, and eight of the signers would remain in the Methodist ministry in Mississippi until retirement. Born of Conviction tells the story of “the Twenty-Eight” illuminating the impact on the larger culture of this attempt by white clergy to support race relations change. The book explores the theological and ethical understandings of the signers through an account of their experiences before, during, and after the statement’s publication. It also offers a detailed portrait of both public and private expressions of the theology and ethics of white Mississippi Methodists in general, as revealed by their responses to the “Born of Conviction” controversy.
In January, Routledge will release “God and the EU: Faith in the European Project,” edited by Jonathan Chaplin (Cambridge University) and Gary Wilton (Wilton Park-Executive Agency of FCO). The publisher’s description follows:
The current political, economic and financial crises facing the EU reveal a deeper cultural, indeed spiritual, malaise – a crisis in ‘the soul of Europe’. Many observers are concluding that the EU cannot be restored to health without a new appreciation of the contribution of religion to its past and future, and especially that of its hugely important but widely neglected Christian heritage, which is alive today even amidst advancing European secularization.
God and the EU offers a fresh, constructive and critical understanding of Christian contributions to the origin and development of the EU from a variety of theological, national and political perspectives. It explains the Christian origins of the EU; documents the various ways in which it has been both affirmed and critiqued from diverse theological perspectives; offers expert, theologically-informed assessments of four illustrative policy areas of the EU (religion, finance, environment, science); and also reports on the place of religion in the EU, including how religious freedom is framed and how contemporary religious actors relate to EU institutions and vice versa.
This book fills a major gap in the current debate about the future of the European project and will be of interest to students and scholars of religion, politics and European studies.
In January, the Harvard University Press will release “Why Muslim Integration Fails in Christian-Heritage Societies,” by Claire L. Adida (University of California, San Diego), David D. Laitin (Stanford University), and Marie-Anne Valfort (Paris School of Economics and Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne). The publisher’s description follows:
Amid mounting fears of violent Islamic extremism, many Europeans ask whether Muslim immigrants can integrate into historically Christian countries. In a groundbreaking ethnographic investigation of France’s Muslim migrant population, Why Muslim Integration Fails in Christian-Heritage Societies explores this complex question. The authors conclude that both Muslim and non-Muslim French must share responsibility for the slow progress of Muslim integration.
Claire Adida, David Laitin, and Marie-Anne Valfort found that in France, Muslims are widely perceived as threatening, based in large part on cultural differences between Muslim and rooted French that feed both rational and irrational Islamophobia. Relying on a unique methodology to isolate the religious component of discrimination, the authors identify a discriminatory equilibrium in which both Muslim immigrants and native French act negatively toward one another in a self-perpetuating, vicious circle.
Disentangling the rational and irrational threads of Islamophobia is essential if Europe hopes to repair a social fabric that has frayed around the issue of Muslim immigration. Muslim immigrants must address their own responsibility for the failures of integration, and Europeans must acknowledge the anti-Islam sentiments at the root of their antagonism. The authors outline public policy solutions aimed at promoting religious diversity in fair-minded host societies.
I want to call special notice to Professor Samuel Moyn’s very interesting and elegantly executed new book, Christian Human Rights (2015), which traces the specifically 20th century Christian roots of contemporary (secular?) human rights. Moyn begins really in 1937 and devotes special attention to Pope Pius XII’s 1942 Christmas message, “The Internal Order of States and People,” in which Pius announced both the “dignity of the human person” and that man “should uphold respect for and the practical realization of…fundamental personal rights.”
I’ve just started to dig in to the book, but I wanted to highlight a few passages from the introduction to illustrate some of the accents and grace notes of the book. There is, for example, this line: “The trouble, after all, is not so much that Christianity accounts for nothing, as that it accounts for everything.” (6) Part of Moyn’s project is remedial with respect both to those “secular historians” who have “nervously bypassed” “the Christian incarnation of human rights, which interferes with their preferred understandings of today’s highest principles” and those other scholars, “overwhelmingly Christians themselves,” who go about defending the Christian tradition of human rights “in a highly abstract way” and by recourse to “long ago events” stretching to the very beginnings of Christianity.
There is also this, on the idea of tradition (admittedly, a subject of some interest to me):
No one could plausibly claim–and no one ever has–that the history of human rights is one of wholly discontinuous novelty….But radical departures nonetheless occurred very late in Christian history, even if they were unfailingly represented as consistent with what came before: this is how “the invention of tradition” most frequently works. (5)
The citation is to Hobsbawm’s essay (in his collected volume) on The Invention of Tradition (in which Hugh Trevor Roper’s typically and enjoyably acid essay on Scottish tartans is one of my very favorites in the ‘tradition-as-fraud’ genre). Yet I hope it is not too tart of me to wonder whether this might just as easily be called “the invention of novelty,” novelties being, of course, the stuff on which scholars make their living. Perhaps a little of both?
More seriously, perhaps what these lines in Moyn’s fine and insightful book really suggest is that what is really most needful is a true and clear-eyed account of the idea of tradition and its importance for law and legal institutions generally, one that is neither committed to its lionization nor demonization.
In November, the Oxford University Press will release “Fighting Fundamentalist: Carl McIntire and the Politicization of American Fundamentalism,” by Markku Ruotsila (University of Helsinki). The publisher’s description follows:
For most of his sixty-year career, the Reverend Carl McIntire was at the center of controversy. The best-known and most influential of the fundamentalist radio broadcasters and anticommunists of the Cold War era, his many enemies depicted him as a dangerous far rightist, a racist, or a “McCarthyite” opportunist engaged in red-baiting for personal profit. Despised and hounded by liberals, revered by fundamentalists, and distrusted by the center, he became a lightning rod in the early days of America’s culture wars.
Markku Ruotsila’s Fighting Fundamentalist, the first scholarly biography of McIntire, peels off the accumulated layers of caricature and makes a case for restoring McIntire to his place as one of the most consequential religious leaders in the twentieth-century United States. Ruotsila traces McIntire’s life from his early twentieth-century childhood in Oklahoma to his death in 2002. From his discipleship under J. Gresham Machen during the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, through his fifty-year pastorate in Collingswood, New Jersey, and his presidency of the International Council of Christian Churches, McIntire, Ruotsila shows, stands out as the most important fundamentalist of his time. Drawing on exhaustive research in fifty-two archival collections-including the recently opened collection of the Carl McIntire papers and never-before-seen FBI files-Ruotsila looks beyond the McIntire of legend to discover a serious theological, political, and economic combatant, a tireless organizer who pioneered the public theologies, inter-faith alliances, and political methods that would give birth to the Christian Right.
The moral values agenda of the 1970s and after would not have existed, Ruotsila shows, without the anti-communist and anti-New Deal activism that McIntire inaugurated. Indeed, twentieth-century American religious and political history were profoundly shaped by forces McIntire set in motion. Fighting Fundamentalist tells the overlooked story of McIntire and the movement he inspired.
This month, I.B.Tauris releases “Holy War, Just War: Early Modern Christianity, Religious Ethics and the Rhetoric of Empire” by Patrick Provost-Smith (Harvard University). The publisher’s description follows:
The catastrophe of Iraq has forced us to revisit the validity of what constitutes a supposedly ‘just war’. In such critical circumstances, a sustained re-examination of the basis for contemporary just war theory is desperately urgent and required. This is what precisely Patrick Provost-Smith offers in this powerful and original re-evaluation of the topic. The author recognises that a coherent account of the ethics of modern warfare can only begin with history. He therefore explores the great sixteenth century debates about the nature of conflict, focusing on the Spanish conquistadors and their evangelisation of Mexico and Peru.He then shows how these debates were later appropriated by Spanish missionaries in the Philippines with a view to the conquest of China. In assessing previous discussions over ‘just wars’, and the shifting sands of the various logics that were applied to such conflicts, Provost-Smith puts a wholly new complexion on how current moral theory about war might be understood.
This is history in the best sense: the book makes a decisive contribution to current affairs through a profound grasp of how past ideas and rhetorics about conquest have shaped ongoing notions of western Christian superiority. It will be essential reading for all serious students of religious ethics, the history of ideas, and the history of politics and empire.
John Huleatt, an alumnus of St. John’s Law School and General Counsel for the Bruderhof Community, a Christian group with roots in the Anabaptist tradition, has posted an interesting reflection on the Obergefell decision and the implications for religious liberty. Here’s a sample:
Accordingly, the state exceeds its legitimate authority when it lends its authoritarian power to either side in this debate. Protecting gays from discrimination in nonreligious matters is an appropriate concern for government and believers alike. But if the government requires believers to act in violation of their conscience in the name of so-called anti-discrimination, it is going too far. The United States, more than most other countries, has a long history of successfully accommodating competing rights. For this to continue, the state and proponents of gay marriage need to understand that no compromise for believers is possible where conscience is at stake. Thus free exercise of religion must be protected just as much as other civil rights. Religious dissent does not lose protection merely by being labeled discrimination. If the American public and the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government fail to recognize this, many people who are (in Justice Kennedy’s words) “reasonable and sincere” will have no choice but to resort to civil disobedience.
You can read Huleatt’s essay here.
In November, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release “The Gods, the State, and the Individual: Reflections on Civic Religion in Rome,” by John Scheid (Collège de France). The publisher’s description follows:
Roman religion has long presented a number of challenges to historians approaching the subject from a perspective framed by the three Abrahamic religions. The Romans had no sacred text that espoused its creed or offered a portrait of its foundational myth. They described relations with the divine using technical terms widely employed to describe relations with other humans. Indeed, there was not even a word in classical Latin that corresponds to the English word religion.
In The Gods, the State, and the Individual, John Scheid confronts these and other challenges directly. If Roman religious practice has long been dismissed as a cynical or naïve system of borrowed structures unmarked by any true piety, Scheid contends that this is the result of a misplaced expectation that the basis of religion lies in an individual’s personal and revelatory relationship with his or her god. He argues that when viewed in the light of secular history as opposed to Christian theology, Roman religion emerges as a legitimate phenomenon in which rituals, both public and private, enforced a sense of communal, civic, and state identity.
Since the 1970s, Scheid has been one of the most influential figures reshaping scholarly understanding of ancient Roman religion. The Gods, the State, and the Individual presents a translation of Scheid’s work that chronicles the development of his field-changing scholarship.