Tag Archives: Religion in America

Rice,”Contraception and Persecution”

Next month, St. Augustine’s Press will publish Contraception and Persecution by Charles Rice (University of Notre Dame Law School). The publisher’s description follows.

“Contraceptive sex,” wrote social science researcher Mary Eberstadt in 2012, “is the fundamental social fact of our time.” In this important and pointed book, Charles E. Rice, of the Notre Dame Law School, makes the novel claim that the acceptance of contraception is a prelude to persecution. He makes the striking point that contraception is not essentially about sex. It is a First Commandment issue: Who is God? It was at the Anglican Lambeth Conference of 1930 when for the first time a Christian denomination said that contraception could ever be a moral choice. The advent of the Pill in the 1960s made the practice of contraception practically universal. This involved a massive displacement of the Divine Law as a normative measure of conduct, not only on sex but across the board. Nature abhors a vacuum. The State moved in to occupy the place formerly held by God as the ultimate moral Lawgiver. The State put itself on a collision course with religious groups and especially with the Catholic Church, which continues to insist on that traditional teacher. A case in point is the Obama Regime’s Health Care Mandate, coercing employees to provide, contrary to conscience, abortifacients and contraceptives to their employees. The first chapter describes that Mandate, which the Catholic bishops have vowed not to obey. Rice goes on to show that the duty to disobey an unjust law that would compel you to violate the Divine Law does not confer a general right to pick and choose what laws you will obey. The third chapter describes the “main event,” which is the bout to determine whether the United States will conform its law and culture to the homosexual (LGBTQ) lifestyle in all its respects. “The main event is well underway and LGBTQ is well ahead on points.” Professor Rice follows with a clear analysis of the 2013 Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. Part II presents some “underlying causes” of the accelerating persecution of the Catholic Church. The four chapter headings in this part outline the picture: The Dictatorship of Relativism; Conscience Redefined; The Constitution: Moral Neutrality; and The Constitution: Still Taken Seriously? The answer to the last question, as you might expect, is: No. Part III, the controversial heart of the book, presents contraception as “an unacknowledged cause” of persecution. The first chapter argues that contraception is not just a “Catholic issue.” The next chapter describes the “consequences” of contraception and the treatment of women as objects. The third chapter spells out in detail the reality that contraception is a First Commandment issue and that its displacement of God as the ultimate moral authority opened the door for the State to assume that role, bringing on a persecution of the Church. The last chapter, “A Teaching Untaught,” details the admitted failure of the American Catholic bishops to teach Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae. But Rice offers hope that the bishops are now getting their act together Part IV offers as a “response” to the persecution of the Church three remedies: Speak the Truth with clarity and charity; Trust God; and, most important, Pray. As the last sentence in the book puts it: “John Paul II wrote in a letter to U.S. bishops in 1993: ‘America needs much prayer – lest it lose its soul.’” This readable and provocative book is abundantly documented with a detailed index of names and subjects.

How Do You Say “Nones” in French?

From a French post describing my work on the Nones:

Est-il important de donner une définition au mot “religion”? Mark Movsesian, professeur de Droit à l’Université St. John a récemment publié un article sur la montée de la population des “Sans”, ces Américains qui se déclarent sans appartenance religieuse. Selon certaines évaluations, ils seraient 20% des adultes et, parmi les “millénaristes”, atteindraient 30%.

So it’s “les Sans.” I’d have thought it was “les Riens,” or maybe “les Aucuns.” Que sais-je? You can read the whole post in French here.

Lambert, “Separation of Church and State: Founding Principle of Religious Liberty”

On May 30, Mercer University Press will publish Separation of Church and State: Founding Principle of Religious Liberty by Frank Lambert (Purdue University). The publisher’s description follows.

Frank Lambert tackles the central claims of the Religious Right “historians” who insist that America was conceived as a “Christian State,” that modern-day “liberals” and “secularists” have distorted and/or ignored the place of religion in American history, and that the phrase “the separation of church and state” does not appear in any of the founding documents and is, therefore, a myth created by the Left. He discusses what separates “bad” history from “good” history, and concludes that the self-styled “historians” of the Religious Right create a “useful past” that enlists the nation’s founders on behalf of present-day conservative religious and political causes. Through the use of selective quotations lifted out of context and interpreted through faulty logic, the result is a politicized religious history that says more about the Religious Right than it does about the nation’s founders. Lambert believes that the most effective means of critiquing such misuse of history is sound historical investigation that considers all the evidence, not just that which support’s [sic] an author’s biases, and draws reasonable conclusions grounded in historical context. The result exposes the Religious Right “history” as fabrications and half-truths. In fact, one of the foundational principles of the Constitution is that of separation as the key to safeguarding freedom: separation of powers, separation of federal and state governments, and separation of church and state.

Rogers, “The Child Cases: How America’s Religious Exemption Laws Harm Children”

Next month, the University of Massachusetts Press will publish The Child Cases: How America’s Religious Exemption Laws Harm Children by Alan Rogers (Boston College). The publisher’s description follows.

When a four-year-old California girl died on March 9, 1984, the state charged her mother with involuntary man-slaughter because she failed to provide her daughter with medical care, choosing instead to rely on spiritual healing. During the next few years, a half dozen other children of Christian Science parents died under similar circumstances. The children s deaths and the parents trials drew national attention, highlighting a deeply rooted, legal/political struggle to define religious freedom.

Through close analysis of these seven cases, legal historian Alan Rogers explores the conflict between religious principles and secular laws that seek to protect children from abuse and neglect. Christian Scientists argued often with the support of mainline religious groups that the First Amendment s free exercise clause protected religious belief and behavior. Insisting that their spiritual care was at least as effective as medical treatment, they thus maintained that parents of seriously ill children had a constitutional right to reject medical care.

Congress and state legislatures confirmed this interpretation by inserting religious exemption provisos into child abuse laws. Yet when parental prayer failed and a child died, prosecutors were able to win manslaughter convictions by arguing as the U.S. Supreme Court had held for more than a century that religious belief could not trump a neutral, generally applicable law. Children s advocates then carried this message to state legislatures, eventually winning repeal of religious exemption provisions in a handful of states.

Miller, “The Age of Evangelicalism”

9780199777952Next month, Oxford University Press will publish The Age of Evangelicalism: America’s Born-Again Years by Steven P. Miller (Webster University). The publisher’s description follows.

At the start of the twenty-first century, America was awash in a sea of evangelical talk. The Purpose Driven Life. Joel Osteen. The Left Behind novels. George W. Bush. Evangelicalism had become so powerful and pervasive that political scientist Alan Wolfe wrote of “a sense in which we are all evangelicals now.”

Steven P. Miller offers a dramatically different perspective: the Bush years, he argues, did not mark the pinnacle of evangelical influence, but rather the beginning of its decline. The Age of Evangelicalism chronicles the place and meaning of evangelical Christianity in America since 1970, a period Miller defines as America’s “born-again years.” This was a time of evangelical scares, born-again spectacles, and battles over faith in the public square. From the Jesus chic of the 1970s to the satanism panic of the 1980s, the culture wars of the 1990s, and the faith-based vogue of the early 2000s, evangelicalism expanded beyond churches and entered the mainstream in ways both subtly and obviously influential.

Born-again Christianity permeated nearly every area of American life. It was broad enough to encompass Hal Lindsey’s doomsday prophecies and Marabel Morgan’s sex advice, Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Carter. It made an unlikely convert of Bob Dylan and an unlikely president of a divorced Hollywood actor. As Miller shows, evangelicalism influenced not only its devotees but its many detractors: religious conservatives, secular liberals, and just about everyone in between. The Age of Evangelicalism contained multitudes: it was the age of Christian hippies and the “silent majority,” of Footloose and The Passion of the Christ, of Tammy Faye Bakker the disgraced televangelist and Tammy Faye Messner the gay icon. Barack Obama was as much a part of it as Billy Graham.

The Age of Evangelicalism tells the captivating story of how born-again Christianity shaped the cultural and political climate in which millions of Americans came to terms with their times.

Volokh, “Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby: Corporate Rights and Religious Liberties”

volokh_ebookThis month, the Cato Institute will publish Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby: Corporate Rights and Religious Liberties by Eugene Volokh (UCLA School of Law). The publisher’s description follows.

Later this month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case- Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby- that has arisen as society tries to reconcile corporate rights with religious liberty.

Since Hobby Lobby’s founding, the Green family has managed their company in accordance with their Christian principles. Among the religious tenets guiding them is their moral opposition to contraceptives. However, within the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) thousands of pages is a requirement that corporations with more than 50 employees must provide coverage in their group health plans for certain medical services (contraceptives being one) or face severe penalties, which forces the Greens to choose between their religious principles or their business. The Greens sued to protect the right to exercise their religion, and now the case will be heard, front and center, in the Supreme Court.

Eugene Volokh, one of the nation’s foremost First Amendment scholars and founder of the renowned Volokh Conspiracy blog has been following and writing about these issues and this case and has braided all of his efforts together into this specially created ebook. Merging work he had previously published with new content and analysis, he offers an exceptionally clear, understandable, and compelling view of what can too often be a convoluted and highly complex area. The result is not only an ebook that analyzes a key case that will be decided by Supreme Court but a solid work that provides readers with a comprehensive primer on religious accommodation in the context of the ACA’s contraceptive mandate. In addition, the ebook begins with a comprehensive foreword by Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute, which maps out the historical, legal, and current policy framework of the case.

What’s Your Social Class?

Here is a fun quiz from the Christian Science Monitor that purports to identify one’s socioeconomic status. The questions are about psychology, tastes, and personality traits, not salary. For example, a few test how well one identifies emotions. Our readers should pay particular attention to the religious identity question (number 19) and the diagnostic explanation at the end of the quiz. Do you know which religious group in America is the wealthiest and best educated?

For what it’s worth, my own socioeconomic status, according to the test, is “Middling.” Hey, it’s better than “Upper Class”:

MIDDLING: Your habits and perspectives most resemble those of middle-class Americans. Members of this group tend to be gentle and engaging parents, and if they’re native English speakers they probably use some regional idioms and inflections. Your people are mostly college-educated, and you’re about equally likely to beg children not to shout “so loudly” as you are to ask them to “read slow” during story time. You’re probably a decent judge of others’ emotions, and either a non-evangelical Christian, an atheist, or an agnostic. A typical member of this group breastfeeds for three months or less, drinks diet soda, and visits the dentist regularly. If you’re a member of this group, there’s a good chance that you roll with the flow of technological progress and hate heavy metal music.

H/T: Rod Dreher.

Cox, “American Christianity”

Next month, the University of Texas Press will publish American Christianity by Stephen Cox (University of California, San Diego). The publisher’s description follows. American Christianity

Christianity takes an astonishing variety of forms in America, from churches that cherish traditional modes of worship to evangelical churches and fellowships, Pentecostal churches, social-action churches, megachurches, and apocalyptic churches—congregations ministering to believers of diverse ethnicities, social classes, and sexual orientations. Nor is this diversity a recent phenomenon, despite many Americans’ nostalgia for an undeviating “faith of our fathers” in the days of yore. Rather, as Stephen Cox argues in this thought-provoking book, American Christianity is a revolution that is always happening, and always needs to happen. The old-time religion always has to be made new, and that is what Americans have been doing throughout their history.

American Christianity is an engaging book, wide ranging and well informed, in touch with the living reality of America’s diverse traditions and with the surprising ways in which they have developed. Radical and unpredictable change, Cox argues, is one of the few dependable features of Christianity in America. He explores how both the Catholic Church and the mainline Protestant churches have evolved in ways that would make them seem alien to their adherents in past centuries. He traces the rise of uniquely American movements, from the Mormons to the Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and brings to life the vivid personalities—Aimee Semple McPherson, Billy Sunday, and many others—who have taken the gospel to the masses. He sheds new light on such issues as American Christians’ intense but constantly changing political involvements, their controversial revisions in the style and substance of worship, and their chronic expectation that God is about to intervene conclusively in human life. Asserting that “a church that doesn’t promise new beginnings can never prosper in America,” Cox demonstrates that American Christianity must be seen not as a sociological phenomenon but as the ever-changing story of individual people seeking their own connections with God, constantly reinventing their religion, making it more volatile, more colorful, and more fascinating.

Religious Indifferents

Image from Patheos

The most important recent development in American religion is the rise of the “Nones,” the increasing number of Americans–it may now be 20% of all adults and 30% of young people–who tell pollsters that they have no religious affiliation. Perhaps surprisingly, most Nones are believers. They reject organized religion, not faith. In fact, the Nones overlap greatly with another much-discussed category of Americans, the “Spiritual But Not Religious,” or SBNRs.

Even the SBNR label doesn’t completely capture things. It’s necessary to dig a little deeper. At the Oxford University Press blog, theologian Linda Mercadante, author of the recently released Belief Without Borders, has a helpful guide to the various kinds of  SBNRs in America today. Mercadante has interviewed hundreds of SBNRs over a five-year period, she reports, and a very large number are best described as “casual” SBNRs. For them,

religious and spiritual practices are generally approached on an “as-needed” basis and discarded or changed when no longer necessary. Spirituality is not felt to be the organizing center of their lives. Many of the “casuals”—especially younger ones—had little or no religious exposure either as children or adults.

In other words, it would be wrong to understand SBNRs or Nones principally as “seekers.” Nor are they hostile to religion. They just don’t care much about it. Better, perhaps, to call these people something else–something more descriptive. “Religious Indifferents” is a phrase that comes to mind.

If we really are looking at a significant and growing percentage of Religious Indifferents in America, the implications for religious liberty could be profound. Consider the politics of religious accommodations. A minority religion that seeks an accommodation in the legislative process needs allies, people who understand why it is important to honor the minority’s religious convictions. Sometimes, the best friends a minority can have are adherents of other religions, who see it in their interest to lobby on behalf of the minority. By banding together, religions can achieve results they might not be able to achieve on their own. This dynamic, as well as the traditional American commitment to religious liberty as a fundamental right, explains how the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in 1993.

Large numbers of Religious Indifferents would change this dynamic. First, Indifferents are unlikely to seek accommodations for themselves. If you don’t care very much about religion, you’re not likely to oppose state action for religious reasons. Second, and more important, Indifferents will not likely feel much affinity for believers who do have religious objections to government policy. If you don’t take religion seriously, yourself, you’re not likely to understand why others do. What’s the big deal, anyway?

Some observers, like Rodney Stark at Baylor, think the numbers of Nones/SBNRs are exaggerated. And many younger Americans who are Indifferents now will no doubt join religions as they get older. If Mercadante is correct, though, the politics of religion in America could be in for a significant change.  

Guiora, “Tolerating Intolerance”

This January, Oxford University Press published Tolerating Intolerance: The Price of Protecting Extremism by Amos N. Guiora (S.J. Quinney College of Law, Tolerating IntoleranceThe University of Utah).  The publisher’s description follows.

Over the years, numerous tragic events serve as a reminder of the extraordinary power of extremism, both on a religious and secular level. As extremism confronts society on a daily basis, it is essential to analyze, comprehend, and define it. It is also essential to define extremism narrowly in order to avoid the danger of recklessly castigating for mere thoughts alone.

Tolerating Intolerance provides readers with a focused definition of extremism, and articulates the tensions faced in casting an arbitrary, capricious net in an effort to protect society, while offering mechanisms to resolve its seemingly intractable conundrum. Professor Guiora examines extremism in six different countries: Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States through interviews with a wide range of individuals including academics, policy makers, faith leaders, public commentators, national security and law enforcement officials. This enables both an in-depth discussion of extremism in each country, and facilitates a comparative analysis regarding both religious and secular extremism.