Hope everyone’s enjoying the day off.
Hope everyone’s enjoying the day off.
In honor of the Fourth of July, the Forum is taking off today. Happy Independence Day and see you tomorrow!
New from Indiana University Press, Jihad and the West: Black Flag over Babylon, by Mark Silinsky (US Department of Defense). The publisher’s description follows:
U.S. Department of Defense analyst Mark Silinsky reveals the origins of the Islamic State’s sinister obsession with the Western world. Once considered a minor irritant in the international system, the Caliphate is now a dynamic and significant actor on the world’s stage, boasting more than 30,000 foreign fighters from 86 countries. Recruits consist not only of Middle-Eastern-born citizens, but also a staggering number of “Blue-Eyed Jihadists,” Westerners who leave their country to join the radical sect. Silinsky provides a detailed and chilling explanation of the appeal of the Islamic State and how those abroad become radicalized, while also analyzing the historical origins, inner workings, and horrific toll of the Caliphate. By documenting the true stories of men, women, and children whose lives have been destroyed by the radical group, Jihad and the West presents the human face of the thousands who have been kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered by the Islamic State, including Kayla Mueller, who was kidnapped, given to the Caliphate’s leader as a sex slave, and ultimately killed.
From Yale University Press, a new intellectual history of America after the Revolution, American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason, by Caroline Winterer (Stanford). The publisher’s description follows:
A provocative reassessment of the concept of an American golden age of European-born reason and intellectual curiosity in the years following the Revolutionary War:
The accepted myth of the “American Enlightenment” suggests that the rejection of monarchy and establishment of a new republic in the United States in the eighteenth century was the realization of utopian philosophies born in the intellectual salons of Europe and radiating outward to the New World. In this revelatory work, Stanford historian Caroline Winterer argues that a national mythology of a unitary, patriotic era of enlightenment in America was created during the Cold War to act as a shield against the threat of totalitarianism, and that Americans followed many paths toward political, religious, scientific, and artistic enlightenment in the 1700s that were influenced by European models in more complex ways than commonly thought. Winterer’s book strips away our modern inventions of the American national past, exploring which of our ideas and ideals are truly rooted in the eighteenth century and which are inventions and mystifications of more recent times.
This month, John Wiley & Sons releases Faith and Freedom by Teresa Forcades, a Benedictine nun and “one of Europe’s leading radical thinkers.” The publisher’s description follows:
Teresa Forcades, Spanish Benedictine nun, theologian, physician and political activist, is one of Europe’s leading radical thinkers. Marrying her Catholic faith with a passion for social justice, she came to prominence for her eloquent condemnation of the abuses of some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies. She has gone on to found a leading Catalonian anti-capitalist independence movement and is one of the leading voices in the world today against the injustices of capitalism and the patriarchy of modern society and of her own church.
In Faith and Freedom, her first book written in English, she skilfully weaves together her personal experiences with a reflection on morality, religion and politics to give a trenchant account of how the Christian faith can be a dynamic force for radical change. Placing herself in a powerful tradition of Catholic social doctrine and Liberation Theology, she applies her perspective to the issues most precious to her: freedom and love, social justice and political engagement, public health, feminism, faith and forgiveness.
Structured around the five canonical hours that give its peculiar rhythm to the monastic day, this book is a thoughtful and bold polemic against the exploitation and injustice of the status quo. Its call for liberty, love and justice will resonate with anyone disaffected with a savage and destructive political and economic system that marginalises and murders the poor and undermines the very fabric of social life.
From Fordham University Press, a new collection on Orthodox perspectives on the relationship between Christianity and liberal democracy: Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine, edited by Fordham professors George Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou. The publisher’s description follows:
The collapse of communism in eastern Europe has forced traditionally Eastern Orthodox countries to consider the relationship between Christianity and liberal democracy. Contributors examine the influence of Constantinianism in both the post-communist Orthodox world and in Western political theology. Constructive theological essays feature Catholic and Protestant theologians reflecting on the relationship between Christianity and democracy, as well as Orthodox theologians reflecting on their tradition’s relationship to liberal democracy. The essays explore prospects of a distinctively Christian politics in a post-communist, post-Constantinian age.
New from Wipf and Stock Publishers: Conservative Revolutionaries: Transformation and Tradition in the Religious and Political Thought of Charles Chauncy and Jonathan Mayhew, by John Oakes (Simon Fraser University). The publisher’s description follows:
Boston Congregationalist ministers Charles Chauncy (1705-87) and Jonathan Mayhew (1720-66) were significant political as well as religious leaders in colonial and revolutionary New England. Scholars have often stressed their influence on major shifts in New England theology, from traditional Calvinism to Arminianism and, ultimately, to universalism and Unitarianism. They have also portrayed Mayhew as an influential preacher, whose works helped shape American revolutionary ideology, and Chauncy as an active leader of the patriot cause.
Through a deeply contextualized re-examination of the two ministers as “men of their times,” John S. Oakes offers a fresh, comparative interpretation of how their religious and political views changed and interacted over decades. The result is a thoroughly revised reading of Chauncy’s and Mayhew’s most innovative ideas. Conservative Revolutionaries also unearths strongly traditionalist elements in their belief systems, centering on their shared commitment to a dissenting worldview based on the ideals of their Protestant New England and British heritage.
Oakes concludes with a provocative exploration of how the shifting theological and political positions of these two “conservative revolutionaries” may have helped redefine prevailing notions of human identity, capability, and destiny.
Forthcoming from Penguin Random House, a new book by Peter Bergen, United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists. The publisher’s description follows:
New from Penguin Random House: Michael Medved’s The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic. The publisher’s description follows:
The history of the United States displays an uncanny pattern: At moments of crisis, when the odds against success seem overwhelming and disaster looks imminent, fate intervenes to provide deliverance and progress. Historians may categorize these incidents as happy accidents, callous crimes, or the product of brilliant leadership, but the most notable leaders of the past four hundred years have identified this good fortune as something else—a reflection of divine providence. In The American Miracle, bestselling author and radio host Michael Medved recounts some of the most significant events in America’s rise to prosperity and power, from the writing of the Constitution to the Civil War. He reveals a record of improbabilities and amazements that demonstrate what the Founders always believed: that events unfolded according to a master plan, with destiny playing an unmistakable role in lifting the nation to greatness.
This autumn, we have been hosting an online symposium on Vincent Phillip Muñoz‘s new article, “Two Concepts of Religious Liberty.” In today’s post, Thomas Berg (University of St. Thomas (Minnesota)) responds to Muñoz. For other posts in this series, please click here.
In his excellent journal article “Two Concepts of Religious Liberty,” and in a recent LRF blog post, Vincent Philip Muñoz argues that the founders’ natural-rights theory of religious freedom is very different from the modern practice of protecting religious exercise through exemption from otherwise valid, generally applicable laws. The original understanding, he says, supports the rule of Employment Division v. Smith’s rejection of mandatory exemptions under the Free Exercise, rather than Sherbert v. Verner’s rule mandating exemptions unless the government can show a “compelling interest” in burdening religious exercise. And Muñoz criticizes the arguments of Michael McConnell, who concluded that while the question was close, “[t]he historical record casts doubt on [Smith’s] interpretation of the free exercise clause.”
Under current law, this historical debate is of limited importance. Although the exemptions approach has been rejected for the Free Exercise Clause, it has been adopted in some form in federal legislation and in the legislation or constitutional rulings of more than 30 states. As a result, the exemptions approach applies to all federal laws, to every state’s land use and prison regulations, and, in much of the nation, to the full body of state and local laws. Muñoz says that legislatures should decide whether to exempt religion from general law; many of them have decided to do so through religious freedom restoration acts (RFRAs), federal and state.
In fact, however, the exemptions approach finds considerable support in the religious-freedom tradition of the founding; it may even be the best historical reading, although that is a difficult question. Smith was not dictated by originalism; the Court should be willing to entertain modifying or overruling it; and at the very least legislatures and state courts should feel no embarrassment at adopting the exemptions approach. I will first discuss the historical issues and then turn to some of Muñoz’s other qualms about the exemptions approach.
The Original Understanding, Exemptions, and “Harms to Others”
Muñoz’s journal article focuses heavily on the natural-rights outlook of the framers, arguing that it supports a “jurisdictional” approach that simply prevents government from regulating religion as religion: that is, from targeting it with a non-neutral law. But that argument ignored the aspect of founding-era history that, for McConnell, was the Continue reading