Around the Web

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

The Meanings of the Hijab

Here is an interesting-looking book from Harvard on the social meaning of modest dress in contemporary Islam, Pious Fashion: How Muslim Women Dress, available later this summer. The author is Elizabeth Bucar (Northeastern University). Here’s the publisher’s description:

For many Westerners, the Islamic veil is the ultimate sign of women’s oppression. But Elizabeth Bucar’s take on clothing worn by Muslim women is a far cry from this older feminist attitude toward veiling. She argues that modest clothing represents much more than social control or religious orthodoxy. Today, headscarves are styled to frame the head and face in interesting ways, while colors and textures express individual tastes and challenge aesthetic preconceptions. Brand-name clothing and accessories serve as conveyances of social distinction and are part of a multimillion-dollar ready-to-wear industry. Even mainstream international chains are offering lines especially for hijabis. More than just a veil, this is pious fashion from head to toe, which engages with a range of aesthetic values related to moral authority, consumption, and selfhood.

Writing in an appealing style based on first-hand accounts, Bucar invites readers to join her in three Muslim-majority nations as she surveys how women approach the question “What to wear?” By looking at fashion trends in the bustling cities of Tehran, Yogyakarta, and Istanbul—and at the many ways clerics, designers, politicians, and bloggers try to influence Muslim women’s choices—she concludes that pious fashion depends to a large extent on local aesthetic and moral values, rather than the dictates of religious doctrine.

Pious Fashion defines modesty in Islamic dress as an ever-changing social practice among Muslim women who—much like non-Muslim women—create from a range of available clothing items and accessories styles they think will look both appropriate and attractive.

CLR in the HJLPP

I’m delighted to note the Center for Law and Religion edition of the latest issue of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. (Actually, it was entirely happenstance that one of Mark’s articles and one of my articles were published in the same issue.)

Mark’s piece is Masterpiece Cakeshop and the Future of Religious Freedom.

Mine is The Sickness Unto Death of the First Amendment.

Gregg on Reason and Faith

All great civilizations marry reason and faith, for the simple reason that human flourishing requires both these things. No civilization that ignored one of the two could survive. So it’s incorrect, in my view, to assert that we in the West have a monopoly on this sort of thing. But civilizations do combine reason and faith differently, which explains why we have not one, world civilization, but many. Western civilization, in particular, has been shaped by a fusion of speculative reason, which we inherit from the Greeks, and Biblical revelation, which we inherit from Christianity and, before that, from Judaism. This synthesis marks American civilization in particular, which combines Enlightenment rationalism and Evangelical piety in a unique way.

The Acton Institute’s Samuel Gregg has written a new book on the Western synthesis, Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization. I can’t say I agree with all the book argues, at least if the description below is any guide. But it looks very interesting. The publisher is Gateway Editions. Here’s the description from the Amazon website:

The genius of Western civilization is its unique synthesis of reason and faith. But today that synthesis is under attack—from the East by radical Islam (faith without reason) and from within the West itself by aggressive secularism (reason without faith). The stakes are incalculably high.

The naïve and increasingly common assumption that reason and faith are incompatible is simply at odds with the facts of history. The revelation in the Hebrew Scriptures of a reasonable Creator imbued Judaism and Christianity with a conviction that the world is intelligible, leading to the flowering of reason and the invention of science in the West. It was no accident that the Enlightenment took place in the culture formed by the Jewish and Christian faiths.

We can all see that faith without reason is benighted at best, fanatical and violent at worst. But too many forget that reason, stripped of faith, is subject to its own pathologies. A supposedly autonomous reason easily sinks into fanaticism, stifling dissent as bigoted and irrational and devouring the humane civilization fostered by the integration of reason and faith. The blood-soaked history of the twentieth century attests to the totalitarian forces unleashed by corrupted reason.

But Samuel Gregg does more than lament the intellectual and spiritual ruin caused by the divorce of reason and faith. He shows that each of these foundational principles corrects the other’s excesses and enhances our comprehension of the truth in a continuous renewal of civilization. By recovering this balance, we can avoid a suicidal winner-take-all conflict between reason and faith and a future that will respect neither.

Legal Spirits Episode 010: The New Abortion Laws

In this podcast, Center Director Mark Movsesian and Associate Director Marc DeGirolami discuss a raft of new laws passed by several states regulating abortion. They explore the constitutionality of these laws under the regime established by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and they think through what the laws might suggest about the growing cultural divisions in America. Mark and Marc survey some of the most restrictive and most permissive of these new laws, talk about the Supreme Court’s recent per curiam opinion in Box v. Planned Parenthood and some of the internal dynamics on the present Court suggested by the opinion as respects abortion, and offer some perspective on the Court’s historic ambitions with respect to this deeply controversial subject. Listen in!

ADDENDUM: Our friend, Professor Carter Snead, points out two small errors in the podcast. First, recent studies have shown that with treatment, viability can begin as early as 22 weeks. Second, the Alabama law has exceptions for situations posing a serious health risk to the mother and where there is a possibility that the woman poses a serious physical health risk to herself because of a serious mental illness.

Blaming Evangelicals for Losing the Culture War

Here is a book that argues that Evangelicals have only themselves to blame for their defeats in the culture wars. They cast their lot with an immoral President, the book argues, and now they will reap the consequences. In the emerging divide between classical liberals and post-liberals in American conservative politics, the author clearly identifies with the former and has harsh words of criticism for the latter. An interesting salvo in the battle for Evangelical politics, itself reflecting the internal fragmentation within American conservatism. The book is The Immoral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power Over Christian Values (HarperCollins), by Ben Howe.

“In 2016, writer and filmmaker Ben Howe found himself disillusioned with the religious movement he’d always called home. In the pursuit of electoral victory, many American evangelicals embraced moral relativism and toxic partisanship.

Whatever happened to the Moral Majority, who headed to Washington in the ’80s to plant the flag of Christian values? Where were the Christian leaders that emerged from that movement and led the charge against Bill Clinton for his deception and unfaithfulness? Was all that a sham? Or have they just lost sight of why they wanted to win in the first place? From the 1980s scandals till today, evangelicals have often been caricatured as a congregation of judgmental and prudish rubes taken in by thundering pastors consumed with greed and lust for power. Did the critics have a point?

In The Immoral Majority, Howe—still a believer and still deeply conservative—analyzes and debunks the intellectual dishonesty and manipulative rhetoric which evangelical leaders use to convince Christians to toe the Republican Party line. He walks us through the history of the Christian Right, as well as the events of the last three decades which led to the current state of the conservative movement at large.

As long as evangelicals prioritize power over persuasion, Howe argues, their pews will be empty and their national influence will dwindle. If evangelicals hope to avoid cultural irrelevance going forward, it will mean valuing the eternal over the ephemeral, humility over ego, and resisting the seduction of political power, no matter the cost. The Immoral Majority demonstrates how the Religious Right is choosing the profits of this world at the cost of its soul—and why it’s not too late to change course.”

On Legal Conservatism

Here is a new book that traces the history of American legal conservatism before its “arrival” in the 1980s. I’ll have more to say about this in the coming weeks, but I look forward to reading this worthwhile new book: Conservatives and the Constitution: Imagining Constitutional Restoration in the Heyday of American Liberalism (Cambridge University Press), by Ken I. Kersch.

“Since the 1980s, a ritualized opposition in legal thought between a conservative ‘originalism’ and a liberal ‘living constitutionalism’ has obscured the aggressively contested tradition committed to, and mobilization of arguments for, constitutional restoration and redemption within the broader postwar American conservative movement. Conservatives and the Constitution is the first history of the political and intellectual trajectory of this foundational tradition and mobilization. By looking at the deep stories told either by identity groups or about what conservatives took to be flashpoint topics in the postwar period, Ken I. Kersch seeks to capture the developmental and integrative nature of postwar constitutional conservatism, challenging conservatives and liberals alike to more clearly see and understand both themselves and their presumed political and constitutional opposition. Conservatives and the Constitution makes a unique contribution to our understanding of modern American conservatism, and to the constitutional thought that has, in critical ways, informed and defined it.”

Anti-Populism

Yesterday we posted a new book sympathetic to the new populism in American politics. Today, we post an unsympathetic new book that sees something unjustified and illegitimately entitled about the new populism, ascribing its rise to certain lacunae in progressive politics. The book is The New Populism: Democracy Stares into the Abyss (Penguin Random House), by Marco Revelli, an Italian academic and writer for the self-described communist paper, Il Manifesto.

“The word ‘populism’ has come to cover all manner of sins. Yet despite the prevalence of its use, it is often difficult to understand what connects its various supposed expressions. From Syriza to Trump and from Podemos to Brexit, the electoral earthquakes of recent years have often been grouped under this term. But what actually defines ‘populism’? Is it an ideology, a form of organisation, or a mentality? 

Marco Revelli seeks to answer this question by getting to grips with the historical dynamics of so-called ‘populist’ movements. While in the early days of democracy, populism sought to represent classes and social layers who asserted their political role for the first time, in today’s post-democratic climate, it instead expresses the grievances of those who had until recently felt that they were included.

Having lost their power, the disinherited embrace not a political alternative to -isms like liberalism or socialism, but a populist mood of discontent. The new populism is the ‘formless form’ that protest and grievance assume in the era of financialisation, in the era where the atomised masses lack voice or organisation. For Revelli, this new populism [is] the child of an age in which the Left has been hollowed out and lost its capacity to offer an alternative.”

Populist-Traditionalism in American Politics

Several new books have been documenting a new wave of politics in America: populist, low-middle class, traditionalist, “back row,” and other similar descriptions–a politics that blends together different features of the conventional left-right spectrum. Religious freedom seems to be part of the political equation for those who subscribe to it. Here is another book in this genre: The New American Revolution: The Making of a Populist Movement (Simon & Schuster), by Kayleigh McEnany.

“Kayleigh McEnany spent months traveling throughout the United States, conducting interviews with citizens whose powerful and moving stories were forgotten or intentionally ignored by our leaders. Through candid, one-on-one conversations, they discussed their deeply personal stories and the issues that are most important to them, such as illegal immigration, safety from terrorist attacks, and religious freedom.

The New American Revolution chronicles both the losses of these grassroots voters, as well as their ultimate victory in November 2016. Kayleigh also includes interviews with key figures within President Trump’s administration—including Ivanka Trump, Secretary Ben Carson, Jared Kushner, and many more—and their experiences on the road leading up to President Trump’s historic win. Kayleigh’s journey takes her from a family cabin in Ohio to the empty factories in Flint, Michigan, from sunny Florida to a Texas BBQ joint—and, of course, ends up at the White House.

The collective grievance of the American electorate reveals a deep divide between leaders and citizens. During a time of stark political division, Kayleigh discovers a personal unity and common thread of humanity that binds us nevertheless. Through faith in God and unimaginable strength, these forgotten men and women have overcome, even when their leaders turned their heads. An insightful book about the triumph of this powerful movement, The New American Revolution is a potent testament to the importance of their message.”

Around the Web

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

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