“Seeking the Truth” (Reinsch, ed.)

In March, the Catholic University of America Press released “Seeking the Truth: An Orestes Brownson Anthology,” edited by Richard M. Reinsch II (Liberty Fund). The publisher’s description follows:

Seeking the TruthThis anthology of essays from the great nineteenth-century thinker Orestes A. Brownson will engage the reader with key writings from one of the most compelling American Catholic intellectuals. Brownson was a spiritual seeker who migrated through Presbyterianism, Universalism, skepticism, Unitarianism, and Transcendentalist thought, and finally at age 41 to Catholicism. Politically he found himself anticipating socialism in the 1830s, then, turning into a disciple of John Calhoun’s states rights constitutionalism, and later he incorporated his criticisms of mass democracy into a unique philosophical defense of the Constitution that emerged in full bloom during the Civil War.

Brownson’s life, in its several phases, turns, and allegiances, has remained noteworthy for his rejection of modern pragmatism’s aim to obtain material comfort in service of man’s desires, while deemphasizing deeper concerns for philosophical and spiritual truth. Brownson’s writings, born from his existential wranglings were, therefore, addressed to our authentic human longings to know the truth about ourselves.

If much of late modern thought can be characterized as dualistic, fractured, and subjective, Brownson’s questing was that of a modern intellectual using modern philosophical resources in dialogue with pre-modern and classical sources to recover the dialectical whole of knowledge. Therefore the intellectual quest must contemplate the natural and the supernatural, reason and faith, religion and science, the various levels and forms of political authority, the beginning and end of man, and the relationships that exist among these sets of inquiries. Resulting from Brownson’s study of these universal questions is also a particular application of his learning. Brownson, unlike almost any other American figure, illumined the promises and the limitations of American institutions while also seeking to edify its experiment with republican self-government.

This anthology collection will be of great use for academics, graduate and undergraduate students, seminarians, and educated lay readers. the significance of Seeking the Truth is how it allows the reader to walk with Brownson through his intellectual journey and gain a further understanding of one of the best social, political, and religious thinkers of the nineteenth century.

Pehl, “The Making of Working-Class Religion”

In September, the University of Illinois Press will release “The Making of Working-Class Religion: Welding solidarity to the sacred in the Motor City,” by Matthew Pehl (Augustana University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion has played a protean role in the lives of America’s workers. In this innovative volume, Matthew Pehl focuses on Detroit to examine the religious consciousness 9780252081897_lgconstructed by the city’s working-class Catholics, African American Protestants, and southern-born white evangelicals and Pentecostals between 1910 and 1969.

Pehl embarks on an integrative view of working-class faith that ranges across boundaries of class, race, denomination, and time. As he shows, workers in the 1910s and 1920s practiced beliefs characterized by emotional expressiveness, alliance with supernatural forces, and incorporation of mass culture’s secular diversions into the sacred. That gave way to the more pragmatic class-conscious religion cultures of the New Deal era and, from the late Thirties on, a quilt of secular working-class cultures that coexisted in competitive, though creative, tension. Finally, Pehl shows how the ideology of race eclipsed class in the 1950s and 1960s, and in so doing replaced the class-conscious with the race-conscious in religious cultures throughout the city.

An ambitiously inclusive contribution to a burgeoning field, The Making of Working-Class Religion breaks new ground in the study of solidarity and the sacred in the American heartland.

Little, “The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright”

Little, “The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright”

The Many Captivities of Esther WheelwrightIn September, Yale University Press will release The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright by Ann M. Little (Colorado State University). The publisher’s description follows:

Born and raised in a New England garrison town, Esther Wheelwright (1696–1780) was captured by Wabanaki Indians at age seven. Among them, she became a Catholic and lived like any other young girl in the tribe. At age twelve, she was enrolled at a French-Canadian Ursuline convent, where she would spend the rest of her life, eventually becoming the order’s only foreign-born mother superior. Among these three major cultures of colonial North America, Wheelwright’s life was exceptional: border-crossing, multilingual, and multicultural. This meticulously researched book discovers her life through the communities of girls and women around her: the free and enslaved women who raised her in Wells, Maine; the Wabanaki women who cared for her, catechized her, and taught her to work as an Indian girl; the French-Canadian and Native girls who were her classmates in the Ursuline school; and the Ursuline nuns who led her to a religious life.

Flynt, “Southern Religion and Christian Diversity in the Twentieth Century”

In August, the University of Alabama Press will release Southern Religion and Christian Diversity in the Twentieth Century, by Wayne Flynt (Auburn University). The publisher’s description follows:Southern Religion and Christian Diversity in the Twentieth Century

Southern Religion and Christian Diversity in the Twentieth Century is a collection of fifteen essays by award-winning scholar Wayne Flynt that explores and reveals the often-forgotten religious heterogeneity of the American South.

Throughout its dramatic history, the American South has wrestled with issues such as poverty, social change, labor reform, civil rights, and party politics, and Flynt’s writing reaffirms religion as the lens through which southerners understand and attempt to answer these contentious questions. In Southern Religion and Christian Diversity in the Twentieth Century, however, Flynt gently but persuasively dispels the myth—comforting to some and dismaying to others—of religion in the South as an inert cairn of reactionary conservatism.

Flynt introduces a wealth of stories about individuals and communities of faith whose beliefs and actions map the South’s web of theological fault lines. In the early twentieth century, North Carolinian pastor Alexander McKelway became a relentless Continue reading

Hanson, “City of Gods”

In July, the Oxford University Press will release “City of Gods: Religious Freedom, Immigration, and Pluralism in Flushing, Queens,” by R. Scott Hanson (University of Pennsylvania).  The publisher’s description follows:

Known locally as the birthplace of American religious freedom, Flushing, Queens, in New York City is now so diverse and densely populated that it has become a 9780823271597microcosm of world religions. City of Gods explores the history of Flushing from the colonial period to the aftermath of September 11, 2001, spanning the origins of Vlissingen and early struggles between Quakers, Dutch authorities, Anglicans, African Americans, Catholics, and Jews to the consolidation of New York City in 1898, two World’s Fairs and postwar commemorations of Flushing’s heritage, and, finally, the Immigration Act of 1965 and the arrival of Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, and Asian and Latino Christians.

A synthesis of archival sources, oral history, and ethnography, City of Gods is a thought-provoking study of religious pluralism. Using Flushing as the backdrop to examine America’s contemporary religious diversity and what it means for the future of the United States, R. Scott Hanson explores both the possibilities and Continue reading

Barrett-Fox, “God Hates”

In June, the University Press of Kansas will release “God Hates: Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right,” by Rebecca Barrett-Fox (Arkansas State University). The publisher’s description follows:

The congregants thanked God that they weren’t like all those hopeless people outside the church, bound for hell. So the Westboro Baptist Church’s Sunday service began, 9780700622658and Rebecca Barrett-Fox, a curious observer, wondered why anyone would seek spiritual sustenance through other people’s damnation. It is a question that piques many a witness to Westboro’s more visible activity—the “GOD HATES FAGS” picketing of funerals. In God Hates, sociologist Barrett-Fox takes us behind the scenes of Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church. The first full ethnography of this infamous presence on America’s Religious Right, her book situates the church’s story in the context of American religious history—and reveals as much about the uneasy state of Christian practice in our day as it does about the workings of the Westboro Church and Fred Phelps, its founder.

God Hates traces WBC’s theological beliefs to a brand of hyper-Calvinist thought reaching back to the Puritans—an extreme Calvinism, emphasizing predestination, that has proven as off-putting as Westboro’s actions, even for other Baptists. And yet, in examining Westboro’s role in conservative politics and its contentious relationship with other fundamentalist activist groups, Barrett-Fox reveals how the church’s message of national doom in fact reflects beliefs at the core of much of the Religious Right’s rhetoric. Westboro’s aggressively offensive public activities actually serve to soften the anti-gay theology of more mainstream conservative religious activism. With an eye to the church’s protest at military funerals, she also considers why the public has responded so differently to these than to Westboro’s anti-LGBT picketing.

With its history of Westboro Baptist Church and its founder, and its profiles of defectors, this book offers a complex, close-up view of a phenomenon on the fringes of American Christianity—and a broader, disturbing view of the mainstream theology it at once masks and reflects.

“The Future of Evangelicalism in America” (Brown & Silk, eds.)

In April, Columbia University Press released “The Future of Evangelicalism in America,” edited by Candy Gunther Brown (Indiana University) and Mark Silk (Trinity College).  The publisher’s description follows:

In The Future of Evangelicalism in America, thematic chapters on culture, spirituality,9780231176118theology, politics, and ethnicity reveal the sources of the movement’s dynamism, as
well as significant challenges confronting the rising generations. A collaboration among scholars of history, religious studies, theology, political science, and ethnic studies, the volume offers unique insight into a vibrant and sometimes controversial movement, the future of which is closely tied to the future of America.

Juster, “Sacred Violence in Early America”

In May, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release “Sacred Violence in Early America,” by Susan Juster (University of Michigan).  The publisher’s description follows:

Sacred Violence in Early America offers a sweeping reinterpretation of the violence endemic to seventeenth-century English colonization by reexamining some of the key15507 moments of cultural and religious encounter in North America. Susan Juster explores different forms of sacred violence—blood sacrifice, holy war, malediction, and iconoclasm—to uncover how European traditions of ritual violence developed during the wars of the Reformation were introduced and ultimately transformed in the New World.

Juster’s central argument concerns the rethinking of the relationship between the material and the spiritual worlds that began with the Reformation and reached perhaps its fullest expression on the margins of empire. The Reformation transformed the Christian landscape from an environment rich in sounds, smells, images, and tactile encounters, both divine and human, to an austere space of scriptural contemplation and prayer. When English colonists encountered the gods and rituals of the New World, they were forced to confront the unresolved tensions between the material and spiritual within their own religious practice. Accounts of native cannibalism, for instance, prompted uneasy comparisons with the ongoing debate among Reformers about whether Christ was bodily present in the communion wafer.

Sacred Violence in Early America reveals the Old World antecedents of the burning of native bodies and texts during the seventeenth-century wars of extermination, the prosecution of heretics and blasphemers in colonial courts, and the destruction of chapels and mission towns up and down the North American seaboard. At the heart of the book is an analysis of “theologies of violence” that gave conceptual and emotional shape to English colonists’ efforts to construct a New World sanctuary in the face of enemies both familiar and strange: blood sacrifice, sacramentalism, legal and philosophical notions of just and holy war, malediction, the contest between “living” and “dead” images in Christian idology, and iconoclasm.

“American Conservatism” (Levinson et al, eds.)

In May, the New York University Press will release “American Conservatism: Nomos LVI,” edited by Sanford V. Levinson (University of Texas), Joel Parker (University of Texas), and Melissa S. Williams (University of Toronto). The publisher’s description follows:

The topic of American conservatism is especially timely—and perhaps volatile.  Is there what might be termed an “exceptional” form of conservatism that is 9781479812370_fullcharacteristically American, in contrast to conservatisms found in other countries?  Are views that are identified in the United States as conservative necessarily congruent with what political theorists might classify under that label?  Or does much American conservatism almost necessarily reflect the distinctly liberal background of American political thought?

In American Conservatism, a distinguished group of American political and legal scholars reflect on these crucial questions, unpacking the very nature and development of American conservative thought. They examine both the historical and contemporary realities of arguments offered by self-conscious conservatives in the United States, offering a well-rounded view of the state of this field.  In addition to synoptic overviews of the various dimensions of American conservative thought, specific attention is paid to such topics as American constitutionalism, the role of religion and religious institutions, and the particular impact of the late Leo Strauss on American thought and thinkers.  Just as American conservatism includes a wide, and sometimes conflicting, group of thinkers, the essays in this volume themselves reflect differing and sometimes controversial assessments of the theorists under discussion.

“Faith and Slavery in the Presbyterian Diaspora” (Taylor & Messer, eds.)

In January, Lehigh University Press released “Faith and Slavery in the Presbyterian Diaspora,” edited by William Harrison Taylor (Alabama State University) and Peter C. Messer (Mississippi State University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Faith and Slavery in the Presbyterian Diaspora considers how, in areas as diverse as the New Hebrides, Scotland, the United States, and East Central Africa, men’s 1611462010and women’s shared Presbyterian faith conditioned their interpretations of and interactions with the institution of chattel slavery. The chapters highlight how Presbyterians’ reactions to slavery –which ranged from abolitionism, to indifference, to support—reflected their considered application of the principles of the Reformed Tradition to the institution. Consequently, this collection reveals how the particular ways in which Presbyterians framed the Reformed Tradition made slavery an especially problematic and fraught issue for adherents to the faith.

Faith and Slavery, by situating slavery at the nexus of Presbyterian theology and practice, offers a fresh perspective on the relationship between religion and slavery. It reverses the all too common assumption that religion primarily served to buttress existing views on slavery, by illustrating how groups’ and individuals reactions to slavery emerged from their understanding of the Presbyterian faith. The collection’s geographic reach—encompassing the experiences of people from Europe, Africa, America, and the Pacific—filtered through the lens of Presbyterianism also highlights the global dimensions of slavery and the debates surrounding it. The institution and the challenges it presented, Faith and Slavery stresses, reflected less the peculiar conditions of a particular place and time, than the broader human condition as people attempt to understand and shape their world.

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