Sheehan-Dean, “The Calculus of Violence”

9780674984226-lgIt’s a puzzlement. The American Civil War took place in a deeply Christian, even Evangelical society, only a short time after the Second Great Awakening. And yet the conflict was intensely bloody–more than 600,000 people died. How could people who took Christianity so seriously engage in such carnage? A forthcoming history from Harvard University Press, The Calculus of Violence: How Americans Fought the Civil War, by scholar Aaron Sheehan-Dean (Louisiana State) maintains that the belligerents in fact tried to limit the bloodshed, that it could have been much, much worse. So perhaps the puzzle is not so great as it appears. Here is the description from the Harvard website:

Shiloh, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg—tens of thousands of soldiers died on these iconic Civil War battlefields, and throughout the South civilians suffered terrible cruelty. At least three-quarters of a million lives were lost during the American Civil War. Given its seemingly indiscriminate mass destruction, this conflict is often thought of as the first “total war.” But Aaron Sheehan-Dean argues for another interpretation.

The Calculus of Violence demonstrates that this notoriously bloody war could have been much worse. Military forces on both sides sought to contain casualties inflicted on soldiers and civilians. In Congress, in church pews, and in letters home, Americans debated the conditions under which lethal violence was legitimate, and their arguments differentiated carefully among victims—women and men, black and white, enslaved and free. Sometimes, as Sheehan-Dean shows, these well-meaning restraints led to more carnage by implicitly justifying the killing of people who were not protected by the laws of war. As the Civil War raged on, the Union’s confrontations with guerrillas and the Confederacy’s confrontations with black soldiers forced a new reckoning with traditional categories of lawful combatants and raised legal disputes that still hang over military operations around the world today.

In examining the agonizing debates about the meaning of a just war in the Civil War era, Sheehan-Dean discards conventional abstractions—total, soft, limited—as too tidy to contain what actually happened on the ground.

Camerlenghi, “St. Paul’s Outside the Walls”

9781108429511This forthcoming book, by Dartmouth art historian Nicola Camerlenghi, might seem a bit outside our jurisdiction. But as I said yesterday, art reflects and shapes the values of a culture, and scholars of law and religion ought to pay it more attention. Besides, the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls is one of the most important churches in history, with strong church-state associations. It was one of the first churches founded by the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, and its position outside the walls, in addition to reflecting the burial site of the saint for which it is named, reflects the sensitivity the emperor had to show pagans, who still made up the majority of Rome’s citizens.

And there’s another church-state association. Hildebrand, who went on to become Pope Gregory VII, was once abbot of the monastery attached to St. Paul’s–that Pope Gregory VII, from the Investiture Crisis. The monastery still displays his bony finger in a reliquary. I saw it myself once. Imagine, the finger that shook at Henry IV. What would Constantine have thought? If all this is not enough to qualify the book for a post, I don’t know what would.

The book is St. Paul’s Outside the Walls: A Roman Basilica, From Antiquity to the Modern Era. The publisher is Cambridge. Here’s a description from the Cambridge website:

This volume examines one of Rome’s most influential churches: the principal basilica dedicated to St Paul. Nicola Camerlenghi traces nearly two thousand years of physical transformations to the church, from before its construction in the fourth century to its reconstruction following a fire in 1823. By recounting this long history, he restores the building to its rightful place as a central, active participant in epochal political and religious shifts in Rome and across Christendom, as well as a protagonist in Western art and architectural history. Camerlenghi also examines how buildings in general trigger memories and anchor meaning, and how and why buildings endure, evolve, and remain relevant in cultural contexts far removed from the moment of their inception. At its core, Saint Paul’s exemplifies the concept of building as a process, not a product: a process deeply interlinked with religion, institutions, history, cultural memory, and the arts. This study also includes state-of-the-art digital reconstructions synthesizing a wealth of historical evidence to visualize and analyze the earlier (now lost) stages of the building’s history, offering glimpses into heretofore unexamined parts of its long, rich life.

Walsh, “The Fiery Angel”

EB_The-Fiery-Angel_lowres-310x460Art reflects a culture’s values and sometimes even drives them. This is why conservatives often find contemporary art so off-putting. It’s not that conservatives are philistines–though some are, as are some progressives. Rather, it’s that they understand that the values our current art express are mostly inimical to their own–especially the pointless insistence on ugliness and transgression for transgression’s sake. (At some point, transgression become simply cliched; and we have long since passed that point). In fact, some of the most thoughtful conservative commentators today recognize that giving up the arts to progressives was a major mistake. In a conservative reformation of society, art may prove a lot more important than law or politics.

Anyway, a new book from Encounter, The Fiery Angel: Art, Culture, Sex, Politics and the Struggle for the Soul of the West, by critic Michael Walsh, looks interesting. Here is the description from the publisher’s website:

In Western Civilization, the arts embody the eternal battle between good and evil, and through understanding the arts, we can address the political issues that plague us. Far from being museum pieces, simple recreation, or tales and artifacts from the past, the arts should be seen at the wellspring of our politics, and in particular in public policy debates. They are actually the reason we have public and foreign policy in the first place. In an age that prizes specialization, it’s a mistake to think of public/foreign policy as a discipline onto itself. The Fiery Angel is a historical survey showing significant ways the arts both reflect and affect the course of history, and outlines the way forward, arguing for the restoration of the Heroic Narrative which forms the basis of all Western cultural and religious traditions.

Esolen, “Nostalgia”

41ppx0hK5L._SX329_BO1204203200_-202x306“For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” This verse from Hebrews has strongly influenced Christian understandings of politics from the time of the early Church to the present. The conviction that Christians are, most fundamentally, citizens of another, eternal city has shaped their relations with temporal cities both pagan and Christian. It has comforted them in periods of alienation and checked them in times of triumph.

A forthcoming book by scholar Anthony Esolen (Thomas More College), Nostalgia: Going Home in a Homeless World (Regnerey) addresses Christians’ longing for home–a longing, which, on earth, must always be unfulfilled, however much Christians love their families, communities, and nations. Here is the description from the publisher’s website:

America’s political elite has a stake in the destruction of cultural memory—anything that resists the new management state and the rootless elites. But it is a deeply human thing not only to have a home, which is rare enough in our time, but to long to return home. For Christians, this longing to return home not only makes us defenders of our homes and families here on earth, but also wayfarers, in that we understand we are contantly moving towards our true home, the “patria” that is the presence of God, in eternity.

This Christian nostalgia is the subject of scorn and condescension from secular elites, who are invested in making us forget our loginging to return home. Instead, they would have us join in the silly and inhuman worship of mother earth as our “home” and the more dangerous and destructive worship of change for change’s sake—as if we could make heaven ourselves or work ourselves up into gods.

In Nostalgia, this essential new work by Out of the Ashes author Anthony Esolen, the singularly Christian concept of true nostalgia is examined, defended, and brilliantly celebrated as Esolen reveals the central role nostalgia plays in great works of literature including Shakespeare, Dante, Dickens, and Eliot.

Schindler, “Freedom from Reality”

P03373We’re late getting to this, but last year the Notre Dame Press released a new treatment of Locke’s concept of liberty, Freedom from Reality: The Diabolical Character of Modern Liberty, by D.C. Schindler (John Paul II Institute). “Diabolical” makes it sound worse than it is; the author uses the word in the sense of “divisive” and “subversive” rather than “Satanic”–though of course the author may have the latter meaning in mind, too! The book is one of a series of recent works critiquing classical liberalism as paradoxical and, ultimately, the source of its own destruction. It looks like a useful addition to the conversation. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

It is commonly observed that behind many of the political and cultural issues that we face today lies an impoverished conception of freedom, which, according to D. C. Schindler, we have inherited from the classical liberal tradition without a sufficient awareness of its implications. Freedom from Reality presents a critique of the deceptive and ultimately self-subverting character of the modern notion of freedom, retrieving an alternative view through a new interpretation of the ancient tradition. While many have critiqued the inadequacy of identifying freedom with arbitrary choice, this book seeks to penetrate to the metaphysical roots of the modern conception by going back, through an etymological study, to the original sense of freedom.

Schindler begins by uncovering a contradiction in John Locke’s seminal account of human freedom. Rather than dismissing it as a mere “academic” problem, Schindler takes this contradiction as a key to understanding the strange paradoxes that abound in the contemporary values and institutions founded on the modern notion of liberty: the very mechanisms that intend to protect modern freedom render it empty and ineffectual. In this respect, modern liberty is “diabolical”—a word that means, at its roots, that which “drives apart” and so subverts. This is contrasted with the “symbolical” (a “joining-together”), which, he suggests, most basically characterizes the premodern sense of reality. This book will appeal to students and scholars of political philosophy (especially political theorists), philosophers in the continental or historical traditions, and cultural critics with a philosophical bent.

CLR at George Mason Next Month

 

csas-logoNext month, Marc and I will among the speakers at “Religion and the Administrative State,” a conference sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason’s Antonin Scalia Law School. The Center’s Director, Adam White, has put together a very interesting set of panels, including the one on which Marc and I will speak, “The Future of the First Amendment.” The conference, scheduled for September 14, will appeal to anyone with an interest in church-state relations. For details, please check the conference announcement, here.

Kavanaugh (and Kennedy) on Church and State

Judge_Brett_KavanaughAt the Law and Liberty Blog today, I have an essay on how a Justice Kavanaugh would likely rule in church-state cases. I argue he is likely to look a lot like Justice Kennedy, the person he would replace:

It’s always difficult to predict how a nominee would rule in cases once on the Court. The best evidence is the way he has ruled as a lower court judge—and even that evidence is imperfect, since lower court judges have a greater duty than Supreme Court Justices to follow the Court’s precedents. Although he has been on the DC Circuit for a dozen years, Kavanaugh has written only two opinions on the merits in church-state cases, one on establishment and the other on free exercise. (He has written one opinion dismissing an Establishment Clause challenge on standing grounds and joined a few church-state opinions other judges have written, but those opinions are less probative). On the basis of those two opinions, I think Justice Kavanaugh would likely be a centrist conservative in the middle of the Court—a Justice remarkably like the one he would replace.

You can read the whole essay here.

Bebbington, “Baptists through the Centuries” (2d ed.)

6286For students of church-and-state in America, the Baptists loom very large. Together with Enlightenment figures like Madison and Jefferson, the Baptists had a profound influence in the early Republic as strong advocates of separationism. Next month, Baylor University Press will release a new edition of a history of the Baptist movement, Baptists through the Centuries: A History of a Global People, by historian David Bebbington (Baylor). The new edition discusses the spread of Baptist churches in the global south. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

Baptists through the Centuries provides a clear introduction to the history and theology of this influential and international people. David Bebbington, a leading Baptist historian, surveys the main developments in Baptist life and thought from the seventeenth century to the present.

The Baptist movement took root and grew well beyond its British and American origins. Bebbington persuasively demonstrates how Baptists continually adapted to the cultures and societies in which they lived, generating ever more diversity within an already multifaceted group. Bebbington’s survey also examines the challenging social, political, and intellectual issues in Baptist history―attitudes on race, women’s roles in the church, religious liberty, missions, and theological commitments.

The second edition of this proven textbook extends the scope with chapters on three parts of the world where Baptists have become particularly numerous: Latin America (where Brazilian Baptists number over 2 million), Nigeria (where Baptists are at their strongest outside North America, numbering roughly 5 million), and the Naga Hills in India (where Baptists form over 80 percent of the population). Each chapter also highlights regional issues that have presented new challenges and opportunities to Baptists: holistic mission in Latin America, the experience of charismatic renewal and the encounter with Islam in Nigeria, and the demands of peacemaking in the Naga Hills.

Through this new edition, Bebbington orients readers and expands their knowledge of the Baptist community as it continues to flourish around the world.

Winn, “Reading Mark’s Christology under Caesar”

5211Here is a forthcoming book from IVP Academic that reads the Gospel According to Mark as, in part, a response to imperial propaganda. I don’t know enough to evaluate the author’s argument, but the idea that first-century Roman Christians would have recognized references to the Flavian emperors, and to current events like the sack of Jerusalem, that elude us today is certainly plausible. Perhaps Mark’s Gospel is, at least in part, a reflection on Roman state policy. The book is Reading Mark’s Christology under Caesar: Jesus the Messiah and Roman Imperial Ideology, by Adam Winn (University of Mary Hardin-Baylor College of Christian Studies). Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

The Gospel of Mark has been studied from multiple angles using many methods. But often there remains a sense that something is wanting, that the full picture of Mark’s Gospel lacks some background circuitry that would light up the whole.

Adam Winn finds a clue in the cataclysmic destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. For Jews and Christians it was an apocalyptic moment. The gods of Rome seemed to have conquered the God of the Jews.

Could it be that Mark wrote his Gospel in response to Roman imperial propaganda surrounding this event? Could a messiah crucified by Rome really be God’s Son appointed to rule the world?

Winn considers how Mark might have been read by Christians in Rome in the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem. He introduces us to the propaganda of the Flavian emperors and excavates the Markan text for themes that address the Roman imperial setting. We discover an intriguing first-century response to the question “Christ or Caesar?”

Miller, “The Character Gap”

9780190264222If men were angels, no government would be necessary. Madison’s famous observation from The Federalist captures the Framers’ unromantic view of human nature. Given the very obvious flaws in human character, they thought, it would be unwise for a state to depend on citizens’ moral progress. In fact, as the twentieth-century liberal political theorist Richard Hofstadter once observed, with frustration, the Framers had a Calvinist outlook that stubbornly rejected any idea of human perfectibility: they were quite sure human nature was weak and would never change. Much safer, they thought, for the state to contain checks on ambition, treachery, folly, and pride, which were bound to assert themselves in time, no matter what people’s better intentions.

A new book from Oxford University Press, The Character Gap: How Good Are We?, by Wake Forest philosophy professor Christian Miller, shows the Framers were more or less correct about human nature. We really are, in the author’s words, “a mixed bag”: not altogether terrible, but not so great, either. The Framers were right to design our institutions as they did. Whether those institutions can survive over the long run remains to be seen. Here’s the description of the book from the Oxford website:

We like to think of ourselves, our friends, and our families as decent people. We may not be saints, but we are still honest, relatively kind, and mostly trustworthy. Miller argues here that we are badly mistaken in thinking this. Hundreds of recent studies in psychology tell a different story: that we all have serious character flaws that prevent us from being as good as we think we are – and that we do not even recognize that these flaws exist. But neither are most of us cruel or dishonest. Instead, Miller argues, we are a mixed bag. On the one hand, most of us in a group of bystanders will do nothing as someone cries out for help in an emergency. Yet it is also true that there will be many times when we will selflessly come to the aid of a complete stranger – and resist the urge to lie, cheat, or steal even if we could get away with it. Much depends on cues in our social environment. Miller uses this recent psychological literature to explain what the notion of “character” really means today, and how we can use this new understanding to develop a character better in sync with the kind of people we want to be.

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