Stanley, “Christianity in the Twentieth Century”

It was only last week that Mark noted University of Edinburgh historian BrianStanley Stanley’s book on Evangelicalism. Well, Professor Stanley has been busy, because he also has a second new book, Christianity in the Twentieth Century: A World History (Princeton UP). In American law, the twentieth century saw major changes as respects Christianity. Christianity is far and away the predominant religion in the United States as a historical matter, and nearly all of the Supreme Court’s Establishment Clause firepower was directed at it in the twentieth century (as I discuss in this paper). It would be interesting to see what Professor Stanley has to say about the American situation in this new book.

Christianity in the Twentieth Century charts the transformation of one of the world’s great religions during an age marked by world wars, genocide, nationalism, decolonization, and powerful ideological currents, many of them hostile to Christianity. Written by a leading scholar of world Christianity, the book traces how Christianity evolved from a religion defined by the culture and politics of Europe to the expanding polycentric and multicultural faith it is today–one whose growing popular support is strongest in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, China, and other parts of Asia.

Brian Stanley sheds critical light on themes of central importance for understanding the global contours of modern Christianity, illustrating each one with contrasting case studies, usually taken from different parts of the world. Unlike other books on world Christianity, this one is not a regional survey or chronological narrative, nor does it focus on theology or ecclesiastical institutions. Rather, Stanley provides a history of Christianity as a popular faith experienced and lived by its adherents, telling a compelling and multifaceted story of Christendom’s fortunes in Europe, North America, and across the rest of the globe.

Transnational in scope and drawing on the latest scholarship, Christianity in the Twentieth Century demonstrates how Christianity has had less to fear from the onslaughts of secularism than from the readiness of Christians themselves to accommodate their faith to ideologies that privilege racial identity or radical individualism.

Gienapp, “The Second Creation”

Here’s an interesting new volume that seems to want very much to reflect an anti-originalist view of the meaning of constitutional text (and that aspires to “explosive”Second Creation implications for originalism), and yet might be thought, at least from the description, to be consistent with certain theories of “liquidation” of constitutional meaning that have been employed to supplement originalism. Incidentally, the original meaning of the religion clauses, as Donald Drakeman and others have shown, is notoriously opaque. Perhaps it might benefit from the sorts of methods employed by the author in this work. The book is The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era (Harvard UP), by the historian Jonathan Gienapp.

Americans widely believe that the United States Constitution was created when it was drafted in 1787 and ratified in 1788. But in a shrewd rereading of the founding era, Jonathan Gienapp upends this long-held assumption, recovering the unknown story of American constitutional creation in the decade after its adoption—a story with explosive implications for current debates over constitutional originalism and interpretation.

When the Constitution first appeared, it was shrouded in uncertainty. Not only was its meaning unclear, but so too was its essential nature. Was the American Constitution a written text, or something else? Was it a legal text? Was it finished or unfinished? What rules would guide its interpretation? Who would adjudicate competing readings? As political leaders put the Constitution to work, none of these questions had answers. Through vigorous debates they confronted the document’s uncertainty, and—over time—how these leaders imagined the Constitution radically changed. They had begun trying to fix, or resolve, an imperfect document, but they ended up fixing, or cementing, a very particular notion of the Constitution as a distinctively textual and historical artifact circumscribed in space and time. This means that some of the Constitution’s most definitive characteristics, ones which are often treated as innate, were only added later and were thus contingent and optional.

Rosenblatt, “The Lost History of Liberalism”

Here is what looks like a rich and very useful intellectual history of liberalism that Liberalismdisagrees with, or at least greatly qualifies, certain contemporary views about the nature of the dominant political philosophy of the last 500 years. Of particular interest is the authors claim that many “liberals” were originally deeply religious thinkers and invested in the comprehensive (to use a modern term) morality of liberalism. The book is The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century (Princeton UP) by historian Helena Rosenblatt.

The Lost History of Liberalism challenges our most basic assumptions about a political creed that has become a rallying cry—and a term of derision—in today’s increasingly divided public square. Taking readers from ancient Rome to today, Helena Rosenblatt traces the evolution of the words “liberal” and “liberalism,” revealing the heated debates that have taken place over their meaning.

In this timely and provocative book, Rosenblatt debunks the popular myth of liberalism as a uniquely Anglo-American tradition centered on individual rights. She shows that it was the French Revolution that gave birth to liberalism and Germans who transformed it. Only in the mid-twentieth century did the concept become widely known in the United States—and then, as now, its meaning was hotly debated. Liberals were originally moralists at heart. They believed in the power of religion to reform society, emphasized the sanctity of the family, and never spoke of rights without speaking of duties. It was only during the Cold War and America’s growing world hegemony that liberalism was refashioned into an American ideology focused so strongly on individual freedoms.

Today, we still can’t seem to agree on liberalism’s meaning. In the United States, a “liberal” is someone who advocates big government, while in France, big government is contrary to “liberalism.” Political debates founder because of semantic and conceptual confusion. The Lost History of Liberalism sets the record straight on a core tenet of today’s political conversation and lays the foundations for a more constructive discussion about the future of liberal democracy.

“Dignity in the Legal and Political Philosophy of Ronald Dworkin” (Khurshid et al., eds.)

“Dignity” has become an increasingly important legal value in recent decades. It has Dworkintaken up a central position in the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence of substantive due process, where values including privacy and autonomy occupied the limelight in prior decades. Dignity has become, in these discussions, a right that the state can and/or must confer to particular individuals and groups for identitarian reasons. Dignity has a much longer and richer heritage in European legal systems as the source of rights in, for example, the European Convention on Human Rights and caselaw from the European Court of Human Rights.

The path of dignity in Anglophone legal philosophy is a complex one as well. Human dignity was not particularly emphasized by the great figures of legal positivism (Hart and Raz, for example, the latter of whom has focused primarily on autonomy). But recent studies by philosophers including Jeremy Waldron have also placed it in a more central position. Here is a new volume of essays concerning the place of dignity in the work of the eminent philosopher of law and political philosopher, Ronald Dworkin: Dignity in the Legal and Political Philosophy of Ronald Dworkin (OUP), edited by Salman Khurshid, Lokendra Malik, and Veronica Rodriguez-Blanco.

Well-known for his contribution to the juristic world, Professor Ronald Dworkin was an outstanding legal philosopher of his generation. This volume celebrates the thoughts of Ronald Dworkin on dignity. The contributors have critically engaged with different perspectives of Dworkin’s thoughts on dignity. The aim is to shed light on juridical and moral contemporary conundrums such as the role of dignity in constitutional contexts in India, and the understanding of dignity as either a foundation of human rights or as a supra value that illuminates other values and rights.

The volume is divided into four parts. The first part ‘Integrity, Values, Interpretation, and Objectivity’ focuses on Dworkin’s interpretive methodology and examines the way his value holism relies on his interpretative methodology. The second part ‘Dignity, Responsibility, and Free Will’ concentrates on elucidating the complex relationship between dignity, human will, and responsibility in Dworkin’s moral, legal, and political philosophy. In the third part ‘Freedom of Speech, Right to Privacy, and Rights’, the authors use Dworkin’s philosophical moral framework and the interpretative methodology to shed light on his own views on freedom of speech and the language of rights, including human rights. The fourth part ‘Dignity, Constitutions, and Legal Systems’ critically discusses Dworkin’s interpretative methodology to understand dignity in the context of constitutions, state, and law beyond the state. With contributions from eminent scholars across the world, the present volume will help in disseminating Dworkin’s rich jurisprudential thoughts.

Reinert, “The Academy of Fisticuffs”

9780674976641-lgIn this space last month, I wrote about a reference I had seen to an 18th Century Italian school called “The Academy of Fists” and suggested Marc might know what this was. I never received a response, and so I’ve had to do the digging on my own. It turns out it was a group of Enlightenment thinkers, including Cesare Beccaria, who sought to establish a new, secular order based in commerce–the Italian version of the doux commerce school. Later this year, Harvard will publish a study of the group, The Academy of Fisticuffs: Political Economy and Commercial Society in Enlightenment Italy, by Harvard Business School professor Sophus Reinert. The doux commerce theory has drawn a lot of interest from scholars lately and this new book looks like it will be a good read. Here’s the description from the Harvard website:

The terms “capitalism” and “socialism” continue to haunt our political and economic imaginations, but we rarely consider their interconnected early history. Even the eighteenth century had its “socialists,” but unlike those of the nineteenth, they paradoxically sought to make the world safe for “capitalists.” The word “socialists” was first used in Northern Italy as a term of contempt for the political economists and legal reformers Pietro Verri and Cesare Beccaria, author of the epochal On Crimes and Punishments. Yet the views and concerns of these first socialists, developed inside a pugnacious intellectual coterie dubbed the Academy of Fisticuffs, differ dramatically from those of the socialists that followed.

Sophus Reinert turns to Milan in the late 1700s to recover the Academy’s ideas and the policies they informed. At the core of their preoccupations lay the often lethal tension among states, markets, and human welfare in an era when the three were becoming increasingly intertwined. What distinguished these thinkers was their articulation of a secular basis for social organization, rooted in commerce, and their insistence that political economy trumped theology as the underpinning for peace and prosperity within and among nations.

Reinert argues that the Italian Enlightenment, no less than the Scottish, was central to the emergence of political economy and the project of creating market societies. By reconstructing ideas in their historical contexts, he addresses motivations and contingencies at the very foundations of modernity.

Movsesian at Princeton This Weekend

poster-conference_0

Just an FYI that I’ll be appearing at Princeton this weekend at the annual Madison Program conference, the theme of which this year is, “Taking the Measure of Where We Are Today.” I’ll be speaking on the panel, “Religious Freedom at Home and Abroad,” on Friday afternoon at 1:30, along with John DiIulio, Jr., Michael Stokes Paulsen, and Katrina Lantos Swett. Readers of the blog, stop by and say hello!

Stanley, “The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism”

3890Global Evangelicalism did not begin after the Second World War. The First Great Awakening in colonial America was a transatlantic phenomenon–George Whitefield was English, after all–and people whom we would today call Evangelical missionaries worked diligently in Asia in the 19th century. But it’s fair to say that global Evangelicalism increased in the second half of the 20th century, if only because globalization generally became a more important phenomenon in so many aspects of life. A new book from InterVarsity Press, The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism: The Age of Billy Graham and John Stott, by University of Edinburgh professor Brian Stanley, explores the recent history. Here’s a description from the publisher’s website:

Evangelical Christianity underwent extraordinary expansion—geographically, culturally and theologically—in the second half of the twentieth century. How and why did it spread and change so much? How did its strategic responses to a rapidly changing world affect its diffusion, for better or for worse?

This volume in the History of Evangelicalism series offers an authoritative survey of worldwide evangelicalism following the Second World War. It discusses the globalization of movements of mission, evangelism and revival, paying particular attention to the charismatic and neo-Pentecostal movements. The trends in evangelical biblical scholarship, preaching and apologetics were no less significant, including the discipline of hermeneutics in key issues. Extended treatment is given to the part played by southern-hemisphere Christianity in broadening evangelical understandings of mission.

While the role of familiar leaders such as Billy Graham, John Stott, Carl Henry, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Festo Kivengere receives full coverage, space is also given to lesser-known figures, such as Edward Carnell, Agnes Sanford, Orlando Costas, John Gatu and John Laird. The final chapter considers whether evangelical expansion has been at the price of theological coherence and stability, and discusses the phenomenon of “postevangelicalism.”

Painting a comprehensive picture of evangelicalism’s development as well as narrating stories of influential individuals, events and organizations, The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism is a stimulating and informative contribution to a valuable series.

Abrams, “The Soul of the First Amendment”

ccfdf983649ff2027e0abb1ddf4ffcdfIf you want to know about the law of religious freedom in the United States today, you have to know about free-speech doctrine as well: Many religious-freedom cases, including Masterpiece Cakeshop, which is currently before the Court, involve free speech as well as free exercise claims. And, in a development no one predicted a generation ago, free speech has gone from being a concern of the Left to a concern of the Right. Today, on campuses and increasingly in public life more broadly, it’s typically conservatives who insist on the right to speak, as against progressives who see free speech as a vehicle for oppression. These matters are no doubt discussed in a new book by Floyd Abrams, The Soul of the First Amendment, released last month by Yale University Press. I think of Abrams both as a progressive and a free-speech absolutist, which makes him a bit of an anomaly nowadays, and his views on today’s controversies will be very interesting. Here’s the description from the Yale website:

A lively and controversial overview by the nation’s most celebrated First Amendment lawyer of the unique protections for freedom of speech in America

The right of Americans to voice their beliefs without government approval or oversight is protected under what may well be the most honored and least understood addendum to the US Constitution—the First Amendment. Floyd Abrams, a noted lawyer and award-winning legal scholar specializing in First Amendment issues, examines the degree to which American law protects free speech more often, more intensely, and more controversially than is the case anywhere else in the world, including democratic nations such as Canada and England. In this lively, powerful, and provocative work, the author addresses legal issues from the adoption of the Bill of Rights through recent cases such as Citizens United. He also examines the repeated conflicts between claims of free speech and those of national security occasioned by the publication of classified material such as was contained in the Pentagon Papers and was made public by WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden.

 

Perry, “Bible Culture and Authority in the Early United States”

9780691179131For most of our history, America has been a Biblical nation. I don’t mean that statement to be polemical. It’s simply a fact that, for hundreds of years, Americans had a deep familiarity with the Christian Bible and would routinely and unselfconsciously refer to it in their communal life, including their political life. Certainly this was the case at the start of our history. A new, interesting-looking book from Princeton University Press, Bible Culture and Authority in the Early United States, by Princeton religion professor Seth Perry, explores the early history. Perry’s basic point seems to be that the Bible’s meaning–I assume he means the meaning the speaker was trying to convey, rather than the true meaning of the text–shifted depending on who was citing it, and for what purpose. Well, the Devil can cite Scripture. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

Early Americans claimed that they looked to “the Bible alone” for authority, but the Bible was never, ever alone. Bible Culture and Authority in the Early United States is a wide-ranging exploration of the place of the Christian Bible in America in the decades after the Revolution. Attending to both theoretical concerns about the nature of scriptures and to the precise historical circumstances of a formative period in American history, Seth Perry argues that the Bible was not a “source” of authority in early America, as is often said, but rather a site of authority: a cultural space for editors, commentators, publishers, preachers, and readers to cultivate authoritative relationships.

While paying careful attention to early national bibles as material objects, Perry shows that “the Bible” is both a text and a set of relationships sustained by a universe of cultural practices and assumptions. Moreover, he demonstrates that Bible culture underwent rapid and fundamental changes in the early nineteenth century as a result of developments in technology, politics, and religious life. At the heart of the book are typical Bible readers, otherwise unknown today, and better-known figures such as Zilpha Elaw, Joseph Smith, Denmark Vesey, and Ellen White, a group that includes men and women, enslaved and free, Baptists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists, Mormons, Presbyterians, and Quakers. What they shared were practices of biblical citation in writing, speech, and the performance of their daily lives. While such citation contributed to the Bible’s authority, it also meant that the meaning of the Bible constantly evolved as Americans applied it to new circumstances and identities.

“The Dangerous God” (Erdozain, ed.)

7706Lately, religious freedom has become a matter of intense debate in the United States. The easy assumption that has existed throughout most of American history, that religion is a good thing that benefits society as a whole, is no longer so widely accepted. And so believers increasingly must justify the protection of religious associations to skeptical fellow citizens.

One key argument is that religious associations provide a necessary check on totalitarianism. Religious associations offer competing sources of loyalty and identity that prevent the state from arrogating too much power, and that allow citizens, through joint action, to resist tyranny. We tend to forget how much religion, and particularly Christianity, figured in the downfall of Communism. That was certainly true in places like Poland, but it was also true, though to a lesser extent, in the Soviet Union itself. A recent book from the Northern Illinois University Press, The Dangerous God: Christianity and the Soviet Experimentdescribes the role of Christianity in the culture of dissidents in the Soviet Union. The editor is Dominic Erdozain (King’s College London). Here is the publisher’s description:

At the heart of the Soviet experiment was a belief in the impermanence of the human spirit: souls could be engineered; conscience could be destroyed. The project was, in many ways, chillingly successful. But the ultimate failure of a totalitarian regime to fulfill its ambitions for social and spiritual mastery had roots deeper than the deficiencies of the Soviet leadership or the chaos of a “command” economy. Beneath the rhetoric of scientific communism was a culture of intellectual and cultural dissidence, which may be regarded as the “prehistory of perestroika.” This volume explores the contribution of Christian thought and belief to this culture of dissent and survival, showing how religious and secular streams of resistance joined in an unexpected and powerful partnership.

The essays in The Dangerous God seek to shed light on the dynamic and subversive capacities of religious faith in a context of brutal oppression, while acknowledging the often-collusive relationship between clerical elites and the Soviet authorities. Against the Marxist notion of the “ideological” function of religion, the authors set the example of people for whom faith was more than an opiate; against an enduring mythology of secularization, they propose the centrality of religious faith in the intellectual, political, and cultural life of the late modern era. This volume will appeal to specialists on religion in Soviet history as well as those interested in the history of religion under totalitarian regimes.

%d bloggers like this: