Niemeyer, “The Loss and Recovery of Truth”

I first encountered the writing of the political theorist Gerhart Niemeyer in a Layout 1college course in post-War intellectual history. Together with Eric Voegelin, Niemeyer was an important and interesting writer who explored the complicated relationship of Christian thought to the political horrors of the twentieth century. I will be an eager reader of this new book just published by St. Augustine Press, The Loss and Recovery of Truth: Selected Writings of Gerhart Niemeyer (St. Augustine 2013, edited by one of St. John’s own–Professor Michael Henry).  I have reproduced the publisher’s long description of the book in full below because I am hopeful that this will be a useful introduction to those who are unfamiliar with Niemeyer (or who, like me, haven’t read that much of him). One other side-note that I recently learned: Judge Paul Niemeyer of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is Professor Niemeyer’s son.

That the United States is currently in the midst of a serious crisis, even an ideological civil war, which is part of the general and prolonged crisis of Western civilization is obvious to any thoughtful observer. One of the most perceptive observers of the development of this crisis was Gerhart Niemeyer. As a fugitive from Nazi Germany, a devout Christian, and a political theorist who had mastered the philosophical tradition and the Communist worldview, he was particularly well equipped to discern the ways in which the various modern ideologies insidiously erode the substance of truth and order in contemporary society and to seek remedies in the return to the ontological and spiritual roots of order in the Western tradition.

The writings collected in this volume, many of which were previously unpublished, are chosen from Gerhart Niemeyer’s essays, conference talks, and letters. The first part, intended to introduce the reader to Niemeyer on a more personal level, includes an unpublished essay describing his experiences in Nazi Germany and in the America that he encountered on his arrival in 1937. Several letters and other short works provide a sense of his character and his deeply Christian view of human life, both of which were essential to his grasp of truth.

The second part, “The Loss of Truth,” consists of thirty-seven essays that focus on the destructive effects of ideologies and other manifestations of disorder in the modern world. Several essays provide a sampling of his expert analysis of Communism and the ideological world-view of the American Left, while others discuss the spiritually stifling effects of the modern bureaucratic state and the ideological disorders that have crept into contemporary culture and the understanding of Christianity. Many of these essays are taken from Niemeyer’s National Review column “Days and Works.”

The character of Niemeyer’s search for “The Recovery of Truth” appears in the subdivision of the thirty-four essays of the third part under the topics of political theory, education, Conservatism, and Christian faith. Although these essays also consider the loss of truth, they are concerned primarily with the quest for its recovery through faith, divine grace, and a clear-eyed understanding of reality. This section begins with his 1950 work “A Reappraisal of the Doctrine of Free Speech” in which he lucidly analyzes the pitfalls of free speech in an ideological age. Among the other essays included here are works that attest to Niemeyer’s concern for a spiritual renewal in education and his profound respect and admiration for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, and, perhaps above all, St. Augustine.

The book includes a bibliography of Niemeyer’s previously published books, pamphlets, essays, and reviews.

Perry, “Human Rights in the Constitutional Law of the United States”

9781107666085This July, Cambridge University Press will publish Human Rights in the Constitutional Law of the United States, by Emory’s Michael Perry The publisher’s description follows.

In the period since the end of the Second World War, there has emerged what never before existed: a truly global morality. Some of that morality – the morality of human rights – has become entrenched in the constitutional law of the United States. This book explicates the morality of human rights and elaborates three internationally recognized human rights that are embedded in U.S. constitutional law: the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment; the right to moral equality; and the right to religious and moral freedom. The implications of one or more of these rights for three great constitutional controversies – capital punishment, same-sex marriage, and abortion – are discussed in-depth. Along the way, Michael J. Perry addresses the question of the proper role of the Supreme Court of the United States in adjudicating these controversies.

Hammer & Safi (eds.), “The Cambridge Companion to American Islam”

9780521175524This July, Cambridge University Press will publish The Cambridge Companion to American Islam, edited by Juliane Hammer and Omid Safi (both at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill). The publisher’s description follows.

The Cambridge Companion to American Islam offers a scholarly overview of the state of research on American Muslims and American Islam. The book presents the reader with a comprehensive discussion of the debates, challenges, and opportunities that American Muslims have faced through centuries of American history. This volume also covers the creative ways in which American Muslims have responded to the myriad serious challenges that they have faced and continue to face in constructing a religious praxis and complex identities that are grounded in both a universal tradition and the particularities of their local contexts. The book introduces the reader to some of the many facets of the lives of American Muslims that can only be understood in their interactions with Islam’s entanglement in the American experiment.

Around the Web This Week

Some interesting law & religion stories from around the web this week:

Thanks, Claudia!

An active and verbal  thanks to Claudia Haupt for blogging with us here at CLR Forum these past few weeks. We’ve very much enjoyed having you with us, Claudia. Come back soon!