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.

Mirola, “Redeeming Time”

In January, the University of Illinois Press will release “Redeeming Time: Protestantism and Chicago’s Eight-Hour Movement, 1866-1912,” by William A. Mirola (Marian University).  The publisher’s description follows:

During the struggle for the eight-hour workday and a shorter workweek, Chicago emerged as an important battleground for workers9780252038839 in “the entire civilized world” to redeem time from the workplace in order to devote it to education, civic duty, health, family, and leisure.

William A. Mirola explores how the city’s eight-hour movement intersected with a Protestant religious culture that supported long hours to keep workers from idleness, intemperance, and secular leisure activities. Analyzing how both workers and clergy rewove working-class religious cultures and ideologies into strategic and rhetorical frames, Mirola shows how every faith-based appeal contested whose religious meanings would define labor conditions and conflicts. As he notes, the ongoing worker-employer tension transformed both how clergy spoke about the eight-hour movement and what they were willing to do, until intensified worker protest and employer intransigence spurred Protestant clergy to support the eight-hour movement even as political and economic arguments eclipsed religious framing.

A revealing study of an era and a cause, Redeeming Time illustrates the potential–and the limitations–of religious culture and religious leaders as forces in industrial reform.

Religion and the Wisconsin Recall

Here’s a very interesting analysis, written just before the results, of the religious cross-currents in yesterday’s Wisconsin recall attempt. The author, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, points out the divisions among and within Wisconsin’s religious communities, which, he says, reflect divisions in the electorate as a whole. For example, on the central issue in the recall attempt, the right of public sector unions to bargain collectively, the Catholic archbishop of Milwaukee wrote  a letter supporting collective bargaining rights, while the Catholic bishop of Madison wrote a letter stating that reasonable people could disagree on the matter. In the end, most Catholics supported Governor Scott Walker: exit polls had him winning the Catholic vote by 10 points. This could portend a shift in Wisconsin politics, where Catholics traditionally vote Democratic, in contrast to Dutch Reformed Protestants, who typically vote Republican. The article contains one great quote that has nothing to do with the recall attempt, but that is nonetheless reflective of the American penchant for non-sectarianism we have discussed elsewhere on CLR Forum. At his inaugural prayer breakfast, the Born-Again Christian Scott Walker declared, “The great creator, no matter who you worship, is the one from which our freedoms are derived, not the government.” Can’t get more American than that.

European Human Rights Court Rules Clergy Have a Right to Unionize

Here’s an interesting approach to church autonomy. This week, a chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled that clergy (and lay employees) of the Romanian Orthodox Church have a right to unionize, notwithstanding the Church’s objections. In 2008, clergy in a Church diocese formed a union to defend their “professional, economic, social and cultural interests” in their dealings with the Church. When the Romanian government registered the new union, the Church sued, pointing out that Church canons do not allow for unions and arguing that registration violated the principle of church autonomy. A Romanian court agreed with the Church, and the union challenged the court’s judgment in the ECtHR. The union argued that the decision not to register it violated Article 11 of the European Convention, which grants a right to freedom of association.

In this week’s decision, the chamber reasoned that, under Article 11, a state may limit freedom of association only if it shows “a pressing social need,” defined in terms of a “threat to a democratic society.” Romania had shown no such need here. The chamber faulted the Romanian court for considering only church traditions and ignoring other important factors, such as domestic and Continue reading

Conference on Christian Legal Thought (Jan. 7)

The Lumen Christi Institute will host the annual Conference on Christian Legal Thought on January 7 in Washington. Panels include “Public Unions and the State of Organized Labor,” “Pedagogy,” “Law, Speech, and Morality,” and “The Vocation of the Christian Lawyer and the Future of Legal Education.” Speakers include St. John’s own David Gregory. Details are here.

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