Dreisbach,”Reading the Bible With the Founding Fathers”

I’m very pleased to give this notice of Professor Daniel L. Dreisbach’s new book, Reading the Bible With the Founding Fathers, which will be published by Oxford University Press in dreisbach-bookDecember. Professor Dreisbach is one of the most important scholars of religion in the founding generation. His earlier book, Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State, as well as his edited volumes, Religion and Politics in the Early Republic: Jasper Adams and the Church-State Debate, and The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life, offer vital and erudite insight about the relationship of church and state in the early republic. This volume looks to be essential reading for anyone interested in this area. The publisher’s description follows.

No book was more accessible or familiar to the American founders than the Bible, and no book was more frequently alluded to or quoted from in the political discourse of the age. How and for what purposes did the founding generation use the Bible? How did the Bible influence their political culture?

Shedding new light on some of the most familiar rhetoric of the founding era, Daniel Dreisbach analyzes the founders’ diverse use of scripture, ranging from the literary to the theological. He shows that they looked to the Bible for insights on human nature, civic virtue, political authority, and the rights and duties of citizens, as well as for political and legal models to emulate. They quoted scripture to authorize civil resistance, to invoke divine blessings for righteous nations, and to provide the language of liberty that would be appropriated by patriotic Americans.

Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers broaches the perennial question of whether the American founding was, to some extent, informed by religious-specifically Christian-ideas. In the sense that the founding generation were members of a biblically literate society that placed the Bible at the center of culture and discourse, the answer to that question is clearly “yes.” Ignoring the Bible’s influence on the founders, Dreisbach warns, produces a distorted image of the American political experiment, and of the concept of self-government on which America is built.

“Churches in the Ukrainian Crisis” (Krawchuk & Bremer, eds.)

Next month, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Churches in the Ukrainian Crisis,” edited by Andrii Krawchuk (University of Sudbury) and Thomas Bremer (University of Münster).  The publisher’s description follows:

This volume explores the churches of Ukraine and their involvement in the recent movement for social justice and dignity within the country. In November of 2013, 9783319341439citizens of Ukraine gathered on Kyiv’s central square (Maidan) to protest against a government that had reneged on its promise to sign a trade agreement with Europe. The Euromaidan protest included members of various Christian churches in Ukraine, who stood together and demanded government accountability and closer ties with Europe. In response, state forces massacred over one hundred unarmed civilians. The atrocity precipitated a rapid sequence of events: the president fled the country, a provisional government was put in place, and Russia annexed Crimea and intervened militarily in eastern Ukraine. An examination of Ukrainian churches’ involvement in this protest and the fall-out that it inspired opens up other questions and discussions about the churches’ identity and role in the country’s culture and its social and political history. Volume contributors examine Ukrainian churches’ historical development and singularity; their quest for autonomy; their active involvement in identity formation; their interpretations of the war and its causes; and the paths they have charted toward peace and unity.

Catterall, “Labour and the Free Churches, 1918-1939”

This month, Bloomsbury Publishing releases “Labour and the Free Churches, 1918-1939: Radicalism, Righteousness, and Religion,” by Peter Catterall (University of Westminster). The publisher’s description follows:

Did the Labour Party, in Morgan Phillips’ famous phrase, owe ‘more to Methodism than Marx’? Were the founding fathers of the party nurtured in the chapels of 9781441125996Nonconformity and shaped by their emphases on liberty, conscience and the value of every human being in the eyes of God? How did the Free Churches, traditionally allied to the Liberal Party, react to the growing importance of the Labour Party between the wars? This book addresses these questions at a range of levels: including organisation; rhetoric; policies and ideals; and electoral politics. It is shown that the distinctive religious setting in which Labour emerged indeed helps to explain the differences between it and more Marxist counterparts on the Continent, and that this setting continued to influence Labour approaches towards welfare, nationalisation and industrial relations between the wars. In the process Labour also adopted some of the righteousness of tone of the Free Churches.

This setting was, however, changing. Dropping their traditional suspicion of the State, Nonconformists instead increasingly invested it with religious values, helping to turn it through its growing welfare functions into the provider of practical Christianity. This nationalisation of religion continues to shape British attitudes to the welfare state as well as imposing narrowly utilitarian and material tests of relevance upon the churches and other social institutions. The elevation of the State was not, however, intended as an end in itself. What mattered were the social and individual outcomes. Socialism, for those Free Churchmen and women who helped to shape Labour in the early twentieth century, was about improving society as much as systems.

Lewis, “City of Refuge”

In December, Princeton University Press will release City of Refuge: Separatists and Utopian Town Planning by Michael J. Lewis (Williams College). The publisher’s description follows:

city-of-refugeThe vision of Utopia obsessed the nineteenth-century mind, shaping art, literature, and especially town planning. In City of Refuge, Michael Lewis takes readers across centuries and continents to show how Utopian town planning produced a distinctive type of settlement characterized by its square plan, collective ownership of properties, and communal dormitories. Some of these settlements were sanctuaries from religious persecution, like those of the German Rappites, French Huguenots, and American Shakers, while others were sanctuaries from the Industrial Revolution, like those imagined by Charles Fourier, Robert Owen, and other Utopian visionaries.

Because of their differences in ideology and theology, these settlements have traditionally been viewed separately, but Lewis shows how they are part of a continuous intellectual tradition that stretches from the early Protestant Reformation into modern times. Through close readings of architectural plans and archival documents, many previously unpublished, he shows the network of connections between these seemingly disparate Utopian settlements—including even such well-known town plans as those of New Haven and Philadelphia.

The most remarkable aspect of the city of refuge is the inventive way it fused its eclectic sources, ranging from the encampments of the ancient Israelites as described in the Bible to the detailed social program of Thomas More’s Utopia to modern thought about education, science, and technology. Delving into the historical evolution and antecedents of Utopian towns and cities, City of Refuge alters notions of what a Utopian community can and should be.

Louis, “My Soul is in Haiti”

In December, New York University Press will release My Soul is in Haiti: Protestantism in the Haitian Diaspora of the Bahamas by Bertin M. Louis, Jr. (University of Tennessee). The publisher’s description follows:

my-soul-is-in-haitiIn the Haitian diaspora, as in Haiti itself, the majority of Haitians have long practiced Catholicism or Vodou. However, Protestant forms of Christianity now flourish both in Haiti and beyond. In the Bahamas, where approximately one in five people are now Haitian-born or Haitian-descended, Protestantism has become the majority religion for immigrant Haitians.
In My Soul Is in Haiti, Bertin M. Louis, Jr. has combined multi-sited ethnographic research in the United States, Haiti, and the Bahamas with a transnational framework to analyze why Protestantism has appealed to the Haitian diaspora community in the Bahamas. The volume illustrates how devout Haitian Protestant migrants use their religious identities to ground themselves in a place that is hostile to them as migrants, and it also uncovers how their religious faith ties in to their belief in the need to “save” their homeland, as they re-imagine Haiti politically and morally as a Protestant Christian nation.
This important look at transnational migration between second and third world countries shows how notions of nationalism among Haitian migrants in the Bahamas are filtered through their religious beliefs. By studying local transformations in the Haitian diaspora of the Bahamas, Louis offers a greater understanding of the spread of Protestant Christianity, both regionally and globally.

“A New History of African Christian Thought” (Ngong, ed.)

Next month, Routledge will release A New History of African Christian Thought: From Cape to Cairo edited by David Ngong (Baylor University). The publisher’s description follows:

A New History of African Christian Thought.pngDavid Tonghou Ngong offers a comprehensive view of African Christian thought that includes North Africa in antiquity as well as Sub-Saharan Africa from the period of colonial missionary activity to the present. Challenging conventional colonial divisions of Africa, A New History of African Christian Thought demonstrates that important continuities exist across the continent. Chapters written by specialists in African Christian thought reflect the issues—both ancient and modern—in which Christian Africa has impacted the shape of Christian belief from the beginning of the movement up to the present day.

Chazan, “From Anti-Judaism to Anti-Semitism”

This month, Cambridge University Press releases From Anti-Judaism to Anti-Semitism:
Ancient and Medieval Christian Constructions of Jewish History by Robert Chazan (New York University). The publisher’s description follows:

from-anti-judiasm-to-anti-semitismFrom its earliest days, Christianity has viewed Judaism and Jews ambiguously. Given its roots within the Jewish community of first-century Palestine, there was much in Judaism that demanded church admiration and praise; however, as Jews continued to resist Christian truth, there was also much that had to be condemned. Major Christian thinkers of antiquity – while disparaging their Jewish contemporaries for rejecting Christian truth – depicted the Jewish past and future in balanced terms, identifying both positives and negatives. Beginning at the end of the first millennium, an increasingly large Jewish community began to coalesce across rapidly developing northern Europe, becoming the object of intense popular animosity and radically negative popular imagery. The portrayals of the broad trajectory of Jewish history offered by major medieval European intellectual leaders became increasingly negative as well. The popular animosity and the negative intellectual formulations were bequeathed to the modern West, where they had tragic consequences in the twentieth century. In this book, Robert Chazan traces the path that began as anti-Judaism, examining how it evolved into antisemitism.

Harvey, “Christianity and Race in the American South”

Next month, the University of Chicago Press will release Christianity and Race in the American South by Paul Harvey (University of Colorado). The publisher’s description follows:

christianity-and-raceThe history of race and religion in the American South is infused with tragedy, survival, and water—from St. Augustine on the shores of Florida’s Atlantic Coast to the swampy mire of Jamestown to the floodwaters that nearly destroyed New Orleans. Determination, resistance, survival, even transcendence, shape the story of race and southern Christianities. In Christianity and Race in the American South, Paul Harvey gives us a narrative history of the South as it integrates into the story of religious history, fundamentally transforming our understanding of the importance of American Christianity and religious identity.

Harvey chronicles the diversity and complexity in the intertwined histories of race and religion in the South, dating back to the first days of European settlement. He presents a history rife with strange alliances, unlikely parallels, and far too many tragedies, along the way illustrating that ideas about the role of churches in the South were critically shaped by conflicts over slavery and race that defined southern life more broadly. Race, violence, religion, and southern identity remain a volatile brew, and this book is the persuasive historical examination that is essential to making sense of it.

Burke & Segall, “Christian Privilege in U.S. Education”

In December, Routledge will release Christian Privilege in U.S. Education: Legacies and Current Issues by Kevin J. Burke (University of Georgia) and Avner Segall (Michigan State University). The publisher’s description follows:

christian-privlegeUsing critical curriculum theory as its lens, this book explores the relationship between religion—specifically, Christianity and the Judeo-Christian ethos underlying it—and secular public education in the United States. Despite various 20th-century court decisions separating religion and education, the authors challenge that religion is in fact absent from public education, suggesting instead that it is in fact very much embedded in current public educational practices and discourses and in a variety of assumptions and perspectives underlying understandings of teaching, learning, and teacher preparation. The book reframes the discussion about religion and schooling, arguing that it remains in the language and metaphors of education, in the practices and routines of schooling, in conceptions of the “’child” and the “teacher” (and what happens between them in the spaces we call “learning,” the “classroom,” and “curriculum”) as well as in assumptions about the role of schools emanating from such conceptions and in the current movement toward accountability, standardization, and testing. Christian Privilege in U.S. Education examines not whether Christianity has a place in public education but, rather, the very ways in it is pervasive in a legally secular system of education even when religion is not a topic taught in school.

Cline, “From Reconciliation to Revolution”

This month, the University of Carolina Press releases “From Reconciliation to Revolution: The Student Interracial Ministry, Liberal Christianity, and the Civil Rights Movement,” by David Cline (Virginia Tech).  The publisher’s description follows: 

Conceived at the same conference that produced the Student Nonviolent Coordinating 9781469630441Committee (SNCC), the Student Interracial Ministry (SIM) was a national organization devoted to dismantling Jim Crow while simultaneously advancing American Protestant mainline churches’ approach to race. In this book, David P. Cline details how, between the founding of SIM in 1960 and its dissolution at the end of the decade, the seminary students who created and ran the organization influenced hundreds of thousands of community members through its various racial reconciliation and economic justice projects. From inner-city ministry in Oakland to voter registration drives in southwestern Georgia, participants modeled peaceful interracialism nationwide. By telling the history of SIM–its theology, influences, and failures–Cline situates SIM within two larger frameworks: the long civil rights movement and the even longer tradition of liberal Christianity’s activism for social reform.

Pulling SIM from the shadow of its more famous twin, SNCC, Cline sheds light on an understudied facet of the movement’s history. In doing so, he provokes an appreciation of the struggle of churches to remain relevant in swiftly changing times and shows how seminarians responded to institutional conservatism by challenging the establishment to turn toward political activism.

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