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.

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Marsden, “Religion & American Culture”

George Marsden is one of several great Evangelical historians of American religion (a group that also includes the likes of Mark Noll and Nathan Hatch) who has made major contributions to the study of Christianity as a historiographically seriously AmericanMarsden phenomenon. Indeed, it strikes me that Noll’s important The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind was written in 1990, and since then the community of serious Evangelical scholars in history and elsewhere has become very rich and interesting. Here is a new book by Marsden, Religion & American Culture: A Brief History (Eerdmans) which looks like it could serve as a useful introduction to his work more broadly.

While Americans still profess to be one of the most religious people in the industrialized world, many aspects of American culture have long been secular and materialistic. That is just one of the many paradoxes, contradictions, and surprises in the relationship between Christianity and American culture. In this book George Marsden, a leading historian of American Christianity and award-winning author, tells the story of that relationship in a concise and thought-provoking way.

Surveying the history of religion and American culture from the days of the earliest European settlers right up through the elections of 2016, Marsden offers the kind of historically and religiously informed scholarship that has made him one of the nation’s most respected and decorated historians. Students in the classroom and history readers of all ages will benefit from engaging with the story Marsden tells.

Callanan, “Montesquieu’s Liberalism and the Problem of Universal Politics”

The contest between globalism and nationalism, seen in so many political contests today Callananhere and abroad, might be understood as one facet of a deeper problem: whether politics–and liberal politics specifically–is a fundamentally universal activity or instead one rooted in cultural and contingent particularities. Here is a very interesting new book by Middlebury College political theorist Keegan Callanan about Montesquieu’s thought, but with clear implications for the way in which we think about universalism and particularism in politics. Professor Callanan’s book is Montesquieu’s Liberalism and the Problem of Universal Politics (CUP).

Dubbed ‘the oracle’ by no less an authority than James Madison, Montesquieu stands as a theoretical founder of the liberal political tradition. But equally central to his project was his account of the relationship of law to each nation’s particular customs and place, a teaching that militates against universal political solutions. This teaching has sometimes been thought to stand in tension with his liberal constitutionalism. In this book, Keegan Callanan argues that Montesquieu’s political particularism and liberalism are complementary and mutually reinforcing parts of a coherent whole. In developing this argument, Callanan considers Montesquieu’s regime pluralism, psychological conception of liberty, approach to political reform, and account of ‘the customs of a free people’, including the complex interaction of religion and commerce. Callanan concludes that, by re-orienting our understanding of liberalism and redirecting our attention toward liberty’s distinctive preconditions, a return to Montesquieu’s political philosophy leaves us better prepared to confront liberal democracy’s contested claim to universality.

Fukuyama, “Identity”

From the well-known author of the deeply influential and not particularly convincing Fukuyama“The End of History and the Last Man” comes this new book about identity and the “demand for recognition” as the key to understanding contemporary politics. Certainly the demand for recognition has fueled many developments in the law, including the recent rise to prominence of dignity-related theories of legal right in constitutional law. The book is Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, by Francis Fukuyama (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and looks to be in part a self-help book for liberal democracies for coping with this form of politics–another call to “forge” a “universal” notion of “dignity.” For a very different, and, to my mind, much more persuasive account of “dignity” today, see Mark’s recent piece on the subject.

In 2014, Francis Fukuyama wrote that American institutions were in decay, as the state was progressively captured by powerful interest groups. Two years later, his predictions were borne out by the rise to power of a series of political outsiders whose economic nationalism and authoritarian tendencies threatened to destabilize the entire international order. These populist nationalists seek direct charismatic connection to “the people,” who are usually defined in narrow identity terms that offer an irresistible call to an in-group and exclude large parts of the population as a whole.

Demand for recognition of one’s identity is a master concept that unifies much of what is going on in world politics today. The universal recognition on which liberal democracy is based has been increasingly challenged by narrower forms of recognition based on nation, religion, sect, race, ethnicity, or gender, which have resulted in anti-immigrant populism, the upsurge of politicized Islam, the fractious “identity liberalism” of college campuses, and the emergence of white nationalism. Populist nationalism, said to be rooted in economic motivation, actually springs from the demand for recognition and therefore cannot simply be satisfied by economic means. The demand for identity cannot be transcended; we must begin to shape identity in a way that supports rather than undermines democracy.

Identity is an urgent and necessary book—a sharp warning that unless we forge a universal understanding of human dignity, we will doom ourselves to continuing conflict.

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.

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Pontano, “The Virtues and Vices of Speech”

A new English translation of this wonderful 15th century work by the poet, scholar, man Pontano.jpgof letters, and Neapolitan statesman Giovanni Pontano. From a time when scholars thought about whether speech was healthy or not for the polity, and sought to influence public policy accordingly. I’m sure that there are more than a few things of use in this old work, originally titled De Sermone, for today’s interminable debates about the value of free speech in American society. The book is The Virtues and Vices of Speech, by Giovanni Pontano (Harvard University Press) (translated by G.W. Pigman III).

Giovanni Pontano, who adopted the academic sobriquet “Gioviano,” was prime minister to several kings of Naples and the most important Neapolitan humanist of the quattrocento. Best known today as a Latin poet, he also composed dialogues depicting the intellectual life of the humanist academy of which he was the head, and, late in life, a number of moral essays that became his most popular prose works. The De sermone (On Speech), translated into English here for the first time, aims to provide a moral anatomy, following Aristotelian principles, of various aspects of speech such as truthfulness and deception, flattery, gossip, loquacity, calumny, mercantile bargaining, irony, wit, and ridicule. In each type of speech, Pontano tries to identify what should count as the virtuous mean, that which identifies the speaker as a person of education, taste, and moral probity.

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.

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