Littlejohn, “The Peril and Promise of Christian Liberty”

If you want to understand the classical liberal approach to church and state, you will find yourself returning repeatedly to John Locke. And, in Locke, you’ll come across references to the Anglican thinker Richard Hooker. Learning more about Hooker and his approach to natural law is thus a very good idea. A new book from Eerdmans, The Peril and Promise of Christian Liberty: Richard Hooker, the Puritans, and Protestant Political Theology, by W. Bradford Littlejohn, seems a promising place to start. Here’s the publisher’s description:

9780802872562How do Christians determine when to obey God even if that means disobeying human authorities? In this book W. Bradford Littlejohn addresses that question, with particular attention to the magisterial political-theological work of Richard Hooker, a leading figure in the sixteenth-century English Reformation.

Littlejohn shows how Martin Luther and other Reformers considered Christian liberty to be compatible with considerable civil authority over the church, but he also analyzes the ambiguities and tensions of that relationship and how it helped provoke the Puritan movement. The heart of the book examines how, according to Richard Hooker, certain forms of Puritan legalism posed a greater threat to Christian liberty than did meddling monarchs. In expounding Hooker’s remarkable attempt to offer a balanced synthesis of liberty and authority in church, state, and conscience, Littlejohn draws out pertinent implications for Christian liberty and politics today.

Kirchik, “The End of Europe”

Well, this looks depressing. In a new release from Yale University Press, The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age, author James Kirchik sees a dark time looming ahead for Europe, in which religious bigotry and nationalism will return to poison the good work of the post-war era. Liberalism is under a lot of stress in Europe right now, and liberalism’s inability to resolve religious tensions is one of the main reasons. Still, I don’t think it’s fair to link Brexit, which seemed more about national sovereignty than anything else, with rising anti-Semitism. Readers can judge for themselves. Here’s the description from the Yale website:

9f03ecba67f52d4bb0872ae9bfd38e40Once the world’s bastion of liberal, democratic values, Europe is now having to confront demons it thought it had laid to rest. The old pathologies of anti-Semitism, populist nationalism, and territorial aggression are threatening to tear the European postwar consensus apart. In riveting dispatches from this unfolding tragedy, James Kirchick shows us the shallow disingenuousness of the leaders who pushed for “Brexit;” examines how a vast migrant wave is exacerbating tensions between Europeans and their Muslim minorities; explores the rising anti-Semitism that causes Jewish schools and synagogues in France and Germany to resemble armed bunkers; and describes how Russian imperial ambitions are destabilizing nations from Estonia to Ukraine. With President Trump now threatening to abandon America’s traditional role as upholder of the liberal world order and guarantor of the continent’s security, Europe may be alone in dealing with these unprecedented challenges.

Based on extensive firsthand reporting, this book is a provocative, disturbing look at a continent in unexpected crisis.

Greely, “The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction”

As Rod Dreher points out in his new book, The Benedict Option, the sexual revolution, especially the separation of sex from reproduction that the Pill made possible, posed a deep challenge to traditional Christian ethics–a challenge Christianity has pretty much lost, in law and popular culture. A new book by Stanford Law Professor Henry Greely, The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction, predicts that technology will soon make the separation of sex from reproduction complete. One always has to be a little skeptical about “prophetic scholarship” directed, if the Harvard University Press announcement is to be believed, at readers yet “unborn.” But, if Greely is right, traditional Christian ethics will face even more difficult challenges in the future.

Here’s a description of the book from the Harvard website:

9780674728967Within twenty, maybe forty, years most people in developed countries will stop having sex for the purpose of reproduction. Instead, prospective parents will be told as much as they wish to know about the genetic makeup of dozens of embryos, and they will pick one or two for implantation, gestation, and birth. And it will be safe, lawful, and free. In this work of prophetic scholarship, Henry T. Greely explains the revolutionary biological technologies that make this future a seeming inevitability and sets out the deep ethical and legal challenges humanity faces as a result.

Developments in genetics and stem cell research are giving rise to new techniques that will vastly improve preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and in vitro fertilization (IVF), making sexless reproduction not just possible but cheap and easy—what Greely coins “easy PGD.” The first child born using PGD is now 25 years old, and thousands more are born each year. Advanced by economic, social, legal, and political forces, the emerging science has made the concerns that were once the stuff of science fiction into real problems that our children and grandchildren will face routinely.

Deeply informed by Greely’s command of both science and law, The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction is a book for parents, citizens, and all those, born and unborn, who will face the consequences of a new era of human reproduction.

On the Religious Liberty Order

At the First Things site, I have a post on last week’s executive order on religious liberty. I argue that the order doesn’t do very much about religious accommodation, but that doing little may be a strategic choice by the Trump administration. I also argue that weakening the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax exempt religious organizations from electioneering, would be a bad thing, and inconsistent with American tradition.

Here’s a sample:

[A]voiding partisan political contests is a longstanding tradition for American churches, and a very beneficial one. In the nineteenth century, Tocqueville observed that Christianity had a powerful influence in American politics; religion was, he famously said, “the first” of our “political institutions.” But Christianity’s influence on politics was an indirect one, and powerful precisely because it was indirect. Churches shaped Americans’ attitudes and morals, and Americans’ attitudes and morals shaped our politics. But churches studiously avoided party contests as such, and clergy “maintained a sort of professional pride in remaining outside of” them. As a result, Tocqueville observed, churches were never mixed up in the public mind with the vicissitudes of electoral campaigns, and maintained people’s confidence and respect.

This practice has served us very well. This is not to say that churches should avoid commenting on public questions, only that churches should refrain from endorsing or opposing particular candidates and parties, and avoid electioneering as such. In fact, I’ve never known a member of the clergy, liberal or conservative, who said he wanted to endorse or oppose a particular candidate from the pulpit. I suspect that, deep down, they all understood that mixing to that extent in partisan contests would interfere with their mission of preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments. If last week’s order signals a change in our longstanding American tradition, it’s not a change conservatives should celebrate.

You can read the post here.

Kepel, “Terror in France”

Last weekend, France held a presidential election; as expected, the independent candidate Emmanuel Macron prevailed. A key issue in the election, as in all French politics, was what to do about Islamist terrorism in France. Last month, Princeton released an English translation of a 2015 work by French political scientist Gilles Kepel (École Normale Supérieure), Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the West.  Here’s a description of the book from the Princeton website:

j10926The virulent new brand of Islamic extremism threatening the West

In November 2015, ISIS terrorists massacred scores of people in Paris with coordinated attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, cafés and restaurants, and the national sports stadium. On Bastille Day in 2016, an ISIS sympathizer drove a truck into crowds of vacationers at the beaches of Nice, and two weeks later an elderly French priest was murdered during morning Mass by two ISIS militants. Here is Gilles Kepel’s explosive account of the radicalization of a segment of Muslim youth that led to those attacks—and of the failure of governments in France and across Europe to address it. It is a book everyone in the West must read.

Terror in France shows how these atrocities represent a paroxysm of violence that has long been building. The turning point was in 2005, when the worst riots in modern French history erupted in the poor, largely Muslim suburbs of Paris after the accidental deaths of two boys who had been running from the police. The unrest—or “French intifada”—crystallized a new consciousness among young French Muslims. Some have fallen prey to the allure of “war of civilizations” rhetoric in ways never imagined by their parents and grandparents.

This is the highly anticipated English edition of Kepel’s sensational French bestseller, first published shortly after the Paris attacks. Now fully updated to reflect the latest developments and featuring a new introduction by the author, Terror in France reveals the truth about a virulent new wave of jihadism that has Europe as its main target. Its aim is to divide European societies from within by instilling fear, provoking backlash, and achieving the ISIS dream—shared by Europe’s Far Right—of separating Europe’s growing Muslim minority community from the rest of its citizens.

“Patriarch Kirill in His Own Words” (Hatfield, ed.)

In recent years, the Russian Orthodox Church has taken the lead in asserting an Orthodox approach to human rights, one that focuses on the moral value of tradition and which differs in significant respects from the secular human rights model. In close coordination with the Russian government, the Church, and especially its leader, Patriarch Kirill, has promoted its vision of human rights in international fora, including the UN’s Human Rights Council, often to the consternation of Western human rights advocates.

It’s imperative for students of human rights law to understand the Church’s model and its appeal to tradition–an appeal that differs in significant ways from Western understandings of tradition. In fact, next month in Trento, the Center will co-host a conference on the different meanings of tradition in American and Russian thought; more on this to come. Meanwhile, here’s a new book from the St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press on Kirill’s thought, Patriarch Kirill in His Own Words, edited by the seminary’s president, Chad Hatfield. The description is from the publisher’s website:

KirillProfiles8__77148.1479225081.300.300Patriarch Kirill shepherds the largest flock in the Orthodox world in a time of great transition and growth. In the past century Russia experienced the greatest persecution of Christians in history. But the “blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” and in the years following the fall of the Soviet Union the Church in Russia has been reborn and has grown beyond all expectation.

This unprecedented renewal continues under Patriarch Kirill’s pastoral guidance. In this book we encounter the patriarch’s vision for the Church’s mission and public life, including her relationship with the state. We also find the penetrating words of a spiritual father who offers counsel on how we can fight the passions and acquire the virtues, who gives guidance on how we can find our way in the midst of modern temptations, confusions, and distractions. At the very center of Patriarch Kirill’s vision we encounter Christ, who wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2.4).

Panel: “And Justice for All?” (New York, May 16)

On May 16 in New York, the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture will host a panel, “And Justice for All? The Promise of Religious Liberty in a Pluralistic World.” Here are the details from the Fordham events page:

At a time when human rights and human lives are at risk in America and abroad, how can we reconcile conflicting views of how religious beliefs relate to public policy? Is religious freedom a veil for bigotry or an essential protection against sectarian persecution?

Join us as we explore the contentious issue of religious liberty and its intersection with immigration, health care, same-sex marriage, and other issues.

Panelists
Vincent D. Rougeau
Dean, Boston College Law School

Thomas Berg
Professor of Law, St. Thomas University

Carol Keehan
CEO, Catholic Health Association

Asma Uddin
Director of Strategy, Center for Islam and Religious Freedom

Ani Sarkissian
Political Scientist; Author of The Varieties of Religious Repression: Why Governments Restrict Religion

This event is free and open to the public. For further details, click here.

Fake Law

Though that could well describe President Trump’s “Executive Order on Religious Liberty” issued yesterday, I have something different in mind in this article. A bit:

Welcome to the rise of fake law. Just as fake news spreads ideologically motivated misinformation with a newsy veneer, fake law brings us judicial posturing, virtue signaling, and opinionating masquerading as jurisprudence. And just as fake news augurs the end of authoritative reporting, fake law portends the diminution of law’s legitimacy and the warping of judges’ self-understanding of their constitutional role.

Dyer & Watson, “C. S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law”

C.S. Lewis was neither a legal theorist or a political philosopher. But his works often touch on law and politics. He famously argued for distinguishing between Christian and civil marriage, for example. And natural law was a recurrent theme in his work, especially his concept of “the Tao,” a term he borrowed from Asian religion, which for him signified the objective values that all human cultures share. Lewis explains the Tao most thoroughly in The Abolition of Man, but he alludes to it in other works as well, including Mere Christianity and even the Space Trilogy.

Next month, Cambridge releases a new study of Lewis’s views on these questions, C. S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law, by Justin Buckley Dyer (University of Missouri-Columbia) and Micah J. Watson (Calvin College). Here is the publisher’s description:

9781107518971Conventional wisdom holds that C. S. Lewis was uninterested in politics and public affairs. The conventional wisdom is wrong. As Justin Buckley Dyer and Micah J. Watson show in this groundbreaking work, Lewis was deeply interested in the fundamental truths and falsehoods about human nature and how these conceptions manifest themselves in the contested and turbulent public square. Ranging from the depths of Lewis’ philosophical treatments of epistemology and moral pedagogy to practical considerations of morals legislation and responsible citizenship, this book explores the contours of Lewis’ multi-faceted Christian engagement with political philosophy generally and the natural-law tradition in particular. Drawing from the full range of Lewis’ corpus and situating his thought in relationship to both ancient and modern seminal thinkers, C. S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law offers an unprecedented look at politics and political thought from the perspective of one of the twentieth century’s most influential writers.

Dreher, “The Benedict Option”

Rod Dreher is one of the most interesting and prolific writers on religion and culture in America today. He’s also a participant in the Tradition Project, our center’s multi-year program on the continuing value of received wisdom for law, politics, and culture. He’s out with a new best seller, The Benedict Option, on the need for contemporary Christians to adapt, to present circumstances, an older model of intentional Christian living. He argues that adapting this older model will be necessary for Christian communities to survive in a post-Christian age.

We’re hoping to interview Rod about his book in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, here’s a description from the Penguin Random House website:

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