Around the Web this Week

Here is a look at some news stories from around the web this week:

Manseau, “Objects of Devotion”

In May, Penguin Random House will release Objects of Devotion: Religion in Early America by Peter Manseau (Curator of American Religious History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History). The publisher’s description follows:

“American Religion, American Politics” (Kosek, ed.)

In May, Yale University Press will release American Religion, American Politics: An Anthology edited by Joseph Kip Kosek (George Washington University). The publisher’s description follows:

American RelgionEssential primary sources reveal the central tensions between American politics and religion throughout the nation’s history

Despite the centrality of separation of church and state in American government, religion has played an important role in the nation’s politics from colonial times through the present day. This essential anthology provides a fascinating history of religion in American politics and public life through a wide range of primary documents. It explores contentious debates over freedom, tolerance, and justice, in matters ranging from slavery to the nineteenth-century controversy over Mormon polygamy to the recent discussions concerning same-sex marriage and terrorism.

Bringing together a diverse range of voices from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and secular traditions and the words of historic personages, from Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Frances Willard to John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., this collection is an invaluable introduction to one of the most important conversations in America’s history.

Mulder, Ramos, & Marti, “Latino Protestants in America”

This month, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers released Latino Protestants in America: Growing and Diverse by Mark T. Mulder (Calvin College), Aida I. Ramos (George Fox University), and Gerard0 Marti (Davidson College). The publisher’s description follows:

Latino Protestants.jpgLatino Protestantism is growing rapidly in the United States. Researchers estimate that by 2030 half of all Latinos in America will be Protestant. This remarkable growth is not just about numbers. The rise of Latino Protestants will impact the changing nature of American politics, economics, and religion. Latino Protestants in America takes readers inside the numbers to highlight the many reasons Latino Protestants are growing as well as the diversity of this group.

The book brings together the best existing scholarship on this group with original research to offer a nuanced picture of Latino Protestants in America, from worship practices to political engagement. The narrative helps readers move beyond misconceptions about Latino religion and offers a window into the diverse ways that religion plays out in real life. Latino Protestants in America is an essential resource for anyone interested in the beliefs and practices of this group, as well as the implications for its growth and areas for further study.

Thompson, “Richmond’s Priests and Prophets”

In May, the University of Alabama Press will release Richmond’s Priests and Prophets: Race, Religion, and Social Change in the Civil Rights Era by Douglas E. Thompson (Mercer University). The publisher’s description follows:

UA-StackedNameplateDouglas E. Thompson’s Richmond’s Priests and Prophets: Race, Religion, and Social Change in the Civil Rights Era presents a compelling study of religious leaders’ impact on the political progression of Richmond, Virginia, during the time of desegregation. Scrutinizing this city as an entry point into white Christians’ struggles with segregation during the 1950s, Thompson analyzes the internal tensions between ministers, the members of their churches, and an evolving world.

In the mid-twentieth-century American South, white Christians were challenged repeatedly by new ideas and social criteria. Neighborhood demographics were shifting, public schools were beginning to integrate, and ministers’ influence was expanding. Although many pastors supported the transition into desegregated society, the social pressure to keep life divided along racial lines placed Richmond’s ministers on a collision course with forces inside their own congregations. Thompson reveals that, to navigate the ideals of Christianity within a complex historical setting, white religious leaders adopted priestly and prophetic roles.

Moreover, the author argues that, until now, the historiography has not viewed white Christian churches with the nuance necessary to understand their diverse reactions to desegregation. His approach reveals the ways in which desegregationists attempted to change their communities’ minds, while also demonstrating why change came so slowly—highlighting the deeply emotional and intellectual dilemma of many southerners whose worldview was fundamentally structured by race and class hierarchies.

Lehmann, “The Money Cult”

In May, Melville House will release the paperback edition of The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream by Chris Lehmann (Bookforum). The publisher’s description follows:

the-money-cultWe think we know the story of American religion: the Puritans were cold, austere, and pious, and Christianity continued pure and uncorrupted until the industrial revolution got in the way. In The Money Cult, Chris Lehmann argues that we have it backwards: capitalism has always been entangled with religion, and so today’s megapastors aren’t an aberration — they’re as American as Benjamin Franklin. The long-awaited first book by a hugely admired journalist, The Money Cult is a sweeping and accessible history that traces American Christianity from John Winthrop to the rise of the Mormon Church to the triumph of Joel Osteen.

Joselit, “Set in Stone”

In May, Oxford University Press will release Set in Stone: America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments by Jenna Weissman Joselit (George Washington University). The publisher’s description follows:

set-in-stoneWhen Cecil B. DeMille’s epic, The Ten Commandments, came out in 1956, lines of people crowded into theaters across America to admire the movie’s spectacular special effects. Thanks to DeMille, the commandments now had fans as well as adherents. But the country’s fascination with the Ten Commandments goes well beyond the colossal scenes of this Hollywood classic.

In this vividly rendered narrative, Jenna Weissman Joselit situates the Ten Commandments within the fabric of American history. Her subjects range from the 1860 tale of the amateur who claimed to have discovered ancient holy stones inside a burial mound in Ohio to the San Francisco congregation of Sherith Israel, which commissioned aluminous piece of stained glass depicting Moses in Yosemite for its sanctuary; from the Kansas politician Charles Walter, who in the late nineteenth century proposed codifying each commandment into state law, to the radio commentator Laura Schlessinger, who popularized the Ten Commandments as a psychotherapeutic tool in the 1990s.

At once text and object, celestial and earthbound, Judaic and Christian, the Ten Commandments were not just a theological imperative in the New World; they also provoked heated discussions around key issues such as national identity, inclusion, and pluralism. In a country as diverse and heterogeneous as the United States, the Ten Commandments offered common ground and held out the promise of order and stability, becoming the lodestar of American identity. While archaeologists, theologians, and devotees across the world still wonder what became of the tablets that Moses received on Mount Sinai, Weissman Joselit offers a surprising answer: they landed in the United States.

Around the Web this Week

Here is a look at some law and religion news stories from around the web this week:

Watt, “Antifundamentalism in Modern America”

In May, Cornell University Press will release Antifundamentalism in Modern America by David Harrington Watt (Temple University). The publisher’s description follows:

antifundamentalism-in-modern-americaDavid Harrington Watt’s Antifundamentalism in Modern America gives us a pathbreaking account of the role that the fear of fundamentalism has played—and continues to play—in American culture. Fundamentalism has never been a neutral category of analysis, and Watt scrutinizes the various political purposes that the concept has been made to serve. In 1920, the conservative Baptist writer Curtis Lee Laws coined the word “fundamentalists.” Watt examines the antifundamentalist polemics of Harry Emerson Fosdick, Talcott Parsons, Stanley Kramer, and Richard Hofstadter, which convinced many Americans that religious fundamentalists were almost by definition backward, intolerant, and anti-intellectual and that fundamentalism was a dangerous form of religion that had no legitimate place in the modern world.

For almost fifty years, the concept of fundamentalism was linked almost exclusively to Protestant Christians. The overthrow of the Shah of Iran and the establishment of an Islamic republic led to a more elastic understanding of the nature of fundamentalism. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Americans became accustomed to using fundamentalism as a way of talking about Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists, as well as Christians. Many Americans came to see Protestant fundamentalism as an expression of a larger phenomenon that was wreaking havoc all over the world. Antifundamentalism in Modern America is the first book to provide an overview of the way that the fear of fundamentalism has shaped U.S. culture, and it will lead readers to rethink their understanding of what fundamentalism is and what it does.

Kidd, “Benjamin Franklin”

In May, Yale University Press will release Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father by Thomas S. Kidd (Baylor University). The publisher’s description follows:

benjamin-franklinA major new biography, illuminating the great mystery of Benjamin Franklin’s faith

Renowned as a printer, scientist, and diplomat, Benjamin Franklin also published more works on religious topics than any other eighteenth-century American layperson. Born to Boston Puritans, by his teenage years Franklin had abandoned the exclusive Christian faith of his family and embraced deism. But Franklin, as a man of faith, was far more complex than the “thorough deist” who emerges in his autobiography. As Thomas Kidd reveals, deist writers influenced Franklin’s beliefs, to be sure, but devout Christians in his life—including George Whitefield, the era’s greatest evangelical preacher; his parents; and his beloved sister Jane—kept him tethered to the Calvinist creed of his Puritan upbringing. Based on rigorous research into Franklin’s voluminous correspondence, essays, and almanacs, this fresh assessment of a well-known figure unpacks the contradictions and conundrums faith presented in Franklin’s life.

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