The semester is over and my grades are entered. I’ll now be transitioning to other activities for this summer.
I arrived at my office this morning to learn that a review of Patriotism and Piety had gone online over night.
Neil Dhingra wrote an extended and really thoughtful review on the “Living Church” blog: “Americans Have Always Been Arguing Over Religion.”
Dhingra describes the book’s argument effectively, and he picks up on many of the central characters and moments from the book.
Dhingra even spices things up with a dramatically colorful introduction:
Philip Larkin famously said that sexual intercourse began in “nineteen sixty-three,” and many Americans doubtless imagine that religious controversy migrated here soon after the post-coital cigarette. Jonathan Den Hartog’s new book, Patriotism & Piety: Federalist Politics and Religious Struggle in the New American Nation, shows that intense religious argument, particularly about infidelity, has been part of the history of the United States nearly from the start. And it only had a little to do with sex.
I appreciated the review because Dhingra not only took the book seriously, but he stepped back from the book to make very valuable points about nationalism, national identity, and the place of religion in American political life.
I highly recommend the review. Read it all here.
Today I posted my regular post at the Religion in American History blog.
This month’s post is “Religion in (and beyond) Lake Wobegon.”
The comments originated for a panel at the American Society of Church History’s meeting last month. The panel, I have to repeat was outstanding, the very best of what panels should be and do.
My job was simply to set the table for the scholars who brought some great ideas into play.
To start the conversation, though, I reflected on the religious diversity of Anoka, Minnesota. Anoka might not quite be Lake Wobegon, but it is close.
The other highlight: getting to mention both Pella, Iowa, and Sully, Iowa in the post. Thanks to David Zwart for making that possible!
Check out the post, along with the Garrison Keillor references, here.
I know readers have been refreshing the site regularly to see what has happened with our “Book Give-away: Kittelstrom edition.”
I’ve been delayed in a lot of things, since I was sick for most of last week. But, fear not, we’ll get to Kittelstrom by the end of this post.
One exciting happening last week came as I was asked to contribute a guest post to the Anxious Bench blog. The Anxious Bench is a great collection of writers who address (broadly-speaking) religion in American history. I took the opportunity to write about a topic that I only mentioned in Patriotism and Piety–the fact that Alexander Hamilton in 1802 had called for a “Christian Constitutional Society.” Even though I don’t think Hamilton was overly serious about the endeavor, I think he was influenced by other Federalists who were very much concerned about both those categories–the very people who show up in Patriotism and Piety. So, let me definitely encourage you to go to “The Anxious Bench” and read about “Alexander Hamilton’s Christian Constitutional Society.”
I was also pleased to see that the piece got picked up by historian John Fea as part of his “Sunday Night Odds and Ends.”
Ah, but back to Kittelstrom. I had asked readers to define American liberalism. As another correspondent, JW, told me, this was about as difficult a question as could be posed. With an evil laugh, I agreed.
We had two solid entries. Reader Jamie emphasized liberalism’s opposition to inequality, which is true and could be developed out in interesting ways. By contrast, Reader TJ put two elements into his definition. He pointed out that liberalism claims to seek corporate flourishing, but the way it does so is by placing the individual at the center of the story. Both elements seem to me correct, and I think could be read all the way back to Locke’s 2nd Treatise. So, after much agonizing, I will be sending the Kittelstrom book to Reader TJ!
I’ll hope to have some future updates here shortly.
The marketing folks at Penguin recently sent me an extra copy of Amy Kittelstrom’s forthcoming book The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition.
I’ve not read it extensively, yet, but it carries some nice recommendations from well-known historians Jill Lepore, Daniel Walker Howe, and David D. Hall.
Kittelstrom is using intensive intellectual history to create a genealogy of liberalism in America.
I’ll be happy to send this book on to some fortunate reader. To win it, though, requires that you post a comment on this page. In the comment, answer this question: how would you define American liberalism? Be civil, be reflective.
Whoever leaves the best definition by noon on April 24 will get a copy of the book.
In my last post, I pointed out I still needed to blog about my Houston trip from early last week.
The trip went really well. I was pleased to be hosted by John Wilsey of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. If you haven’t seen his blog “To Breathe Your Free Air,” make sure to check it out! John and I had some great conversations about religion in the American Revolution and its continued import for understanding the world today.
The event was hosted by the Land Center for Cultural Engagement. I am glad they made it possible, and enjoyed meeting its associate director, Trey Dimsdale.
I was able to give a luncheon address on “Federalists, Religion, and Public Engagement,” which drew on some themes from Patriotism and Piety. Students were engaged, and I especially appreciated the students who followed up after the talk. A picture of my speaking even made it online:
The trip was also great for other personal connections. I got to talk with Miles Mullin again. Check out his contributions at the Anxious Bench. Phillip Sinitierre also joined us for a meal. Phil’s book on Joel Osteen will be out this fall–you won’t want to miss it! Finally, I was glad to meet the patristics scholar Stephen Presley.
The trip went quickly, but thanks to all who made it work!
My last post highlighted that I would be traveling down to Houston, Texas for a presentation at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The trip was great and deserves its own post.
For now, let me highlight a piece of my writing that just went up today at the Religion in American History site.
My monthly article ties together the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass with a lesser-known but very important abolitionist writer William Jay. Jay, it just so happens, is an important figure in Patriotism and Piety: Federalist Politics and Religious Struggle in the New American Nation.
Also, in a recently-released book about the underground railroad in New York, historian Eric Foner highlighted the importance of both William and his son John for supporting the cause of fugitive slaves in New York.
Read the whole piece, here.
William Jay, active abolitionist
I should have entitled my last post about traveling to the University of Missouri to present about John Jay as “On the Road with the Federalists.”
I’ll just declare that was the intent, which means I can make this post “Part 2.”
I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be speaking in Houston, Texas next Monday, March 30 on “The Federalists, Religion, and Public Engagement.”
The event will take place at noon, at the Houston Campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I am grateful for the sponsorship of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement for making this event happen.
Texas friends are welcome to attend.