The Revival of Nationalism in 2016

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At the Library of Law and Liberty site this morning, I have a post on the elections of 2016. Across the West this year, the unthinkable has occurred again and again: Brexit; the election of Donald Trump; the popularity of the National Front in France and Euroskeptic parties like Lega Nord and the Five Star Movement in Italy. What explains these developments?

Although traditional conservatism, including religious conservatism, has had a role, I argue that the most important factor has been the revival of nationalism across the West:

In short, although traditional conservatism has been on the winning side in recent political contests, it has been a junior partner in a larger project: the revival of nationalism. Nationalism is a complicated phenomenon that takes different forms. A good working definition is the following: a political program that unites a people with a common ancestry or culture together with a sovereign state. Nationalism rejects attempts to subordinate the state to outside governance. Often, it seeks to protect local traditions from being diluted by an aggressive global culture. In its present iteration, it sets the nation-state against supranational, liberal regimes like the EU or NAFTA, and local customs and traditions, including religious traditions, against alien, outside trends….

One can easily perceive nationalism’s role in the politics of 2016. Repeatedly, the side advocating a recovery of sovereignty from supranational bodies and a limit on immigration prevailed. In the Brexit campaign, the “Leave” supporters argued that Britain must take back control from EU bureaucrats and assert authority over its borders. Here, Trump famously called for withdrawal from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty and for renegotiation of other free-trade agreements, including NAFTA; for a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants; and for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.

In France, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen has proudly declared that “the time of the nation state is back” and calls for restrictions on immigration and an end to multiculturalism. She maintains that the EU should be reconceived as a loose collection of sovereign states and that France should withdraw from the common currency. The ideology of Italy’s Euroskeptics is more fluid; nationalism is weaker in Italy, too. But important elements within Lega Nord and the Five Star Movement express skepticism about the EU and seek to withdraw from the euro, and also disfavor allowing large numbers of immigrants into the country.

The rise of nationalism upsets the conventional wisdom, which for some time has been predicting its demise. But, in times of crisis, people return to the nation state. I explain more here.

Primacy in the Church (Chryssavgis, ed.)

In October, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press released a two-volume set, Primacy in the Church: The Office of Primate and the Authority of Councils, edited by John Chryssavgis (Ecumenical Patriarchate). The publisher’s description follows:

primacy-set-graphic1__10048-1462973145-300-300-1PRIMACY IN THE CHURCH is a careful and critical selection of historical and theological essays, canonical and liturgical articles, as well as contemporary and contextual reflections on what is arguably the most significant and sensitive issue in both inter-Orthodox debate and inter-Christian dialogue—namely, the authority of the primate and the role of councils in the thought and tradition of the Church.

Volume One examines the development and application of a theology of primacy and synodality through the centuries. Volume Two explores how such a theology can inform contemporary ecclesiology and reconcile current practices. Chryssavgis draws together original contributions from prominent scholars today, complemented by formative selections from theologians in the recent past, as well as relevant ecumenical documents.

 

 

Esolen, “Out of the Ashes”

Next month, Regnery Publishing releases Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, by Anthony Esolen (Providence College). The publisher’s description follows:

9781621575146-frontcover-202x306It’s not your imagination: civilized human society is collapsing. Communities no longer work towards a common good; children are no longer our first priority; businesses no longer value “hard work”; arts and skills have been lost; and gender is decided by the individual, not biology.

We cannot reverse national and global trends, says professor Anthony Esolen; but we can build communities that live up to humanity’s promise and responsibility. In Out of the Ashes, Esolen identifies the gaping problems in our society and lays out a blueprint for reconstruction that puts our future in the hands of individuals focused on the good of the local community.

Todd, “Sinai and the Saints”

Coming soon from InterVarsity Press, Sinai and the Saints: Reading Old Covenant Laws for the New Covenant Community, by James M. Todd III (College of the Ozarks). The publisher’s description follows:

9780830851621What should Christians do with all the laws in the Old Testament?

The Old Testament tells the story of the beginnings of God’s salvation history, and it is part of the authoritative canon of Scripture affirmed by the church. But what role should the laws of the old covenant play in the lives of those living under the new covenant?

Can Christians embrace the commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” but ignore the laws regarding clean and unclean food? Some have suggested that Christians remain under the moral laws of the old covenant, while others have argued that some of the Old Testament laws—for example, the Ten Commandments—still apply to Christians.

James Todd makes a bold claim by contending that as followers of Jesus Christ who stand under a new covenant, Christians are no longer subject to any of the Old Testament laws. Focusing on the laws of the Pentateuch, he then addresses the proper role and benefits of the Old Testament laws in the Christian life. With wit and insight, Todd helps Christians to understand how the laws given to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai should be read by those called to live as saints.

Cockburn, “The Age of Jihad”

From Penguin Random House, a new book arguing that American policy contributed to the rise of the Islamic State, The Age of Jihad, by journalist Patrick Cockburn. The publisher’s description follows:

No Protestants on the Court

At the Liberty Law site this morning, I have a post on the absence of Protestant Christians on the Supreme Court. In historical terms, the lack of Protestants is a striking anomaly–the large majority of the 112 men and women who have sat as Justices over time has been Protestant. What explains the current situation, and might it have an effect on American law?

With regard to the first question, I argue that the absence of Protestants as to to with larger social and cultural questions. With respect to the second question, I argue, it depends on what sort of Protestant, and what sort of legal issues, one has in mind:

If Reno is right about the transformation of Mainline Protestantism into a post-Protestant WASP ethos, then it shouldn’t matter whether actual Mainline Protestants are on the Court. Given the composition of the legal profession, most people likely to be appointed to the Court will have post-Protestant WASP values, whatever their particular faith tradition. Recall my example of the Catholic or Orthodox 1L at Harvard. Post-Protestant WASP values, in other words, will be represented even without actual Mainline Protestants.

On the other hand, the absence of Evangelicals might make a difference to the Court’s decisions, at least with regard to some issues—for example, questions regarding religious liberty. Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith, which abandoned the test for constitutional purposes, most hot-button religious liberty cases nowadays turn on some version of the “compelling interest” test. This test holds that the government cannot substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless it has a compelling interest for doing so and has chosen the least restrictive means. This is the test contained in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), for example—the statute at issue in the Court’s recent decisions regarding the contraception mandate in Obamacare.

The compelling interest test requires many judgment calls: What is a “substantial burden” on religious exercise? What is a “compelling interest”? Is there a “less restrictive means” available? (In fact, it was the necessity of such intuitive judgments that led the Smith Court to abandon the compelling interest test in the constitutional context). And judgment calls depend on the intuitions of the people doing the judging. An Evangelical Christian likely would have different intuitions about these matters than a post-Protestant WASP who views religions as more or less interchangeable, and anyway not all that important. Someone who views religion as a vital guide to behavior might be more skeptical of claims that a rule does not “substantially burden” religious exercise, or that the government has offered a “compelling” interest to justify the intrusion.

In short, on at least some questions, the religious background of the justices could well make a difference, and the absence of Evangelicals on the Court affect the course of the law. You can read the whole post here.

Center Receives Major Grant from The Achelis and Bodman Foundation

Tradition ProjectWe’re delighted to announce that the Center has received a major grant from the Achelis and Bodman Foundation for its ongoing Tradition Project, a new research initiative exploring the value of tradition for contemporary citizens and the relationship of tradition and change in today’s world.

Conceived and co-directed by Professors Marc O. DeGirolami and Mark L. Movsesian, the Tradition Project seeks to develop a broad and rich understanding of what tradition—the received wisdom of the past—might continue to offer in cultivating virtuous, responsible, self-governing citizens.

The first component of the Project, which gets underway in New York next week and is supported by a generous grant from The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, examines tradition in American law and politics.

The new grant from the Achelis and Bodman Foundation will help support the second component of the Project, which focuses on tradition and culture. Slated for 2017 in New York, this component will explore tradition’s role in sustaining a common culture, defined as a people’s habits, beliefs, attitudes, education, and everyday morality—its way of life.

The Tradition Project brings together leading public figures, scholars, judges, and journalists for lectures, workshops, and sponsored research. Work related to the project will include book manuscripts, journal articles, and curricular development.

The Achelis and Bodman Foundation was established in 2015 from the merger of the Achelis Foundation and the Bodman Foundation, each of which dates to the 1940s. The Foundation sponsors grants in six major areas, including education, arts and culture, and public policy. It focuses its giving mainly in New York City.

The New York Times Gets Christianity Wrong–Again

People who follow such things know how often the mainstream media misstates basic facts about Christianity and Christian history. At the First Things site today, I recount a recent example from the New York Times, a review of a museum exhibition on Jerusalem by Pulitzer Prize winning art critic Holland Cotter.

Not only does Cotter appear ignorant of the fact that Christians revere Jerusalem because they believe the Resurrection occurred there, he also distorts Christians’ history in the city, including the Crusades. This ignorance of Christianity should alarm not only Christians, but anyone who relies on the Times, and the media more broadly, to help understand our world:

As I say, poking fun at the Times’s lack of knowledge is amusing. But there’s a serious point as well. Notwithstanding the fragmentation of the media, the Times is still the most important newspaper in America, perhaps the world. More than any other journal, it has the power to set our country’s political agenda. That’s why omissions like Cotter’s are worth noting. They reflect a basic ignorance of Christianity—of its teachings and its history—that one has to assume affects other sections of the paper as well. That the Times presents a distorted picture of Christianity shouldn’t bother only Christians. It should unsettle anyone who looks to the paper for an informed and objective account of the role of religion in the world today.

You can read the whole thing here.

 

 

Online Symposium: Two Concepts of Religious Liberty

The Law and Religion Forum is delighted to host an online symposium this month on Vincent Phillip Muñoz‘s new article, “Two Concepts of Religious Liberty: The Natural Rights and Moral Autonomy Approaches to the Free Exercise of Religion,” which appears in the current volume of the American Political Science Review (May 2016). Among other things, Muñoz (Notre Dame) argues that, from an originalist perspective, the late Justice Antonin Scalia was correct, in Employment Division v. Smith (1990), that the Free Exercise Clause does not require the state to grant believers accommodations from generally applicable and neutral laws. The Framers’ version of natural rights constitutionalism, he contends, does not require religious exemptions. The original meaning of the clause thus confirms Scalia’s reading.

Muñoz leads off the symposium with a post today. Throughout the month of September, we will post responses from Gerard Bradley (Notre Dame), Donald Drakeman (Notre Dame), Matthew Franck (Witherspoon Institute), George Thomas (Claremont McKenna), Jack Rakove (Stanford), and Corey Brettschneider (Brown). Muñoz will return at the end to offer his thoughts on the respondents’ contributions. Enjoy!

 

Movsesian on Religious Liberty at the Present Time: An Interview with First Things Magazine

Earlier this month, I sat down for an interview with First Things Magazine’s Senior Editor Mark Bauerlein on the state of religious liberty in America today. Our wide-ranging discussion covered topics like religious accommodations, the Hobby Lobby case, church autonomy, and how America’s changing religious culture influences our law. Mark and I also discussed the Center for Law and Religion and its many programs, particularly our newest endeavor, the Tradition Project.

You can view the video on the First Things site, here.

 

 

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