Lederhendler, “American Jewry”

In September, Cambridge University Press will release American Jewry: A New History by Eli Lederhendler (Hebrew University). The publisher’s description follows:American Jewry.jpg

Understanding the history of Jews in America requires a synthesis of over 350 years of documents, social data, literature and journalism, architecture, oratory, and debate, and each time that history is observed, new questions are raised and new perspectives found. This book presents a readable account of that history, with an emphasis on migration patterns, social and religious life, and political and economic affairs. It explains the long-range development of American Jewry as the product of ‘many new beginnings’ more than a direct evolution leading from early colonial experiments to latter-day social patterns. This book also shows that not all of American Jewish history has occurred on American soil, arguing that Jews, more than most other Americans, persist in assigning crucial importance to international issues. This approach provides a fresh perspective that can open up the practice of minority-history writing, so that the very concepts of minority and majority should not be taken for granted.

Lane, “Surge of Piety”

In November, Yale University Press will release Surge of Piety: Norman Vincent Peale and the Remaking of American Religious Life by Christopher Lane (Northwestern University). The publisher’s description follows:Surge of Piety

The dramatic, untold story of how Norman Vincent Peale and a handful of conservative allies fueled the massive rise of religiosity in the United States during the 1950s

Near the height of Cold War hysteria, when the threat of all-out nuclear war felt real and perilous, Presbyterian minister Norman Vincent Peale published The Power of Positive Thinking. Selling millions of copies worldwide, the book offered a gospel of self-assurance in an age of mass anxiety.

Despite Peale’s success and his ties to powerful conservatives such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, J. Edgar Hoover, and Joseph McCarthy, the full story of his movement has never been told. Christopher Lane shows how the famed minister’s brand of Christian psychology inflamed the nation’s religious revival by promoting the concept that belief in God was essential to the health and harmony of all Americans. We learn in vivid detail how Peale and his powerful supporters orchestrated major changes in a nation newly defined as living “under God.” This blurring of the lines between religion and medicine would reshape religion as we know it in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Movsesian on Religious Liberty at the Present Time: An Interview with First Things Magazine

Earlier this month, I sat down for an interview with First Things Magazine’s Senior Editor Mark Bauerlein on the state of religious liberty in America today. Our wide-ranging discussion covered topics like religious accommodations, the Hobby Lobby case, church autonomy, and how America’s changing religious culture influences our law. Mark and I also discussed the Center for Law and Religion and its many programs, particularly our newest endeavor, the Tradition Project.

You can view the video on the First Things site, here.

 

 

Ceci, “The Vatican and Mussolini’s Italy”

In October, Brill Publishers will release The Vatican and Mussolini’s Italy by Lucia Ceci (University of Rome). The publisher’s description follows:The Vatican and Mussolini's Italy

Lucia Ceci reconstructs the relationship between the Catholic Church and Fascism. New sources from the Vatican Archives throw fresh light on individual aspects of this complex relationship: the accession of Mussolini to power, the war in Ethiopia, the racial laws, the comparison between Pius XI and Pius XII. This book offers a comprehensive reconstruction of this encounter, explaining the criteria that led Catholics to support a dictatorial, warmongering and racist regime. In contrast to the traditional periodization, the history begins with the childhood of Mussolini in the final years of the nineteenth century, and ends with the sudden collapse of his puppet regime, in 1945. This means to some extent placing in a different light the exceptional nature of the ventennio. The Italian original L’interesse superiore, Il Vaticano e l’Italia di Mussolini has won the “Friuli Storia” Prize for Studies of Contemporary History.

Burnidge, “A Peaceful Conquest”

In October, Chicago University Press will release A Peaceful Conquest: Woodrow Wilson, Religion, and the New World Order by Cara Lea Burnidge (University of Northern Iowa). The publisher’s description follows:A Peaceful Conqueswt

A century after his presidency, Woodrow Wilson remains one of the most compelling and complicated figures ever to occupy the Oval Office. A political outsider, Wilson brought to the presidency a distinctive, strongly held worldview, built on powerful religious traditions that informed his idea of America and its place in the world.

With A Peaceful Conquest, Cara Lea Burnidge presents the most detailed analysis yet of how Wilson’s religious beliefs affected his vision of American foreign policy, with repercussions that lasted into the Cold War and beyond. Framing Wilson’s intellectual development in relationship to the national religious landscape, and paying greater attention to the role of religion than in previous scholarship, Burnidge shows how Wilson’s blend of Southern evangelicalism and social Christianity became a central part of how America saw itself in the world, influencing seemingly secular policy decisions in subtle, lasting ways. Ultimately, Burnidge makes a case for Wilson’s religiosity as one of the key drivers of the emergence of the public conception of America’s unique, indispensable role in international relations.

As the presidential election cycle once again raises questions of America’s place in the world, A Peaceful Conquest offers a fascinating excavation of its little-known roots.

Around the Web this Week

Some law and religion news from around the web this week:

“Religious Dynamics under the Impact of Imperialism and Colonialism” (Bentlage et al, eds.)

In October, Brill Publishers will release “Religious Dynamics under the Impact of Imperialism and Colonialism,” edited by Bjorn Bentlage (Martin-Luther University), Marion Eggert (Ruhr University Bochum), Hans Martin Krämer (Heidelberg University), and Stefan Reichmuth (Ruhr University Bochum). The publisher’s description follows:

This sourcebook offers rare insights into a formative period in the modern history of religions. TBrill_logohroughout the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, when commercial, political and cultural contacts intensified worldwide, politics and religions became ever more entangled. This volume offers a wide range of translated source texts from all over Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, thereby diminishing the difficulty of having to handle the plurality of involved languages and backgrounds. The ways in which the original authors, some prominent and others little known, thought about their own religion, its place in the world and its relation to other religions, allows for much needed insight into the shared and analogous challenges of an age dominated by imperialism and colonialism.

“What Ifs of Jewish History” (Rosenfeld, ed.)

In October, Cambridge University Press will release “What Ifs of Jewish History: From Abraham to Zionism,” edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld (Fairfield University). The publisher’s description follows:

What ifs of jewish historyWhat if the Exodus had never happened? What if the Jews of Spain had not been expelled in 1492? What if Eastern European Jews had never been confined to the Russian Pale of Settlement? What if Adolf Hitler had been assassinated in 1939? What if a Jewish state had been established in Uganda instead of Palestine? Gavriel D. Rosenfeld’s pioneering anthology examines how these and other counterfactual questions would have affected the course of Jewish history. Featuring essays by sixteen distinguished scholars in the field of Jewish Studies, What Ifs of Jewish History is the first volume to systematically apply counterfactual reasoning to the Jewish past. Written in a variety of narrative styles, ranging from the analytical to the literary, the essays cover three thousand years of dramatic events and invite readers to indulge their imaginations and explore how the course of Jewish history might have been different.

 

Law and Tradition in America: My Reply

I have a reply to the essays of Professors Bernstein, Levinson, and Stoner up at the Liberty Tradition ProjectFund blog. It is the last in this series, and I’ve enjoyed it very much. Here is a portion from the middle, responding to some of Professor Levinson’s challenging remarks:

It is a somewhat different thing to reply to Professor Levinson, who has earned more attention in this reply by being considerably less sympathetic than my other interlocutors to the value of exploring the relationship of tradition in law. He makes three primary points: 1) My essay was pitched at a sufficiently abstract level so as to be criticized with the aphorism that we are all traditionalists in America so long as we are essentially liberal Progressives (or libertarians). 2) American Founders such as the authors of the Federalist Papers were revolutionaries, not traditionalists, so that the predominant American political-legal tradition is liberal Progressivism, if not radicalism. 3) To the extent a non-liberal-Progressive traditionalism has been part of American intellectual history, it has been responsible for terrible things—slavery most prominent among them—that have rightly been abandoned.

As to the first point, it is difficult to think of anybody (not even Professor Levinson’s traditionalist incarnation, Edmund Burke, would qualify) who holds that a positive view of tradition implies or requires stasis or the total absence of change. Even for those, like Burke, well-disposed to adhere to past patterns of behavior, it is necessary to devise new ones if only because the situations to which those traditional patterns must be applied are different than those that preceded them—“confirming the wisdom of what remains,” as Professor Stoner has it. At any rate, though the relationship between tradition and social change is complex, at least this much may be said: It is not a one-sided affair. It is not all tradition and no change or progress. Otherwise, we would all be liberal Progressives.

Perhaps the differences between Professor Levinson and me are therefore more matters of mood, disposition, or emphasis. He lights up at those moments in American culture and history in which people exercise their freedom to “denounce” the inheritance of the past. It is probably fair to say that I find such moments less electrifying, though I agree with Professor Levinson that they do exist.

I offer the Madison of the National Bank controversy. He counters with the Madison of Federalist 14 (though I might observe that a “decent regard to the opinions of former times” is not the same as an indecent contempt for them).

I could parry with language in Federalist 15 (“experience” as “the best oracle of wisdom”) or the very final Federalist 85 (“No human genius, however comprehensive, is able by the mere dint of reason and reflection to effect it. The judgements of many must unite in the work.”). Or even Federalist 2, in which John Jay notes with some pride that “Providence” has seen fit to give the country to a people “very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long ad bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.”

Doubtless Professor Levinson would have a riposte at the ready, and so it would go on. He characterizes these as internal “contradictions” within The Federalist but they may simply be different features of the moral and political experience of these three authors, each representing its own portion of wisdom. Many of them do not vindicate liberal Progressivism in the least.

In fact, it severely distorts the American Founding to call it either committed to a liberal Progressive ideological program or rabidly radical. True, there were elements of the Old World that were cast off by the new nation, but as historians from Forrest McDonald to Eric Nelson have (in their own ways) shown, the temper of the American Founders may have been even more traditionalist than their English progenitors. Early Americans were the inheritors of an English constitutional traditionalism that was centuries old. Their revolution was motivated by the Crown’s denial of what they perceived as their traditional, ancient rights as Englishmen, rather than by the desire to denounce and exchange those rights for something altogether and radically different. What they desired for themselves was what they already knew well as the tradition of self-government in liberty.

The English Bill of Rights was a model for ours, just as the Act of Union was a model for our federalism. As Greg Weiner has put it in his fine recent essay for Law and Liberty, “Of course, the colonists were deeply affected by the ideas of the Enlightenment, as they were by the ideas of antiquity (far more essentially a staple of their curricula).” Tradition and change were at least equally parts of their political and intellectual constitution. As they should be (but regrettably are not) of ours.

Liow, “Religion and Nationalism in Southeast Asia”

This month, the Cambridge University Press releases “Religion and Nationalism in Southeast Asia,” by Joseph Liow (Nanyang Technological University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion and nationalism are two of the most potent and enduring forces that have shaped the modern world. Yet, there has been little systematic study of how these two9781107167728 forces have interacted to provide powerful impetus for mobilization in Southeast Asia, a region where religious identities are as strong as nationalist impulses. At the heart of many religious conflicts in Southeast Asia lies competing conceptions of nation and nationhood, identity and belonging, and loyalty and legitimacy. In this accessible and timely study, Joseph Liow examines the ways in which religious identity nourishes collective consciousness of a people who see themselves as a nation, perhaps even as a constituent part of a nation, but anchored in shared faith. Drawing on case studies from across the region, Liow argues that this serves both as a vital element of identity and a means through which issues of rights and legitimacy are understood.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,493 other followers

%d bloggers like this: