Friday, August 12, 2016

Frazer on Green's Latest

At the Claremont Review of Books, Gregg Frazer reviews Steven K. Green's "Inventing a Christian America: The Myth of the Religious Founding."

A taste:
The book’s treatment of the early colonial period is quite informative and well supported, emphasizing the “melding [of] theological and Enlightenment concepts” as “Puritan-Calvinist patterns and ideas informed revolutionary and constitutional ideology.” His discussion of the founders’ own religious beliefs starts with the same balance and nuance, arguing that the “portrayal of the founders as religion-despising deists is as inaccurate as the claim that they were all born-again Christians.” He even employs the term I use in The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders (2012), “theistic rationalism,” and occasionally strengthens the “theism” element by making it the noun rather than the modifier. Green soon abandons any notion, however, that religious influence “melded” with Enlightenment thought or that Christianity “informed” the founders’ views. Suddenly, it’s all rationalism and no theism, with any reference to divine Providence—even in private writings—dismissed as political rhetoric. How does Green know the founders’ motives and intent? Is there a reason to doubt their sincerity? He gives none. Even if we are skeptical of public pronouncements, why wouldn’t private correspondence, diaries, and memoranda reliably convey a person’s beliefs? After warning against simply taking religious statements at face value and against isolating favorable quotes, Green does that very thing in support of his own position.


Tom Van Dyke said...

even Green's title is a lie
so sick of these people

“Myth,” as Green uses that term in his subtitle and throughout the book, means simply “identity-creating narratives”; he insists that such myths are not necessarily untrue. He wants merely “to explain how the ideas of America’s religious founding and its status as a Christian nation became a leading narrative about the nation’s collective identity.” Nevertheless, Green treats every element of the “myth” as false throughout and tries to prove its falsehood at every turn.

Art Deco said...

Dr. Green previously served as general counsel and director of policy for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.


People contemplating graduate study in economics were once told that academic departments do not consider applicants who've worked as corporation economists. You choose academic work on completing your degree and have no other opportunities to enter academe. A relation of mine told me some years back that academic positions in psychology were closed to him his publication record notwithstanding, because he'd spent his career in hospitals.

I've been told law schools nowadays follow the same policy, and that a career like Robert Bork's (which began with 7 years in private practice) is no longer possible. So, I've had occasion to wonder why this man has a career. He was (for nine years, IIRC) the GC to a crummy advocacy group called "Americans United for Separation of Church and State". I guess some people's stints as working lawyers are more equal than others.