“Since the end of the Cold War, religion has become an ever more explicit and systematic focus of US foreign policy across multiple domains. US foreign policymakers, for instance, have been increasingly tasked with monitoring religious freedom and promoting it globally, delivering humanitarian and development aid abroad by drawing on faith-based organizations, fighting global terrorism by seeking to reform Muslim societies and Islamic theologies, and advancing American interests and values more broadly worldwide by engaging with religious actors and dynamics. Simply put, religion has become a major subject and object of American foreign policy in ways that were unimaginable just a few decades ago.
In Finding Faith in Foreign Policy, Gregorio Bettiza explains the causes and consequences of this shift by developing an original theoretical framework and drawing upon extensive empirical research and interviews. He argues that American foreign policy and religious forces have become ever more inextricably entangled in an age witnessing a global resurgence of religion and the emergence of a postsecular world society. He further shows how the boundaries between faith and state have been redefined through processes of desecularization in the context of American foreign policy, leading the most powerful state in the international system to intervene and reshape in increasingly sustained ways sacred and secular landscapes around the globe.
Drawing from a rich evidentiary base spanning twenty-five years, Finding Faith in Foreign Policy details how a wave of religious enthusiasm has transformed not just American foreign policy, but the entire international system.”
In this second episode of a two-part podcast, Center Director Mark Movsesian and Associate Director Marc DeGirolami discuss the private dimension of the control of “religious hate speech.” What, if anything, can public authorities do to intervene in the private arena? They focus on speech on private university campuses and discuss two basic constitutional rules: first, the rule governing the freedom of speech and associational freedom protecting private universities from government regulation; and second, the doctrine of “unconstitutional conditions” that affects the way in which the government can condition the granting of money dependent upon private universities’ compliance with government policies and interests. They also consider the social and cultural effects of the existing legal framework, discussing along the way some of the recent controversies on campuses involving disinvitations and exclusions of certain points of view and perspectives because of their allegedly “hateful” qualities. Listen in!
We’re a little late getting to this, but we close out the week with a collection of essays that appeared last fall, honoring Catholic University of America historian Kenneth Pennington, Medieval Church Law and the Origins of the Western Legal Tradition. The collection addresses the contributions medieval canon law has made to the greater legal tradition in the West–a subject we have discussed extensively in our comparative law class this semester, kids. The publisher is the Catholic University in America Press and the editors are Wolfgang Muller (Fordham) and Mary Sommer (Stephan Kuttner Institute of Medieval Canon Law-Munich). Here is the publisher’s description:
In this volume dedicated to medieval canon law expert Kenneth Pennington, leading scholars from around the world discuss the contribution of medieval church law to the origins of the western legal tradition. The stellar cast assembled by editors Wolfgang P. Müller and Mary E. Sommar includes younger scholars as well as long-established specialists in the field. Müller’s introduction provides the first comprehensive survey of investigative trends in the field in more than twenty years.
Subdivided into four topical categories, the essays cover the entire range of the history of medieval canon law from the sixth to the sixteenth century. The first section concentrates on the canonical tradition before the advent of academic legal studies in the twelfth century. The second addresses the formation of canonistic theory. The third and fourth sections consider the intellectual exchanges between canon law and other fields of study, as well as the practical application of canons in day-to-day court proceedings.
Though the twenty-seven essays included in this volume are quite diverse, taken together they provide an outstanding overview of the latest research and cutting-edge scholarship on the topic.
To say that we have yet another book to post on religious and political divides in America sounds a bit sarcastic, but I don’t mean it that way. The fact that so many serious books are appearing on polarization in America reflects something that all of us recognize. Deep fissures are appearing in our culture and no one knows quite what to do about them–assuming that we want to do something about them, which also is unclear. A new book from Brookings, Divided Politics, Divided Nation: Hyperconflict in the Trump Era, by Brookings scholar Darrell West, offers a personal perspective, from someone who began life in conservative Christian culture and now works in elite progressive culture. Here’s the description from the publisher:
Why are Americans so angry with each other? The United States is caught in a partisan hyperconflict that divides politicians, communities—and even families. Politicians from the president to state and local office-holders play to strongly-held beliefs and sometimes even pour fuel on the resulting inferno. This polarization has become so intense that many people no longer trust anyone from a differing perspective. Drawing on his personal story of growing up as a fundamentalist Christian on a dairy farm in rural Ohio, then as an academic in the heart of the liberal East Coast establishment, Darrell West analyzes the economic, cultural, and political aspects of polarization. He takes advantage of his experiences inside both conservative and liberal camps to explain the views of each side and offer insights into why each is angry with the other. West argues that societal tensions have metastasized into a dangerous tribalism that seriously threatens U.S. democracy. Unless people can bridge these divisions and forge a new path forward, it will be impossible to work together, maintain a functioning democracy, and solve the country’s pressing policy problems.
Last October, I posted a new biography of Elizabeth Ann Seton, the Catholic Church’s first native-born American saint. This month, the University of North Carolina Press releases A Saint of Our Own: How the Quest for a Holy Hero Helped Catholics Become American. Judging from the publisher’s description (below), this book focuses not so much on the inner lives of Seton and other American saints, but on why American Catholics believed it so important to have the Church recognize them. American saints, the author maintains, helped American Catholics feel more at home in their culture. The author is historian Kathleen Sprows Cummings (University of Notre Dame):
What drove U.S. Catholics in their arduous quest, full of twists and turns over more than a century, to win an American saint? The absence of American names in the canon of the saints had left many of the faithful feeling spiritually unmoored. But while canonization may be fundamentally about holiness, it is never only about holiness, reveals Kathleen Sprows Cummings in this panoramic, passionate chronicle of American sanctity. Catholics had another reason for petitioning the Vatican to acknowledge an American holy hero.
A home-grown saint would serve as a mediator between heaven and earth, yes, but also between Catholicism and American culture. Throughout much of U.S. history, the making of a saint was also about the ways in which the members of a minority religious group defined, defended, and celebrated their identities as Americans. Their fascinatingly diverse causes for canonization—from Kateri Tekakwitha and Elizabeth Ann Seton to many others that are failed, forgotten, or still under way—represented evolving national values as Catholics made themselves at home. Cummings’s vision of American sanctity shows just how much Catholics had at stake in cultivating devotion to men and women perched at the nexus of holiness and American history—until they finally felt little need to prove that they belonged.
Being a bishop has not always been a safe job. In late antiquity, in fact, it could be positively dangerous–as it remains in some parts of the world today. Not surprisingly, bishops sometimes survived Roman persecution by fleeing (or worse–see the Donatist Controversy), which occasioned considerable consternation among the members of the flock who stayed behind. A book out today from the University of California Press, Bishops in Flight: Exile and Displacement in Late Antiquity, addresses the sad history. The author is religion scholar Jennifer Barry (University of Mary Washington) Here’s the publisher’s description:
Flight during times of persecution has a long and fraught history in early Christianity. In the third century, bishops who fled were considered cowards or, worse yet, heretics. On the face, flight meant denial of Christ and thus betrayal of faith and community. But by the fourth century, the terms of persecution changed as Christianity became the favored cult of the Roman Empire. Prominent Christians who fled and survived became founders and influencers of Christianity over time.
Bishops in Flight examines the various ways these episcopal leaders both appealed to and altered the discourse of Christian flight to defend their status as purveyors of Christian truth, even when their exiles appeared to condemn them. Their stories illuminate how profoundly Christian authors deployed theological discourse and the rhetoric of heresy to respond to the phenomenal political instability of the fourth and fifth centuries.
Many readers of this blog will know of the famous disagreement between Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Story on whether Christianity formed part of the common law. Jefferson, unsurprisingly, thought the answer was “no.” How he came to that conclusion is perhaps revealed in a new edition of his legal notes, Jefferson’s Legal Commonplace Book, published by Princeton and edited by David Konig (Washington University-St. Louis) and Michael Zuckert (Notre Dame). The publisher’s description follows:
As a law student and young lawyer in the 1760s, Thomas Jefferson began writing abstracts of English common law reports. Even after abandoning his law practice, he continued to rely on his legal commonplace book to document the legal, historical, and philosophical reading that helped shape his new role as a statesman. Indeed, he made entries in the notebook in preparation for his mission to France, as president of the United States, and near the end of his life. This authoritative volume is the first to contain the complete text of Jefferson’s notebook. With more than 900 entries on such thinkers as Beccaria, Montesquieu, and Lord Kames, Jefferson’s Legal Commonplace Book is a fascinating chronicle of the evolution of Jefferson’s searching mind.
Jefferson’s abstracts of common law reports, most published here for the first time, indicate his deepening commitment to whig principles and his incisive understanding of the political underpinnings of the law. As his intellectual interests and political aspirations evolved, so too did the content and composition of his notetaking.
Unlike the only previous edition of Jefferson’s notebook, published in 1926, this edition features a verified text of Jefferson’s entries and full annotation, including essential information on the authors and books he documents. In addition, the volume includes a substantial introduction that places Jefferson’s text in legal, historical, and biographical context.