Esolen, “Nostalgia”

41ppx0hK5L._SX329_BO1204203200_-202x306“For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” This verse from Hebrews has strongly influenced Christian understandings of politics from the time of the early Church to the present. The conviction that Christians are, most fundamentally, citizens of another, eternal city has shaped their relations with temporal cities both pagan and Christian. It has comforted them in periods of alienation and checked them in times of triumph.

A forthcoming book by scholar Anthony Esolen (Thomas More College), Nostalgia: Going Home in a Homeless World (Regnerey) addresses Christians’ longing for home–a longing, which, on earth, must always be unfulfilled, however much Christians love their families, communities, and nations. Here is the description from the publisher’s website:

America’s political elite has a stake in the destruction of cultural memory—anything that resists the new management state and the rootless elites. But it is a deeply human thing not only to have a home, which is rare enough in our time, but to long to return home. For Christians, this longing to return home not only makes us defenders of our homes and families here on earth, but also wayfarers, in that we understand we are contantly moving towards our true home, the “patria” that is the presence of God, in eternity.

This Christian nostalgia is the subject of scorn and condescension from secular elites, who are invested in making us forget our loginging to return home. Instead, they would have us join in the silly and inhuman worship of mother earth as our “home” and the more dangerous and destructive worship of change for change’s sake—as if we could make heaven ourselves or work ourselves up into gods.

In Nostalgia, this essential new work by Out of the Ashes author Anthony Esolen, the singularly Christian concept of true nostalgia is examined, defended, and brilliantly celebrated as Esolen reveals the central role nostalgia plays in great works of literature including Shakespeare, Dante, Dickens, and Eliot.

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.

Winn, “Reading Mark’s Christology under Caesar”

5211Here is a forthcoming book from IVP Academic that reads the Gospel According to Mark as, in part, a response to imperial propaganda. I don’t know enough to evaluate the author’s argument, but the idea that first-century Roman Christians would have recognized references to the Flavian emperors, and to current events like the sack of Jerusalem, that elude us today is certainly plausible. Perhaps Mark’s Gospel is, at least in part, a reflection on Roman state policy. The book is Reading Mark’s Christology under Caesar: Jesus the Messiah and Roman Imperial Ideology, by Adam Winn (University of Mary Hardin-Baylor College of Christian Studies). Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

The Gospel of Mark has been studied from multiple angles using many methods. But often there remains a sense that something is wanting, that the full picture of Mark’s Gospel lacks some background circuitry that would light up the whole.

Adam Winn finds a clue in the cataclysmic destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. For Jews and Christians it was an apocalyptic moment. The gods of Rome seemed to have conquered the God of the Jews.

Could it be that Mark wrote his Gospel in response to Roman imperial propaganda surrounding this event? Could a messiah crucified by Rome really be God’s Son appointed to rule the world?

Winn considers how Mark might have been read by Christians in Rome in the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem. He introduces us to the propaganda of the Flavian emperors and excavates the Markan text for themes that address the Roman imperial setting. We discover an intriguing first-century response to the question “Christ or Caesar?”

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.

“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.

Lewis, “The Rights Turn in Conservative Christian Politics”

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Minorities always favor civil rights, because rights protect them from the majority. So it shouldn’t be surprising that conservative Christians in twenty-first century America increasingly find themselves asserting rights in public controversies. A forthcoming book from Cambridge University Press, The Rights Turn in Conservative Christian Politics: How Abortion Transformed the Culture Wars, by University of Cincinnati political scientist Andrew Lewis, discusses the subject, and claims Christians’ move to a rights-based rhetoric is tied up with the abortion debate. Here is the publisher’s description:

The Rights Turn in Conservative Christian Politics documents a recent, fundamental change in American politics with the waning of Christian America. Rather than conservatives emphasizing morality and liberals emphasizing rights, both sides now wield rights arguments as potent weapons to win political and legal battles and build grassroots support. Lewis documents this change on the right, focusing primarily on evangelical politics. Using extensive historical and survey data that compares evangelical advocacy and evangelical public opinion, Lewis explains how the prototypical culture war issue – abortion – motivated the conservative rights turn over the past half century, serving as a springboard for rights learning and increased conservative advocacy in other arenas. Challenging the way we think about the culture wars, Lewis documents how rights claims are used to thwart liberal rights claims, as well as to provide protection for evangelicals, whose cultural positions are increasingly in the minority; they have also allowed evangelical elites to justify controversial advocacy positions to their base and to engage more easily in broad rights claiming in new or expanded political arenas, from health care to capital punishment.

Gerbner, “Christian Slavery”

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Earlier this week, I posted a book on the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and commented on the large role religion played in the civil rights movement. Of course, Christianity had a lot to do with that movement, historically, and a common appeal to Christian conscience had much to do with the movement’s success. But candor compels the recognition that Christianity’s record with regard to racial justice in America is mixed. A forthcoming book from the University of Pennsylvania Press, Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World, by University of Minnesota historian Katharine Gerbner, recounts some of the story. The publisher’s description follows:

Could slaves become Christian? If so, did their conversion lead to freedom? If not, then how could perpetual enslavement be justified? In Christian Slavery, Katharine Gerbner contends that religion was fundamental to the development of both slavery and race in the Protestant Atlantic world. Slave owners in the Caribbean and elsewhere established governments and legal codes based on an ideology of “Protestant Supremacy,” which excluded the majority of enslaved men and women from Christian communities. For slaveholders, Christianity was a sign of freedom, and most believed that slaves should not be eligible for conversion.

When Protestant missionaries arrived in the plantation colonies intending to convert enslaved Africans to Christianity in the 1670s, they were appalled that most slave owners rejected the prospect of slave conversion. Slaveholders regularly attacked missionaries, both verbally and physically, and blamed the evangelizing newcomers for slave rebellions. In response, Quaker, Anglican, and Moravian missionaries articulated a vision of “Christian Slavery,” arguing that Christianity would make slaves hardworking and loyal.

Over time, missionaries increasingly used the language of race to support their arguments for slave conversion. Enslaved Christians, meanwhile, developed an alternate vision of Protestantism that linked religious conversion to literacy and freedom. Christian Slavery shows how the contentions between slave owners, enslaved people, and missionaries transformed the practice of Protestantism and the language of race in the early modern Atlantic world.

Symposium on “Christian Legal Thought: Materials and Cases”

St. John's Law LogoThis Friday, January 26, the Journal of Catholic Legal Studies (a publication of St. John’s University School of Law) will host a symposium on the new casebook Christian Legal Thought: Materials and Cases (2017) by Patrick M. Brennan (Villanova) and William S. Brewbaker III (University of Alabama). The symposium will take place at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan from 3 PM to 6 PM, with a reception at the Club following from 6 PM to 7 PM. It will feature as panelists both casebook authors, as well as Professors Randy Beck (University of Georgia), Angela C. Carmella (Seton Hall), Richard W. Garnett (Notre Dame), Michael P. Moreland (Villanova), and David A. Skeel, Jr. (University of Pennsylvania). The event is free and open to the public (please note the New York Athletic Club’s dress guidelines). More information, including whom to contact with questions, is available here. The January 19 deadline to RSVP has been extended to January 25.

Hudnut-Beumler, “Strangers and Friends at the Welcome Table”

9781469640372While on a recent trip to Charlotte, North Carolina — home of the Billy Graham Library — I attended Sunday Liturgy at St. Sarkis Armenian Church, founded about a dozen years ago. St. Sarkis is not the only Orthodox Church in Charlotte. There is a Coptic church, at least two Greek Orthodox churches, a couple of Russian Orthodox churches, a couple of Ethiopian Orthodox churches, and at least one Syriac church. The point is that if one thinks of Southern  Christianity as strictly Evangelical, one is making a mistake — though I should point out, in the interests of full disclosure, that the line of cars outside the Evangelical church a couple blocks away was a lot longer than the one at St. Sarkis!

A new study from the University of North Carolina Press, Strangers and Friends at the Welcome Table: Contemporary Christianities in the American South, by Vanderbilt University historian James Hudnut-Beumler, describes the Christianities of the New South. Looks interesting. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In this fresh and fascinating chronicle of Christianity in the contemporary South, historian and minister James Hudnut-Beumler draws on extensive interviews and his own personal journeys throughout the region over the past decade to present a comprehensive portrait of the South’s long-dominant religion. Hudnut-Beumler traveled to both rural and urban communities, listening to the faithful talk about their lives and beliefs. What he heard pushes hard against prevailing notions of southern Christianity as an evangelical Protestant monolith so predominant as to be unremarkable.

True, outside of a few spots, no non-Christian group forms more than six-tenths of one percent of a state’s population in what Hudnut-Beumler calls the Now South. Drilling deeper, however, he discovers an unexpected, blossoming diversity in theology, practice, and outlook among southern Christians. He finds, alongside traditional Baptists, black and white, growing numbers of Christians exemplifying changes that no one could have predicted even just forty years ago, from congregations of LGBT-supportive evangelicals and Spanish-language church services to a Christian homeschooling movement so robust in some places that it may rival public education in terms of acceptance. He also finds sharp struggles and political divisions among those trying to reconcile such Christian values as morality and forgiveness—the aftermath of the mass shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel A.M.E. Church in 2015 forming just one example. This book makes clear that understanding the twenty-first-century South means recognizing many kinds of southern Christianities.

Picard, “Sea of the Caliphs”

9780674660465-lgIn 1571, at the Battle of Lepanto, a collection of European powers led by Venice (at least that’s how I learned it, notwithstanding Chesterton’s great poem), defeated the Ottoman navy and ensured that Christian Europe, not Muslim Turkey, would control the Mediterranean Sea. A new history from Harvard University Press, Sea of the Caliphs: The Mediterranean in the Medieval Islamic World, shows that the contest between Christian and Muslim states for control of Mediterranean trade routes goes back quite far. The author is historian Christophe Picard (University of Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne). The publisher’s description follows:

 “How could I allow my soldiers to sail on this disloyal and cruel sea?” These words, attributed to the most powerful caliph of medieval Islam, Umar Ibn al-Khattab (634–644), have led to a misunderstanding in the West about the importance of the Mediterranean to early Islam. This body of water, known in Late Antiquity as the Sea of the Romans, was critical to establishing the kingdom of the caliphs and for introducing the new religion to Europe and Africa. Over time, it also became a pathway to commercial and political dominion, indispensable to the prosperity and influence of the Islamic world. Sea of the Caliphs returns Muslim sailors to their place of prominence in the history of the Islamic caliphate.

As early as the seventh century, Muslim sailors competed with Greek and Latin seamen for control of this far-flung route of passage. Christophe Picard recreates these adventures as they were communicated to admiring Muslims by their rulers. After the Arab conquest of southern Europe and North Africa, Muslims began to speak of the Mediterranean in their strategic visions, business practices, and notions of nature and the state. Jurists and ideologues conceived of the sea as a conduit for jihad, even as Muslims’ maritime trade with Latin, Byzantine, and Berber societies increased.

In the thirteenth century, Christian powers took over Mediterranean trade routes, but by that time a Muslim identity that operated both within and in opposition to Europe had been shaped by encounters across the sea of the caliphs.

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