Hawley, “Right Wing Critics of American Conservatism”

Here’s a very interesting contribution from political scientist, George Hawley–newly in paperback (first published last year)–which Hawleydescribes some of the fissures within contemporary American conservatism, some of which centrally concern the place of religion in American political life. The publisher is University of Kansas Press and the description is below.

The American conservative movement as we know it faces an existential crisis as the nation’s demographics shift away from its core constituents—older white middle-class Christians. It is the American conservatism that we don’t know that concerns George Hawley in this book. During its ascendancy, leaders within the conservative establishment have energetically policed the movement’s boundaries, effectively keeping alternative versions of conservatism out of view. Returning those neglected voices to the story, Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism offers a more complete, complex, and nuanced account of the American right in all its dissonance in history and in our day.

The right-wing intellectual movements considered here differ both from mainstream conservatism and from each other when it comes to fundamental premises, such as the value of equality, the proper role of the state, the importance of free markets, the place of religion in politics, and attitudes toward race. In clear and dispassionate terms, Hawley examines localists who exhibit equal skepticism toward big business and big government, paleoconservatives who look to the distant past for guidance and wish to turn back the clock, radical libertarians who are not content to be junior partners in the conservative movement, and various strains of white supremacy and the radical right in America.

In the Internet age, where access is no longer determined by the select few, the independent right has far greater opportunities to make its many voices heard. This timely work puts those voices into context and historical perspective, clarifying our understanding of the American right—past, present, and future.

Wenger, “Religious Freedom: The Contested History of an American Ideal”

A new book about religious freedom from a distinctively deconstructionist, left CLS Wengerperspective. The book presents religious freedom as an American device for systematic privileging of white Christians and suppression of others (chapter 1 is titled, “Making the Imperial Subject”). In conversation, if not of a piece, with other scholarship today (in religious studies and elsewhere) that aims to debunk religious freedom as a category. It is interesting to see these kinds of accounts continue to flourish in the literature, just as right critical scholarship on this subject begins to flower as well. The publisher is UNC Press. The description is below.

Religious freedom is so often presented as a timeless American ideal and an inalienable right, appearing fully formed at the founding of the United States. That is simply not so, Tisa Wenger contends in this sweeping and brilliantly argued book. Instead, American ideas about religious freedom were continually reinvented through a vibrant national discourse–Wenger calls it “religious freedom talk”–that cannot possibly be separated from the evolving politics of race and empire.

More often than not, Wenger demonstrates, religious freedom talk worked to privilege the dominant white Christian population. At the same time, a diverse array of minority groups at home and colonized people abroad invoked and reinterpreted this ideal to defend themselves and their ways of life. In so doing they posed sharp challenges to the racial and religious exclusions of American life. People of almost every religious stripe have argued, debated, negotiated, and brought into being an ideal called American religious freedom, subtly transforming their own identities and traditions in the process. In a post-9/11 world, Wenger reflects, public attention to religious freedom and its implications is as consequential as it has ever been.

Rex, “The Making of Martin Luther”

Yet another droplet in the outpouring of new and learned Martin Luther scholarship this Rexyear, but I must say that this one looks particularly interesting and worthwhile–historian Richard Rex’s The Making of Martin Luther. This particular work looks to emphasize the intellectual history of Luther’s thought. I had also seen and admired (but, alas, not yet read) Rex’s earlier work on the Tudors. Now it’s two volumes of his that I am looking forward to reading. The publisher is Princeton University Press.

The Making of Martin Luther takes a provocative look at the intellectual emergence of one of the most original and influential minds of the sixteenth century. Richard Rex traces how, in a concentrated burst of creative energy in the few years surrounding his excommunication by Pope Leo X in 1521, this lecturer at an obscure German university developed a startling new interpretation of the Christian faith that brought to an end the dominance of the Catholic Church in Europe. Luther’s personal psychology and cultural context played their parts in the whirlwind of change he unleashed. But for the man himself, it was always about the ideas, the truth, and the Gospel.

Focusing on the most intensely important years of Luther’s career, Rex teases out the threads of his often paradoxical and counterintuitive ideas from the tangled thickets of his writings, explaining their significance, their interconnections, and the astonishing appeal they so rapidly developed. Yet Rex also sets these ideas firmly in the context of Luther’s personal life, the cultural landscape that shaped him, and the traditions of medieval Catholic thought from which his ideas burst forth.

Lucidly argued and elegantly written, The Making of Martin Luther is a splendid work of intellectual history that renders Luther’s earthshaking yet sometimes challenging ideas accessible to a new generation of readers.

Wood, “Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson”

The complicated and modulated relationship of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson is one Woodof the pearls of American history. The two disagreed fiercely about just about everything as political men–very much including the church-state question. Yet there was a rapprochement between them in their golden years, as testified by the wealth of correspondence they shared. Gordon Wood is one of the preeminent historians of the American founding. Here he has a new book on the two great men. The publisher is Penguin Random House and the description is below.

From the great historian of the American Revolution, New York Times-bestselling and Pulitzer-winning Gordon Wood, comes a majestic dual biography of two of America’s most enduringly fascinating figures, whose partnership helped birth a nation, and whose subsequent falling out did much to fix its course.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams could scarcely have come from more different worlds, or been more different in temperament. Jefferson, the optimist with enough faith in the innate goodness of his fellow man to be democracy’s champion, was an aristocratic Southern slaveowner, while Adams, the overachiever from New England’s rising middling classes, painfully aware he was no aristocrat, was a skeptic about popular rule and a defender of a more elitist view of government. They worked closely in the crucible of revolution, crafting the Declaration of Independence and leading, with Franklin, the diplomatic effort that brought France into the fight. But ultimately, their profound differences would lead to a fundamental crisis, in their friendship and in the nation writ large, as they became the figureheads of two entirely new forces, the first American political parties. It was a bitter breach, lasting through the presidential administrations of both men, and beyond.

But late in life, something remarkable happened: these two men were nudged into reconciliation. What started as a grudging trickle of correspondence became a great flood, and a friendship was rekindled, over the course of hundreds of letters. In their final years they were the last surviving founding fathers and cherished their role in this mighty young republic as it approached the half century mark in 1826. At last, on the afternoon of July 4th, 50 years to the day after the signing of the Declaration, Adams let out a sigh and said, “At least Jefferson still lives.” He died soon thereafter. In fact, a few hours earlier on that same day, far to the south in his home in Monticello, Jefferson died as well.

Arguably no relationship in this country’s history carries as much freight as that of John Adams of Massachusetts and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. Gordon Wood has more than done justice to these entwined lives and their meaning; he has written a magnificent new addition to America’s collective story.

CFP: Religious Violence and Extremism at Bar-Ilan

Here’s a CFP notice from Professor Michael Helfand:

Faculty of Law Faculty of Law

JOURNAL OF LAW, RELIGION AND STATE

Call For Papers

The Journal of Law, Religion and State – International Conference

Religious Violence and Extremism

28-30 May 2018

In recent years, religious violence and extremism have become an increasingly present phenomenon on the public stage, not only growing in impact, but also spreading to many new parts of the world. In this conference, we seek to discuss these phenomena from a variety of legal perspectives, considering the role of law, religion and state both in facilitating violence and extremism and countering it as well.

Our intention is to explore the legal origins and consequences of these phenomena in a broad sense, assessing not only state law and religious law, but also the social conditions and goals that the law reflects or emerges in response to. Moreover, we also hope to consider the concept of religious extremism not simply as attendant to violence, but also as its own independent phenomenon with which the state must contend. Here some of the topics we invite participants to address:

 Analysis of religious violence and extremism (the phenomena in general and specific incidents as well)

 Definition and classification of both religious violence and religious extremism

 What is the relationship between religious freedom and religious extremism?

 Does religious extremism justify restrictions on religious freedom (education, expression or association) and how does/should the state conceptualize principled limitations on religious freedom in light of religious extremism?

 How should we distinguish between a deeply religious lifestyle and extremist religious activity?

 What are the (legal) measures states should take against radicalization of religion, and in what cases? (e.g., avoiding support, cancellation of tax exemptions, banning/criminalizing certain activities)

 How can the state manage conflicts—and provide political resolutions—at holy sites that serve, at times, as loci for both religious fervour and religious extremism?

 Can law, the state and/or religious leaders and institutions leverage the resources within various faith traditions to respond to religious extremism and violence? If yes, then: how should this be done?

 Should the law and the state treat religiously-motivated crimes in a different way than other crimes?

 What are the interpretive strategies religions take (or should take) in order to void radicalization and how can they impact the legal and political strategies of the state?

The conference will be held at Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Law, Ramat-Gan, Israel, from the late afternoon of Monday, 28 May 2018 until the late afternoon of Wednesday, 30 May 2018.

We encourage academic scholars from all parts of the world and from diverse religious backgrounds to submit proposals on the topics outlined above, and similar topics as well.

An abstract of 500 (max.) words should be sent to jlrs@biu.ac.il no later than November 10, 2017. Please indicate academic affiliation and attach a CV. The conference committee will review all submissions and notify applicants of papers of its decisions by Friday, 15 December 2017. The participants will be required to submit a first (full) draft of their papers at least four weeks before the conference so as to enable all participants to prepare for the conference discussions.

All participants will be provided three days of hotel accommodation and board during the conference.

After the conference, participants will have the opportunity to revise and finalize their papers in order to submit them for publication in JLRS. The articles will be published in the Journal of Law Religion and State subject to blind peer review.

The organizing committee:

Prof. Zvi Zohar, Faculty of Law, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Prof. Rex Tauati Ahdar, Faculty of Law, Otago University, New Zealand

Dr. Haim Shapira, Faculty of Law, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Prof. Michael Helfand, Faculty of Law, Pepperdine University, USA

Copson, “Secularism: Politics, Religion, and Freedom”

From the Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, Andrew Copson, comes Copsonthis new book about secularism. In so much of the new literature on this subject, the focus has turned to post-secular studies and analysis. Not so here, in a book that appears to be part history and part advocacy. The publisher is OUP and the description is below.

Until the modern period the integration of church (or other religion) and state (or political life) had been taken for granted. The political order was always tied to an official religion in Christian Europe, pre-Christian Europe, and in the Arabic world. But from the eighteenth century onwards, some European states began to set up their political order on a different basis. Not religion, but the rule of law through non-religious values embedded in constitutions became the foundation of some states — a movement we now call secularism. In others, a de facto secularism emerged as political values and civil and criminal law altered their professed foundation from a shared religion to a non-religious basis.

Today secularism is an increasingly hot topic in public, political, and religious debate across the globe. It is embodied in the conflict between secular republics — from the US to India — and the challenges they face from resurgent religious identity politics; in the challenges faced by religious states like those of the Arab world from insurgent secularists; and in states like China where calls for freedom of belief are challenging a state imposed non-religious worldview. In this short introduction Andrew Copson tells the story of secularism, taking in momentous episodes in world history, such as the great transition of Europe from religious orthodoxy to pluralism, the global struggle for human rights and democracy, and the origins of modernity. He also considers the role of secularism when engaging with some of the most contentious political and legal issues of our time: “blasphemy,” “apostasy,” religious persecution, religious discrimination, religious schools, and freedom of belief and thought in a divided world.

Jenkins, “Crucible of Faith: The Ancient Revolution That Made Our Modern Religious World”

From the eminent historian of religion, Philip Jenkins, comes this very interesting looking new work about the origins of the Judeo-Christian tradition as we know it today-Crucible-the period just before the time of Christ. The publisher is Basic Books and the description is below.

In Crucible of Faith, Philip Jenkins argues that much of the Judeo-Christian tradition we know today was born between 250–50 BCE, during a turbulent “Crucible Era.” It was during these years that Judaism grappled with Hellenizing forces and produced new religious ideas that reflected and responded to a changing world. By the time of the fall of the Temple in 70 CE, concepts that might once have seemed bizarre became normalized—and thus passed on to Christianity and later Islam. Drawing widely on contemporary sources from outside the canonical Old and New Testaments, Jenkins reveals an era of political violence and social upheaval that ultimately gave birth to entirely new ideas about religion, the afterlife, Creation and the Fall, and the nature of God and Satan.

Hayward, “Patriotism is Not Enough: Harry Jaffa, Walter Berns, and the Arguments that Redefined American Conservatism”

Harry Jaffa and Walter Berns were vital twentieth century figures in American political Jaffa:Bernsand constitutional thought. Berns’s writing–particularly in the earlier part of his academic life–has been influential on my own views about the First Amendment. It’s therefore a pleasure to post this notice about Steven Hayward’s new book on both theorists. The publisher is Encounter Books, and the description is below.

This book is a lively intellectual history of a small circle of thinkers, especially, but not solely, Harry Jaffa and Walter Berns, who challenged the “mainstream” liberal consensus of political science and history about how the American Founding should be understood. Along the way they changed the course of the conservative movement and had a significant impact on shaping contemporary political debates from constitutional interpretation, civil rights, to the corruption of government today. Most importantly, these thinkers explain the deep reasons for patriotism—why we should love America not just because it is our country, but because it is a free and just country.

Supreme Court Roundup at First Things

Kevin Walsh and I have the annual Supreme Court Roundup at First Things, A Less Corrupt Term. In it we look back at some of the cases from last term and forward too. The range of cases looking back span the Obergefell-inflected genre, free speech (Packingham and Matal), law and religion (the church plan case and Trinity Lutheran), and Trump v. IRAP. We also discuss the political gerrymandering case on the upcoming docket (Gill v. Whitford) as well as Masterpiece Cakeshop. Here is a bit from the beginning:

In these unusually turbulent times for the presidency and Congress, the Supreme Court’s latest term stands out for its lack of drama. There were no 5–4 end-of-the-term cases that mesmerized the nation. There were no blockbuster decisions.

Even so, the Court was hardly immune to the steady transformation of our governing institutions into reality TV shows. Over the weekend leading into the final day of the term, speculation ignited from who-knows-where about the possible departure of its main character, Justice Anthony Kennedy. To us, the chatter seemed forced—as if the viewing public needed something to fill the vacuum left by a season of episodes with fewer sex scenes and less louche intrigue than usual.

But the scriptwriters did not disappoint entirely. In the season finale, the justices delivered split opinions in two cases that had not even been fully briefed and argued on the merits—one about President Trump’s limits on immigration from six majority-Muslim nations, the other about the right of a female same-sex spouse to be listed as a parent on a birth certificate alongside the birth mother. These opinions hint at some of the stories that will shape next year’s plotline—the first full term for the new character, Justice Neil Gorsuch.

And the producers promise a thrilling new season. For readers of this journal, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is likely to be the most prominent case, one about the freedom of a Christian baker to decline to design a custom cake for a same-sex wedding celebration. Other potential showstoppers include a case about partisan gerrymandering and another round on President Trump’s executive order on immigration. We may also see more shake-ups in the cast. Before peering ahead to what may be coming, though, we look back at some of the signal events of the past term.

Hammond, “God’s Businessmen: Entrepreneurial Evangelicals in Depression and War”

The connection of conservative evangelicalism and the business community has taken God's Businessmensomething of a hit in the last decade or so, as business interests and religious interests have undergone a realignment, but this interesting looking book describes their older association well before the Reagan era. The author is Sarah Ruth Hammond, the publisher is Chicago Press, and the description is below.

The evangelical embrace of conservatism is a familiar feature of the contemporary political landscape. What’s less well-known, however, is that the connection predates the Reagan revolution, going all the way back to the Depression and World War II. Evangelical businessmen at the time were quite active in opposing the New Deal—on both theological and economic grounds—and in doing so claimed a place alongside other conservatives in the public sphere. Like previous generations of devout laymen, they self-consciously merged their religious and business lives, financing and organizing evangelical causes with the kind of visionary pragmatism that they practiced in the boardroom.

In God’s Businessmen, Sarah Ruth Hammond explores not only these men’s personal trajectories but also those of the service clubs and other institutions that, like them, believed that businessmen were God’s instrument for the Christianization of the world. Hammond presents a capacious portrait of the relationship between the evangelical business community and the New Deal—and in doing so makes important contributions to American religious history, business history, and the history of the American state.

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