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Faith vs. Churches?

Andrei Rublev, Apostle Paul, ca. 1410.

Religion in Politics? Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It   

What civic republicans should learn from American Puritan beliefs and practices, even without reverting to them. (This essay was published in 2009 by the World Affairs Journal, which later vanished in a puff of smoke. In some respects, this essay was a rebuttal to David Gelernter’s fatuous Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion, which I had reviewed two years earlier for The Boston Globe).

In 2015, I published a more comprehensive (and comprehending) essay, “Our Puritan Heritage,” in Democracy journal, from which it was adapted by The Atlantic in “Gifts of the Puritans.” 

Reviewing the historian Daniel Rodgers’ As a City Upon a Hill for the Los Angeles Review, I wrestled with his suggestion that American Puritanism was exceptional, but not exceptionalist in the sense of seeing America as uniquely redeemed and protected from the rest of humanity’s ills. In a little essay with a long title — “How I Escaped Puritanism’s Creepy Side by Embracing its Noble Side” — for The Huffington Post, I recounted my own “Puritan” upbringing, noting what was good in it (Yes, some of it was good) at the expense of Stacey Schiff’s much-ballyhooed but mincing account in The Witches. 

Religion in Its Place , International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law, 2004. This long essay, on America’s civil religion, was originally my paper for a conference on Nurturing Civil Society, hosted by the Campbell Institute of Public Affairs at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. I’m adapting it further for an anthology of my essays, Somebodyhaddasayit. 

Religion in Politics? Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It. March 26, 2010. It’s often indispensable to civic insurgencies but it’s often odious and oppressive when it rules.

Gods and Monsters, Bookforum, Feb/Mar 2012, a review of the British (and Manhattan New School) philosopher Simon Critchley’s Faith of the Faithless: Experiments on Political Theology, with some observations about Manhattan’s downtown, gauchiste left.

“I, Barack Hussein Obama, Do Solemnly Swear,” Yale Daily News, January 20, 2009. This little essay, which ran on several sites where it can no longer be found, had an interesting reception, as here in Daily Kos and by the neo-conservative Obama-basher Daniel Pipes.

Faith and Social Justice, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Nov. 16, 2003, Review of historian David Chappell’s book, A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow, which shows the ways in which the civil-rights movement, often at its best, was anything but “liberal”.

Why Niebuhr Now? Bookforum, Summer, 2011.  Review of John Patrick Diggins’ posthumous book of that title, on the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s continuing resonance in American thinking. Here I suggest that some of the public intellectuals who’ve professed great admiration for Neibhur have invoked him a bit too conveniently.