Tag Archives: Religion in America

Annicchino on the Paradigm Shift in Human Rights

In the Italian journal, Il Foglio, our friend and sometime guest contributor Pasquale Annicchino (European University Institute) has a provocative essay, “Now America waters down religious freedom and prefers rainbow colors. Why is that?” Annicchino sees a paradigm shift in American human rights policy. Where the US once favored religious liberty, it now gives priority to personal autonomy, especially LGBT rights:

What seems to have permanently changed is the cornerstone of the American projection in its narrative on rights around the world. The White House lights up with rainbow colors in the day of the Supreme Court ruling that recognizes the right to gay marriage. There is a decline in action for religious freedom, a right that refers to groups and individuals, while a vision linked to individualism and the principle of personal autonomy is on the rise, and the rights of LGBTI people are probably the clearest example of that.

An interesting take. You can read Annicchino’s essay here.

Ford, “Bonds of Union”

In March, the University of North Carolina Press will release “Bonds of Union: Religion, Race, and Politics in a Civil War Borderland,” by Bridget Ford (California State University, East Bay).  The publisher’s description follows:

This vivid history of the Civil War era reveals how unexpected bonds of union forged among diverse peoples in the Ohio-Kentucky 51w0ube2b38l-_sx330_bo1204203200_
borderlands furthered emancipation through a period of spiraling chaos between 1830 and 1865. Moving beyond familiar arguments about Lincoln’s deft politics or regional commercial ties, Bridget Ford recovers the potent religious, racial, and political attachments holding the country together at one of its most likely breaking points, the Ohio River.

Living in a bitterly contested region, the Americans examined here–Protestant and Catholic, black and white, northerner and southerner–made zealous efforts to understand the daily lives and struggles of those on the opposite side of vexing human and ideological divides. In their common pursuits of religious devotionalism, universal public education regardless of race, and relief from suffering during wartime, Ford discovers a surprisingly capacious and inclusive sense of political union in the Civil War era. While accounting for the era’s many disintegrative forces, Ford reveals the imaginative work that went into bridging stark differences in lived experience, and she posits that work as a precondition for slavery’s end and the Union’s persistence.

Mirola, “Redeeming Time”

In January, the University of Illinois Press will release “Redeeming Time: Protestantism and Chicago’s Eight-Hour Movement, 1866-1912,” by William A. Mirola (Marian University).  The publisher’s description follows:

During the struggle for the eight-hour workday and a shorter workweek, Chicago emerged as an important battleground for workers9780252038839 in “the entire civilized world” to redeem time from the workplace in order to devote it to education, civic duty, health, family, and leisure.

William A. Mirola explores how the city’s eight-hour movement intersected with a Protestant religious culture that supported long hours to keep workers from idleness, intemperance, and secular leisure activities. Analyzing how both workers and clergy rewove working-class religious cultures and ideologies into strategic and rhetorical frames, Mirola shows how every faith-based appeal contested whose religious meanings would define labor conditions and conflicts. As he notes, the ongoing worker-employer tension transformed both how clergy spoke about the eight-hour movement and what they were willing to do, until intensified worker protest and employer intransigence spurred Protestant clergy to support the eight-hour movement even as political and economic arguments eclipsed religious framing.

A revealing study of an era and a cause, Redeeming Time illustrates the potential–and the limitations–of religious culture and religious leaders as forces in industrial reform.

“The Pew and the Picket Line” (eds. Cantwell et al)

In March, the University of Illinois Press will release “The Pew and the Picket Line: Christianity and the American Working Class,” edited by Christopher D. Cantwell (University of Missouri-Kansas City), Heath W. Carter (Valparaiso University), Janine Giordano Drake (University of Great Falls). The publisher’s description follows:

The Pew and the Picket Line collects works from a new generation of scholars working at the nexus where religious history and working-9780252081484class history converge. Focusing on Christianity and its unique purchase in America, the contributors use in-depth local histories to illustrate how Americans male and female, rural and urban, and from a range of ethnic backgrounds dwelt in a space between the church and the shop floor. Their vivid essays show Pentecostal miners preaching prosperity while seeking miracles in the depths of the earth, while aboveground black sharecroppers and white Protestants established credit unions to pursue a joint vision of cooperative capitalism.

Innovative and essential, The Pew and the Picket Line reframes venerable debates as it maps the dynamic contours of a landscape sculpted by the powerful forces of Christianity and capitalism.

“Race and Secularism in America” (eds. Kahn and Lloyd)

In March, the Columbia University Press will release “Race and Secularism in America,” edited by Jonathon S. Kahn (Vassar College) and Vincent W. Lloyd (Syracuse University).  The publisher’s description follows:

This anthology draws bold comparisons between secularist strategies 9780231174916to contain, privatize, and discipline religion and the treatment of racialized subjects by the American state. Specializing in history, literature, anthropology, theology, religious studies, and political theory, contributors expose secularism’s prohibitive practices in all facets of American society and suggest opportunities for change.

Kaveny, “A Culture of Engagement”

In March, the Georgetown University Press will release “A Culture of Engagement: Law, Religion, and Morality,” by Cathleen Kaveny (Boston College).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religious traditions in the United States are characterized by ongoing tension between assimilation to the broader culture, as typified by 51rjwd8azvl
mainline Protestant churches, and defiant rejection of cultural incursions, as witnessed by more sectarian movements such as Mormonism and Hassidism. However, legal theorist and Catholic theologian Cathleen Kaveny contends there is a third possibility—a culture of engagement—that accommodates and respects tradition. It also recognizes the need to interact with culture to remain relevant and to offer critiques of social, political, legal, and economic practices.

Kaveny suggests that rather than avoid the crisscross of the religious and secular spheres of life, we should use this conflict as an opportunity to come together and to encounter, challenge, contribute to, and correct one another. Focusing on five broad areas of interest—Law as a Teacher, Religious Liberty and Its Limits, Conversations about Culture, Conversations about Belief, and Cases and Controversies—Kaveny demonstrates how thoughtful and purposeful engagement can contribute to rich, constructive, and difficult discussions between moral and cultural traditions.

This provocative collection of Kaveny’s articles from Commonweal magazine, substantially revised and updated from their initial publication, provides astonishing insight into a range of hot-button issues like abortion, assisted suicide, government-sponsored torture, contraception, the Ashley Treatment, capital punishment, and the role of religious faith in a pluralistic society. At turns masterful, insightful, and inspirational, A Culture of Engagement is a welcome reminder of what can be gained when a diversity of experiences and beliefs is brought to bear on American public life.

Kaveny, “Prophecy Without Contempt”

In March, the Harvard University Press will release “Prophecy Without Contempt: Religious Discourse in the Public Square,” by Cathleen Kaveny (Boston College).  The publisher’s description follows:

American culture warriors have plenty to argue about, but battles over such issues as abortion and torture have as much to do with rhetorical 9780674495036style as moral substance. Cathleen Kaveny reframes the debate about religion in the public square by focusing on a powerful stream of religious discourse in American political speech: the Biblical rhetoric of prophetic indictment.

Throughout American history, reformers of all political persuasions and for all manner of causes—abolitionists, defenders of slavery, prohibitionists, and civil rights leaders—have echoed the thundering condemnations of the Hebrew prophets in decrying what they see as social evils. Rooted in the denunciations of Puritan sermons, prophetic rhetoric has evolved to match the politics of an increasingly pluralistic society. To employ prophetic indictment in political speech is to claim to speak from a position of unassailable authority—whether God, reason, or common sense—in order to accuse opponents of violating a fundamental law.

The fiery rhetoric of prophetic indictment operates very differently from the cooler language of practical deliberation and policy analysis. Kaveny contends that prophetic indictment is a form of “moral chemotherapy”: it can be strong medicine against moral cancers threatening the body politic, but administered injudiciously, it can do more harm than good. Kaveny draws upon a wide array of sources to develop criteria for the constructive use of prophetic indictment. In modern times, Martin Luther King Jr. exemplifies the use of prophetic rhetoric to facilitate reform and reconciliation rather than revenge.

Smidt, “Pastors and Public Life”

In March, the Oxford University Press will release “Pastors and Public Life: The Changing Face of American Protestant Clergy,” by Corwin E. Smidt (Calvin College).  The publisher’s description follows:

America’s clergy are not just religious leaders. Their influence extends far beyond church doors. Houses of worship stand at the center of 9780190455491American civic life-one of the few spheres in which relatively diverse individuals gather together regularly. And the moral authority granted to pastors means that they are uniquely positioned to play a role in public debates.

Based on data gathered through national surveys of clergy across four mainline Protestant (the Disciples of Christ; the Presbyterian Church, USA; the Reformed Church in America; and the United Methodist Church) and three evangelical Protestant denominations (the Assemblies of God; the Christian Reformed Church; and, the Southern Baptist Convention), Pastors and Public Life examines the changing sociological, theological, and political characteristics of American Protestant clergy over the past twenty-plus years. Smidt focuses on the relationship between clergy and politics-clergy positions on issues of American public policy, norms on what is appropriate for clergy to do politically, as well as the clergy’s political cue-giving, their pronouncements on public policy, and political activism-and the impact these changes have on congregations and on American society as a whole.

Pastors and Public Life is the first book to systematically examine such changes and continuity over time. It will be invaluable to scholars, students, pastors, and churchgoers.

“The Four Freedoms” (ed. Engel)

This month, the Oxford University Press releases “The Four Freedoms: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Evolution of an American Idea,” edited by Jeffrey A. Engel (Southern Methodist University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The specter of global war loomed large in President Franklin Roosevelt’s mind as he prepared to present his 1941 State of the Union9780199376216 address. He believed the United States had a role to play in the battle against Nazi and fascist aggression already underway in Europe, yet his rallying cry to the nation was about more than just national security or why Americans should care about a fight still far overseas. He instead identified how Americans defined themselves as a people, with words that resonated and defined the parameters of American politics and foreign policy for generations. Roosevelt framed America’s role in the conflict, and ultimately its role in forging the post-war world to come, as a fight for freedom. Four freedoms, to be exact: freedom of speech, freedom from want, freedom of religion, and freedom from fear.

In this new look at one of the most influential presidential addresses ever delivered, historian Jeffrey A. Engel joins together with five other leading scholars to explore how each of Roosevelt’s freedoms evolved over time, for Americans and for the wider world. They examine the ways in which the word “freedom” has been used by Americans and others, across decades and the political spectrum. However, they are careful to note that acceptance of the freedoms has been far from universal — even within the United States. Freedom from want, especially, has provoked clashes between those in favor of an expanded welfare state and proponents of limited government from the 1940s to the present day.

In this sweeping look at the way American conceptions of freedom have evolved over time,The Four Freedoms brings to light a new portrait of who Americans were in 1941 and who they have become today in their own eyes-and in the eyes of the entire world.

“Faith in the New Millennium” (eds. Sutton & Dochuk)

In January, the Oxford University Press will release “Faith in the New Millennium: The Future of Religion and American Politics,” edited by Matthew Avery Sutton (Washington State University) and Darren Dochuk (Washington University in St. Louis). The publisher’s description follows:

The Statue of Liberty–depicted on a roadside billboard–did not carry her customary torch and tablet. Instead, she shielded her eyes from 41xwbyzr3ol-_sx329_bo1204203200_words that towered beside her, words that highway drivers could not possibly avoid: “We are no longer a Christian nation.” Underneath was the name of the man who spoke them, the nation’s president, Barack Obama. He had made the original statement–“Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation, at least not just”–four years earlier. Since then those words had appeared, in one form or another, not just on billboards but in a host of other venues, a visible symbol of America’s divide over religion and politics.

In Faith in the New Millennium, a group of leading historians explores the shifting role of religion in American politics in the age of Obama, shedding new and fascinating light on the interplay of faith and politics. Each of the sixteen contributors examines a contemporary issue, controversy, or policy through a historical lens. In an age of the 24-hour-news-cycle, where complexity is often buried under bluster, these essays make a powerful case for understanding the stories behind the news. They tackle such topics as immigration reform, racial turmoil, drone wars, foreign policy, and the unstoppable rise of social media. Taken together, they reveal how faith is shaping modern America, and how modern America is shaping faith.