Writing Archives

January 20, 2006

Mooney - Law and the Social Character of Religion

Christopher F. Mooney
Law and the Social Character of Religion
University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame Indiana, 1986

Mostly focused on current events, but one very good insight.
"Before we begin, however, let me make one important observation. To designate our general discussion area as that of church and state can be misleading. The problem as it exists in America is not so much a relationship between two institutions as one between two outlooks of the individual, his outlook as a citizen and his outlook as a member of a religious denomination. For in a democracy, where soveriegnty resides in the people, the struggle between God and Caesar must necessarily be internalized. To porject it outward, to deal with it as wholly objective, is to miss its key dimension. What we are really dealing with in America is a competition between two religions, the one civil, the other denominational. It is up to the individual citizen to balance these tow sets of claims, to decide upon the extent of his allegiance to each. 2 Historically our nation has attempted through its ideals and goals to bind the people together under God, giving them, however unsuccessfully at times, a genuine apprehension of God's transcendent reality. Americans have thust ended to find the symbols of ultimate meaning not only in their churches but also in their country. Hence the so-called 'conflict between church and state' is basically an attempt by citizens with allegiance to both institutions to evaluate and criticize the one by criteria received from the other. We should not be surprised, then, to find tensions in this area which are perennial, built as they are into the whole fabric of our society. . . . " 21-22
[Note 2 cites Mead "The Fact of Pluralism and the Persistence of Sectarianism" in Ewyn Smith [ed] The Religion of the Republic. Also Loren Beth The American Theory of Church and State, 141-2.]

"Religious pluralism was a fact in America long before it became an object of belief." 22

Rest is not so useful for me.

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Sekulow & Fourner - And Nothing but the Truth

Jay Sekulow and Keith Fourner
And Nothing but the Truth
Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1995

This is a call to arms for (conservative) Christians to combat the "religious cleansing" of schools and secular society. Very political, very contemporary, not very useful to me.

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Semonche - Religion and Constitutional Government

John Semonche
Religion & Constitutional Government in the United States: A Historical Overview with sources
Signal Books, Carrboro NC, 1986

Semonche's summary of origins of religious liberty
"The religious differences of the American people gave rise to a pluralist society. Any talk of a Protestant America not only neglects those who were not of that faith, but also obscures the vital and important differences among Protestants in colonial society. More than anything else, these differences ensured religious liberty in the new nation."1

Discussing the lack of a Quaker clause to the right to bear arms, in fact the deletion of such language before the amendment passed congress, Semonche comments "Apparently the idea that a person had a right to interpose his religion between himself and a civil obligation had little acceptance in American soceity in the late eighteenth century." 21

Jacob Henry, Speech in the North Carolina House of Delegates, 1809
NC constitution restricted officeholding to Protestants. Henry, a Jew, was elected. His election was challenged and challenger (who?) Tried to declare Henry's seat vacant. Henry responded with speech to House invoking the state's 1776 declaration of rights against the constitutional prohibition. Henry succeeded, and kept his seat. He makes the Jeffersonian argument that legislation only touches actions, not beliefs. He then argues that his religion teaches good beliefs, and, in my terms, promotes proper civic faith.

Begin Blockquote:
I certainly, Mr. Speaker, know not the deisgn of the Declaration of Rights made by te people of this State in the year 1776, if it was not to consecrate cerain great and fundamental rights and principles which even the Constitution cannot impair, . . . if, then, a belief in the Protestant religion is required by the Constitution, to qualify a man for a seat in this house, and such qualification is dispensed with by the Decalration of Rights, the provision of the Constitution must be altogether inoperative; as the language of the Bill of Rights is, "that all men hav ea natural and inalienable right to worship ALMIGHTY GOD according to the dictates oftheir own consciences." It is undoubtedly a natural right, and when it is declared to be an inalienable one by the people in their sovereign and original capacity, any attempt to alienate either by the Cosntitution or by law, must be vain and fruitless.
"It is difficult to conceive how such a provision crept into the Constitution, unless it is from the difficulty the human mid feels in suddenly emancipating itself from fetters by which it has long been enchained: . . .
If a man should hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, I do not hesitate to pronounce that he should be excluded from the public councils of the same; and I trust if I know myself, no one would be more ready to aid and assist than myself. But I should really be at a loss to specify any known religious principles which are thus dangerous. It is surely a question between man and his Maker, and requires more than human attributes to pronounce which of the numerous sects prevailing in the world is most acceptable to the Deity. If a man fulfills the duties of that religion, which his education of his conscience has pointed to [110] him as the true one, no merson, I hold, in this our land of liberty, as a right toa rraign him at the bar of any inquisition: and the day , I trust, has long passed, when principles merely sepculative were propagated byforce; when the sincere and pious were made victims and the light-minded bribed into hypocrites.
The purest homage man could render to the Almighty was the sacrifice of his passions and the performance of his duties. That the ruler of the universe would receive with equal benignity the various offerings of man's adoration, if they proceeded from the heart. Governments only concern the actions and conduct of man, and not his speculative notions. Who among us feels himself so exalted above his fellows as to have a right to dictate to them any mode of belief? Will you bind the conscience in chains, and fasten convictions upon the mind in spite of the conclusions of reason and of those ties and habitudes which are blended with every pulsation of the heart? Are you prepared to plunge atonce from the sublime heights of mroal legislation into the dark and gloomy caverns of superstitious ignorance? Will you drive from your shors and from the shelter of you constituion, all who do not lay their oblations on the same altar, observe the same rutual, and subscribe to the same dogmas? If so, which, among the various sects into which we are divided, shall be the favored one?
I should insult the understanding of this House to suppose it posible that they could ever assent to such absurdities; for all know that persecution in all its shapes and modifications, is contrary to the genious of our government and the spirit of our laws, and that it can never prduce any other efect than to render menn hypocrites or martyrs. . . .
Nothin is more easily demonstrated than that the conduct alone is the subject of human laws, and that man ought to suffer civil disqualification for what he does, and not for what he thinks. The midn can receive laws only from Him, of whose divine essence it is a portion; He alone can punish disobedience; for who else can know it smovement,s or estimate ther merits? The religion I rpofess,inculcates every duty which man oes to his fellow men; it enouns upon its votaries the practice of every virtue, and the detestation of every vice; it teaches them to hope for the favor of heaven exactly in proportion as their lives have been directed by just, honorable,and benevolent maxims. This, then, gentlement, is my creed, -- it was impressed upon my infant mind; it has been the director of my youth, the monitor of my manhood, and will, I trust, be the consolation of my old age. At any rate, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that you cannot see antying in this Religion, to deprive me of my seat in this house. So far as related to my life and conduct, the examination of thsee I submit with cheerfulness to your candid and liberal construciton. What may be the religion of him who made this objection against me, or whether he has any religion or not I am unable to say. I have never considered it my duty to pry into the belief of other members of [111] this house. If their actions are upright and conduct just, the rest is for their own consideration, not for mine. I do not seek to make converts to my faith, whatever it may be esteemed in the eyes of my ofificous friend, nor do I exclude any one from my esteem or friendship, because he and I differ in that respect. The same charity, therefore, it is not unreasonable to expect, will be extended to myself, because in all things that relate to the State and to the duties of civil life, I am bound by the same obligations with my fellow-citizens, nor does any man subscribe more sincerely than myself to the maxim, "whatever ye would that men should do unto you do ye so even unto them, for such is the law and the prophets."
End blockquote, pp 109-111

Maryland's test act barred Jews from both the legislature and the legal profession. Campaign to overturn the test began 1797, did not succeed until 1826. Quotes Brackenridge speech on the Jew Bill, 1809. Not quoting because it was a losing bill.

Phoco 111-135
Some useful stuff, not quite worth commonplacing.

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Jones - Sectional Crisis and Northern Methodism

Donald G. Jones
The Sectional Crisis and northern methodism: a study in Piety, political Ethics, and Civil Religion
The Scarecrow Press, Inc, Metuchen N.J. & London 1979

This is the Jesse Lee Prize Essay for 1979.

Jones examines the Northern Methodists after the Civil War. He has a good review of civil religion as it applies to mid-century Americans, but his primary focus is on the 1860s and 1870s.

Not useful for the dissertation, but if I ever write a second volume on civil religion then I will have to read this.

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January 17, 2006

Kidd - Protestant Interest

Thomas Kidd
The Protestant Interest: New England after Puritanism
Yale University Press
New Haven and London

During the 50 years between the Glorious Revolution and the Great Awakening, many New Englanders came to see themselves as part of a worldwide Protestant Interest. This Protestant Interest replaced Puritanism as their collective and public religious identity.

New Englanders began to refer to selves as dissenters or often "evangelicals" after about 1720.

Churchmen, French Catholics, and New Englanders had been proselytizing the indians along the Northern border since the 17th century, with formal missions organized in the 18th century by both the SPGFP and less formally organized New England counterparts workingwith the Society in Scotland for Promoting Christian Knowledge. 43-46 key focus was Jesuits v SSPCK among Wabanakis

New newspaper tied Boston to the world, especially important because wars of late 17th and early 18th century read as a conflict between worldwide Protestantism and worldwide Catholicism

"Joseph Campbell's Boston News-Letter must be viewed as an important departure in provincial New England's print culture and a new means of helping readersimagine simultaneously a British and an international Protestant community. Religious news, motivated by an eschatological anticipation of an impending battle for Christendom], directed much of the content of the News-Leter and later Boston papers." 55

Chapter 5 discusses the enduring use of anti-Jacobitism and anti-Catholicism.
New Englanders were worried about a return of the Stuart line, identified themselves with the Protestant and then the Hanoverian succession against the possibility of a Jacobite restoration. Their newspapers tracked the movements and actions of the Pretenders. More to the point, New Englanders worried that Episcopacy was a stalking horse for Popery, that the local SPGFP ministers were undermining the true religion. They had some trust for the C of E in England, little trust for it in New England. Afraid that they would lose their odd position as Dissenting establishment. Tended to accuses foes of being jacobites if not papists, especially if foes were CofE or even leaned that way, and the rhetoric worked - New Englanders trained themselves and their rising generations to respond negatively and immediately to all references to popery, jacobites and the SPGFP, and linked them all together in a single rhetorical and emotional construct.

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Marcela Cristi - From Civil to Political Religion

From Civil to Political Religion: The Intersection of Culture, Religion, and Politics
Marcela Cristi
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Waterloo, Ontario 2001

Cristi is critical of Bellah and most other formulations of civil religion.

As she argues it, civil religion comes in two varieties, Rousseau and Durkheim. The first is national ideology, imposed from above for the purpose of legitimating the power of the state. The second is consensual and cultural. It grows out from the people spontanously and binds them together. She argues that historians of American civil religion have cited Rousseau, then used Durkheim exclusively, imposing a level of consensus that did not exist in the past. Instead she proposes that civil religion forms a continuum from the strict Rousseau ideology on one end to strick Durkheim culture on the other. This continuum can then be applied to other cultures and other societies as a useful sociological model.

Rousseau called it civil religion, but Cristi argues that his is "political religion" - a state religion of "dogmas that every citizen must subscribe to on pain of exile or death."

Durkheim discusses a "civic creed." He gets there by looking at primitive religious groups, who share a totem or symbol of collective identity. In the modern world, the totems are the nation and the idea of moral individualism (not "the utilitarian egoism of Spencer and of the economists"). Durkheim's quote. Cristi summarizes: "In Durkheim's cult of the individual, each person is the repository of the sacred, and the symbol and source of a new morality." 37 Every gathering is a feast, every feast a celebration of the group, every feast an occasion where individuals join together.

Cristi summarizes Durkheim
"Religion is not something to be imposed on the individual. Rather it is a cultural and social force acting upon him. Citizens are not expected to endorse the creed (or the religious sentiments associated with collective gatherings); Durkheim assumes that they spontaneously or naturally do so. Civil reliion springs from society itself and nis carried on every time the group meets and celebrates together. Social representations, values, beliefs, ingrained in the collective mind, are carried from generation to generation. It is not the power of the soveriegn (or the state), but the power of society that acts upon the individual." 39-40

Summarizes the historiography of civil religion, 1950s-70s, then does her own brief historical summary. Argues that "the civic-religious dimensio of the american experience is often traced back to a blend of idea stemming from its puritan tradition and from the Enlightenment. . . . Civic virtues was equated with political obligations, and political obligations with a duty to God. Simply put, civic responsibilities became infused with ethical significance." 49

Focuses on the relationship between power and civil religion, both flavors, including several case studies of political religion in international context.
"Civil religion is neither simply civil nor purely religious, but it is also centrally political." 235

Concludes that civil religion, as construed by Bellah et al using Durkheimian assumptions "has proven to be deficient on several grounds: nit does not provide an adequate solution to the problem of conflicting interests that divide society, whether this conflict is expressed in terms of race, class, or politicial ideology; it is often not useful to evaluate significant differences or shades of civil religions, both ebtween societies and within them; it is inadequate to investigate civil religious belies as expressions f ideologies produced by some groups; it is inadequate, again, to analyze politically motivated uses of civil religion.
"The critique presented in this study does not necessarily mean that the civil religion concept is sociologically useless. On the contrary, I remian convicned that it addresses an important sociological topic of investigation -- the 'religio-political problem.'" 242 The idea may be inadequate, but it is not false.

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Hart & Pauley - The Political Pulpit Revisited

The Political Pulpit Revisited
Roderick P. Hart and John L. Pauley III
Purdue University Press
West Lafayette, Indiana

This is a review of the earlier book, 25 years later.
Reprints the original as part II, then gives a set of essays commenting on the original.

Carolyn Marvin
argues that Hart is wrong, civil religion is not rhetorical, because rhetoric talks while religion does. What civil religion does is providing unification, replacing separate personal or confessional faiths with a single shared national faith, and this faith is tied to the coercive power of the nation. Denominational religion must bow to the authority of religious nationalism. (Paraphrase) There is an American sacraficial authority.

My 2nd volume has to examine the civil religion of civil rights, esp beloved community, MLK, and the Nation of Islam

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Hart - The Political Pulpit

The Political Pulpit
Roderick P. Hart
The Purdue University Press
West Lafayette, Indiana

this is a rhetorical study of rhetoric, especially Presidential but including all sorts of public pronoucements.
It is focused on the "now" of 1977.

Argues that government and organized religion have joined in an unofficial "contract",

Religion provides an ultimate belief system for its adherents
government can exert coercive influence on th affairs of its citizens
both government and religion weild considerable rhetorical power
both maintain the fiction that they do not collude with one another
From this we get the contract
1, the guise of complete separation between the government and organized religion will be maintained by both parties
2, the guise of existential equality between the two will be maintained by both parties
3, government rhetoric will refrain from being overly religious and religion's rhetoric will refrain from being overly political
4, neither party will make the terms of the contract known.
civil religion, at least from the governmental perspective, is essentially rhetorical

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Pierard & Linder - Civil Religion and the Presidency

Civil Religion and the Presidency
Richard V. Pierard & Robert D. Linder
Grand Rapids, Michigan, Academie Books, 1988

Foreward, Martin Marty
"In 1940 Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote that 'the ultimate foundation of a society is the binding tie of cohesive sentiment.'
"In 1955 Will Herberg spoke of 'civic faith,' during the 1950s and 1960s Sidney Mead kept talking about 'the religion of the republic,' and in 1967 Robert N. Bellah took a word from Rousseau and began to point to America's 'civil religion.'
"In 1974 I distinguished between 'prophetic' and 'priestly' civil religino.
"In 1974 Michael Novak talk about 'choosing our king' and showed how the president of the United States fulfilled royal and sacerdotal roles." vii

"Why bother? Why disturb the peace of those who think of presidents as presidents, priests as priests, patriotism ans something done in the public sphere and religion as something done I church? . . . the outcomes of presidential priestly civil religion are fateful. They have to do wtih the deepest definitions of a people, the highest points they reach, and the most idolatrous depths in which they wallow."
"Civil religion is not always religious nationalism or self-idolatry. There is usually some abiguity in the employment of religious symbols, and they know it and show it in respect to the civil religion of the presidents and the people who elect them. . . . a theme that can rescue American civic faith from idolotry" is"'transcendent justice' which Americans inherited from the Hebrew prophets and the more profound of the enlightened founders. Transcendent justice calls forth a God beyond the gods of the nation to judge it. Utterance in support of it usually come from the prophetic elements in a religion, but at its best, the presidency has seeon some of its priests turn prophetic." ix

Chapter one
"the president occupies a special place in American life -- a place that is at once political and religious. . . . The way he lives affects the self-image of the people, and his lifestyle and tastes greatly influence those of Americans at large." 19

"In any event, scholars generally agree that whether he is religiously active or passive the foremost representative of civil religion in Amrica is the president. He not only serves as head of state and chief executive, but he also functions as the symbolic representative of the whole of the American people. He affirms that God exists and that America's destiny and the nation's policies must be interpreted in the light of the Almighty's will. The rituals that the president celebrates and the speeches he makes reflect the basic themes of American civil religion.[note: Michael Novak, Choosing our King: Powerful Symbols in Presidential Politics (New York, Macmillan, 1974),3-5; Charles page Henderson, Jr. "Civil Religion and the American Presidency," Religious Education 70 (Septemb-October 1975): 473-85; Robert N. Bellah, "Civil Religion in America" . . . and Lewis Lipsitz, "If, as Verba Says, the State Functions as a Religion, What Are We To Do To Save Our Souls?", American Political Science Reivew 62 (1968) 530.] 20

Chapter 3 is a review of the history of civil religion. I can phoco the whole thing, or ILL it when I revise the introduction. Leaning toward the latter.

Check my discussion of George Washington. Read him as a Unitarian-Deist who attended the rituals of the C of E and then the PEC, used the Episcopal grace at meals, had a strong and growing belief in Providence, and never spoke of Jesus or Christ. Washington regularly attended Episcopal services, but always left the building before Communion.
Washington believed in the "Supreme Ruler of Nations"


Never Baptised
Parents were Baptist
Attended several churches (PEC and PCA mostly)
Friends with Methodist clergymen
Read a lot of Bible, knew it well since he was a boy, read it more and more during ACW
Check Sandburg, The Prairie Years 336-7 for Cartwright story, Lincoln Works, Lincoln Works, I, 132 for the Cartwright handbill.

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March 23, 2005

Journal of the Proceedings of the Congress met in Philadelphia, September 1774

Journal of the Proceedings of the Congress met in Philadelphia, September 1774
Facsimile copy
Library Company of Philadelphia, 1974

Most of the time I just grab my primary source documents, flip to the page I need, and close them up again. This one I read through, so it goes on the reading log.

This is the journal of the First Continental Congress, the one that met to complain about the Intolerable Acts and the Quebec Act after Parliament punished Boston for the Boston Tea Party.

I read it looking for John Adams and the compromises about religion. I found nothing about that.

What I did find was copies of all their public letters and resolutions, and this gave me a slightly different feel for the way in which they interpreted the Quebec Act and used it as part of their propaganda machine.

As 18th century journals of parliamentary proceedings go, this is a good one - if only because most of the pages are resolutions and printed documents and appeals.

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July 07, 2004

Paine - Age of Reason

Thomas Paine - Age of Reason

I realized that I needed a paragraph on civil religion in Paine's Age of Reason. So, I did exactly what I tell the undergraduates to do: I sat down with the book and a yellow pad, I read the book commonplacing the various points where he talked about civil religion - a line or two to summarize the point and the page number where I found it -- and then I went back and wrote the paragraph from my notes.

I was distracted by, well, not focusing well, so it took me almost 24 hours to write that paragraph, starting from "oh bother, I need to re-read Paine" and ending with writing the transition at the head of the next paragraph.

Not all paragraphs take quite that long, thank goodness.

Perhaps I should try writing more fiction - it can't go any slower, can it?

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June 09, 2004

Lenner - Federal Principle

Andrew Lenner, The Federal Principle in American Politics, 1790-1833

I turned every page on Monday, so I guess I read the book (I did skim some.)

Lenner is a bright guy working with a relatively defined body of material and coming up with some clever insights about it. He examines the Federal Principle, and especially the role of Natural Law and the Law of Nations, in American politics from the 1790s through Nullification. In many ways this is a sequel to Jack Greene's Peripheries and Center, although Lenner is more interested in the working of dual sovereignty while Green told the story of how dual sov. was invented.

Lenner reminded me of the importance that Natural Law and the Law of Nations held for the founders, I might blog on that on the main blog later this week.

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May 12, 2004

Hirrel - Ideology of Antebellum Reform

Leo Hirrell, Ideology of Antebellum Reform Ph.D. dissertation, 1989

Hirrell's book has also been published as Children of Wrath but for my stuff I find the raw data in his dissertation more useful.

Re-read this to see if he discussed changing notions of Providence within new School Presbyterians in the 1830s. He did not, but rather focuses on the New School's focus on the self-evident nature of truth, the way that truth exists outside of a knower, and the hope that exposure to this truth will produce an immediate and effective change in people's hearts and actions.

It did not, or rather the truths they presented were not as inherently compelling as they wished, and so the New School became sad and discouraged.

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April 28, 2004

Newmyer - Joseph Story

R. Kent Newmyer, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story: Statesman of the Old Republic (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1985)

More Joseph Story. Newmyer emphasizes Story the conservative, starting with his Republican roots but framing his mature thought in Burkean lines, and even showing Story making approving references to Metternich. His Story is not the Madisonian Republican but the American Burke or Blackstone, appealing to the common law as the basis for a framework of jurisdiction that would restrain the Jacksonian devolution of the Republic.

Useful stuff.

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Story - Joseph Story

William W. Story [ed] Life and Letters of Joseph Story (New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1971), 2 vol. Orig pub 1851.

Most major political and religious leaders of the nineteenth century had their deaths followed by a volume of life and letters, commonly edited by a son or grandson. It was an act of fileopietism to create one of these volumes, and historians are very glad of that impulse.

William Story here combined the narrative of an autobiography written by his father with extracts from Joseph Story's letters, letters about Joseph story from his contemporaries, and comments on some of the more significant cases. It is a big book - each volume is some 575 pages - and luckily I was able to gut it, skimming for content and only commonplacing a few pages of notes.

More Joseph Story, some useful quotes including some letters on Christianity and the Common Law.

Now I get to think about how exactly I want to use Story in chapters two and three.

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April 25, 2004

Dunne - Joseph Story

Gerald Dunne, Justice Joseph Story and the Rise of the Supreme Court

I am reading up on Story because he figures prominently in chapter two and in the framing section for chapter three. I had, for example, filed him as a Federalist because of his buddies and his later whigdom. Dunne reminded me that Story had been a street-fighting Republican in the late 1790s and early 1800s - getting into at least one fistfight in 1803 - before making friends with Federalists while working on the Yazoo Land case and then being named to the Supreme Court.

Story appears to have been a National Republican - a Madisonian not a Jeffersonian - and he took this perspective into DeuteroFederalism in the 1810s and then into Whiggery in the 1840s.

It was a useful book, though I skimmed more than I read.

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April 03, 2004

Marty - Righteous Empire

Martin E Marty, Righteous Empire: The Protestant Experience in America
New York, Dial Press, 1970

A pop-history review of American Protestant religious history. A couple of useful quotes to thicken the dissertation. He focuses on consensus and argues that Evangelicals were effectively everything. I focus on the tension between the one and the many and argue that Evangelicals were terrified that they would become nothing - a difference in emphasis that leads us to very different conclusions.

Good stuff, nice read, a little dated.

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March 25, 2004

Wright - Beginnings of Unitarianism

Conrad Wright, The Beginnings of Unitarianism in America
Archon press
Repring of the Beacon Press, Boston, 1966 edition.

"Skim has the same number of letters as read."

Wright reviews the "Arminian" theology of the liberal wing of the New England Establishment from 1734 to 1805. Mostly an examination of the words and theology of the liberals, contrasting them with both Old Calvinists and Jonathan Edwards. Wright is smart, as were the Unitarians, and he makes some good points about both the similarites and differences between the two wings.

Things to remember: supernatural rationalism, much like Locke the Arminians believed that people must use reason to evaluate revelation, and that revelation existed and was really a revelation.

And so to run errands.

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