I need a new noun

February 16, 2006

I need a new noun.
One that won't make me stick.
One that will help me write.
Not stare at this brick.

Sorry Huey.

I was wrestling with a revision to chapter three back in early February, and tonight is the first chance I have had to think about it since starting the new gig. (Gig goes well: lots of work, lots of fun, lots of good challenges, and they seem to like me and my work.)

As usual for me, the problem is one of organization. I have a mess of interesting stories to tell about civil religion and the margins of the religious settlement between 1801 and about 1820. I am having trouble putting those little stories and moments together into a coherent narrative that both makes a valid internal point and also connects up to the chapters before and after it.

One of the recurring themes is folks who believe that for the good of the nation, national government or at least national leaders should accomodate policy to religious obligations (halt Sunday Mails, for example) or frame national concerns in a religious context (call for days of prayer and fasting during the War of 1812). Jefferson, Madison, and an odd coalition of folks disagree.

What do I want to call the folks who want to see more religion in the national and state governments? I was using Sabbatarians for them, but I am talking about more than just the Sabbath. Most of them are Calvinists, but not all of them are and there are some mighty strong Calvinists who think that religion is too important to let government interfere with it. I thought about calling them Providentials, but that sounded too much like an insurance company. I thought about Formalists, but that word has a very specific meaning and extensive connotations in both law and philosophy, and I don't want to confuse Ashbel Green with the postbellum legal thinkers who ticked off Louis Brandeis.

I hope that if I can come up with a new word and framework for these guys, then I will be able to hook them together in several of my anecdotes and short moments, and thus create a coherent internal framework for the chapter.

But I need a new noun
one that one's make me sick . . .

Posted by Red Ted at February 16, 2006 08:54 PM | TrackBack