Tag Archives: Religion and Society History

Andrews, “Native Apostles”

Native ApostlesThis month, Harvard University Press published Native Apostles by Edward D. Andrews (Providence College). The publisher’s description follows.

As Protestantism expanded across the Atlantic world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, most evangelists were not white Anglo-Americans, as scholars have long assumed, but members of the same groups that missionaries were trying to convert. Native Apostles offers one of the most significant untold stories in the history of early modern religious encounters, marshalling wide-ranging research to shed light on the crucial role of Native Americans, Africans, and black slaves in Protestant missionary work. The result is a pioneering view of religion’s spread through the colonial world.

From New England to the Caribbean, the Carolinas to Africa, Iroquoia to India, Protestant missions relied on long-forgotten native evangelists, who often outnumbered their white counterparts. Their ability to tap into existing networks of kinship and translate between white missionaries and potential converts made them invaluable assets and potent middlemen. Though often poor and ostracized by both whites and their own people, these diverse evangelists worked to redefine Christianity and address the challenges of slavery, dispossession, and European settlement. Far from being advocates for empire, their position as cultural intermediaries gave native apostles unique opportunities to challenge colonialism, situate indigenous peoples within a longer history of Christian brotherhood, and harness scripture to secure a place for themselves and their followers.

Native Apostles shows that John Eliot, Eleazar Wheelock, and other well-known Anglo-American missionaries must now share the historical stage with the black and Indian evangelists named Hiacoomes, Good Peter, Philip Quaque, John Quamine, and many more.

Smith, “A Cautious Enthusiasm”

A Cautious EnthusiasmThis month, University of South Carolina Press will publish A Cautious Enthusiasm by Samuel C. Smith (Liberty University). The publisher’s description follows.

 A Cautious Enthusiasm examines the religious, social, and political interplay between eighteenth-century evangelicalism and the Anglican establishment in the lowcountry South. Samuel C. Smith argues that the subjective spirituality inherent in evangelical religion was a catalyst toward political and social consensus among influential Anglican laymen. Smith finds that a close examination of the writings and actions of religion-minded South Carolinians such as Henry Laurens, Christopher Gadsden, and Anglican clergymen Robert Smith and Richard Clarke reveals the influence of evangelical zeal at the highest levels of society.

Taking his study even deeper into the religious life of low country society, Smith identifies radically pietistic elements, some of which originated in the mystical writings and practices of European Roman Catholics, German Pietists, and Huguenot Calvinists. Central to this study is the recognition of Catholic mysticism’s impact on the experiential side of early evangelicalism, a subject rarely explored in historical works.

A Cautious Enthusiasm provides a rare examination of Great Awakening revivalism among lowcountry Anglicans by tracing the European origins into the lowcountry South. This study demonstrates how elements of mystical religiosity prodded some to associate evangelical revivalists with Catholicism and displays how subjective elements of religion contributed to a unique patriotic consensus among lowcountry Anglicans in the Revolutionary era.

Amira El-Azhary Sonbol, “Gulf Women”

ImageLast fall, Syracuse University Press published Gulf Women (2012) edited by Amira El-Azhary Sonbol (Georgetown University). The publisher’s description follows.

This groundbreaking collection of essays provides a greater understanding of the history of the Gulf and the Arab world and is of relevance to Muslim women everywhere. Featuring research never published before, Gulf Women is the result of a project aimed at finding sources and studying the history of women in the region. The chapters cover ancient history and the medieval, early modern, and contemporary periods. Presenting discourses on the life of women in early Islam, women’s work and the diversity of their economic contribution, the family—and how it changed over time—as well as the legal system and laws dealing with women and family from the pre-modern to the modern periods, this is a pioneering collection by leading scholars from Arab and international universities.

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Scientific Progress and the Socio-Religious Worldview

This month, Baylor University Press publishes Rhetorical Darwinism: Religion, Evolution, and the Scientific Identity by Professor Thomas M. Lessl of the University of Georgia Department of Communication Studies.  Please see the publisher’s abstract below.

Everything evolves, science tells us, including the public language used by scientists to sustain and perpetuate their work. Harkening back to the Protestant Reformation—a time when the promise of scientific inquiry was intimately connected with a deep faith in divine Providence—Thomas Lessl traces the evolving role and public identity of science in the West.

As the Reformation gave way to the Enlightenment, notions of Providence evolved into progress. History’s divine plan could now be found in nature, and scientists became history’s new prophets. With Darwin and the emergence of evolutionary science, progress and evolution collapsed together into what Lessl calls “evolutionism,” and the grand scientific identity was used to advance science’s power into the world.

In this masterful treatment, Lessl analyzes the descent of these patterns of scientific advocacy from the world of Francis Bacon into the world of Thomas Huxley and his successors. In the end, Rhetorical Darwinism proposes that Darwin’s power to fuel the establishment of science within the Western social milieu often turns from its scientific course.

Jacqueline Rose on Church and State in Restoration England

The Restoration of the Stuart Dynasty in 1660 led to the Glorious Revolution in 1688, which, in turn, figured prominently in the iconography of the American Revolution 100 years later. Jacqueline Rose (University of St. Andrews) has published a new book on church-state relations during the Restoration, Godly Kingship in Restoration England (Cambridge University Press 2011) that looks quite interesting. The publisher’s description follows. — MLM

The position of English monarchs as supreme governors of the Church of England profoundly affected early modern politics and religion. This innovative book explores how tensions in church-state relations created by Henry VIII’s Reformation continued to influence relationships between the crown, parliament and common law during the Restoration, a distinct phase in England’s ‘long Reformation’. Debates about the powers of kings and parliaments, the treatment of Dissenters and emerging concepts of toleration were viewed through a Reformation prism where legitimacy depended on godly status. This book discusses how the institutional, legal and ideological framework of supremacy perpetuated the language of godly kingship after 1660 and how supremacy was complicated by the ambivalent Tudor legacy. It was manipulated by not only Anglicans, but also tolerant kings and intolerant parliaments, Catholics, Dissenters and radicals like Thomas Hobbes. Invented to uphold the religious and political establishments, supremacy paradoxically ended up subverting them.

Gerhard Von Rad: State Interference and Unflappable Belief in Nazi Germany

Bernard M. Levinson, Professor and Berman Family Chair of Jewish Studies & Hebrew Bible at the University of Minnesota Law School, has recently re-posted Reading the Bible in Nazi Germany: Gerhard von Rad’s Attempt to Reclaim the Old Testament for the Church (read the full text here).  The article, which first appeared in Volume 62 of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology (2008), explores Gerhard von Rad’s (1901–71) staunch adherence to Old Testament studies despite the challenge of Nazi elements within his theological and intellectual milieu.  Levinson also draws a direct connection between von Rad’ s hermeneutic and the historical circumstances under which he worked, painting a powerful portrait of religious and intellectual conviction in defiance of a totalitarian state.

Levinson chronicles National Socialism’s grip on academia and—through control of university theological study—churches.  In 1934, just as von Rad took a post teaching theology at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (“NSDAP”) was taking universities and churches into its ideological grip.  This substantial transformation coincided with—or caused—the ascendance of the Deutsche Christen (“German Christians”) and the more radically nationalist German Christian Church Movement (“KDC”) (I have already written upon the opposition of the protestant, anti-Nazification Bekennende Kirche—“Confessing Church”—here).

The University of Jena was a nucleus of this shift, and its Faculty of Theology became an organ for National Socialist, German Christian ideology.  (It is worth mentioning that, in addition to the Jena Faculty of Theology’s intellectual move toward National Socialism, the Faculty of Medicine became more concretely an NSDAP body:  It used Buchenwald to train students in pathology and its medical-clinics participated in some 14,000 forced sterilizations before 1943.  [See the New York Museum of Jewish Heritage's account of the unimaginable atrocities at Buchenwald here.]  The appointment of S.S. Obersturmbannführer Karl Astel as Jena’s rector in 1939 completed the university’s National Socialist transformation.)

For more on Levinson’s description of the Nazification of German protestant churches and von Rad’s resistance to Nazification through his writing and teaching, please follow the jump. Continue reading