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The books below are new (or at least new to the Wiggin Library) and can be checked out by all library patrons. They are also on display and can be browsed in-person on the 6th floor at Meadville Lombard. For those interesting in getting a library account, go to Request an Account.
A bracing examination of a force that imperils American democracyMost Americans were shocked by the violence they witnessed at the nation's Capital on January 6th, 2021. And many were bewildered by the images displayed by the insurrectionists: a wooden cross and wooden gallows; "Jesus saves" and "Don't Tread on Me;" Christian flags and Confederate Flags; even aprayer in Jesus' name after storming the Senate chamber. Where some saw a confusing jumble, Philip S. Gorski and Samuel L. Perry saw a familiar ideology: white Christian nationalism.In this short primer, Gorski and Perry explain what white Christian nationalism is and is not; when it first emerged and how it has changed; where it's headed and why it threatens democracy. Tracing the development of this ideology over the course of three centuries - and especially its influenceover the last three decades - they show how, throughout American history, white Christian nationalism has animated the oppression, exclusion, and even extermination of minority groups while securing privilege for white Protestants. It enables white Christian Americans to demand "sacrifice" fromothers in the name of religion and nation, while defending their "rights" in the names of "liberty" and "property."White Christian nationalism motivates the anti-democratic, authoritarian, and violent impulses on display in our current political moment. The future of American democracy, Gorski and Perry argue, will depend on whether a broad spectrum of Americans - stretching from democratic socialists toclassical liberals - can unite in a popular front to combat the threat to liberal democracy posed by white Christian nationalism.
In Postcolonial Preaching, HyeRan Kim-Cragg argues that preaching is the act of dropping the stone of the Gospel into a lake, making waves to move hearts and transform the world wounded by colonial violence. The ripple effect serves as a metaphor and acronym to guide to preaching that takes postcolonial concerns seriously: Rehearsal, Imagination, Place, Pattern, Language and Exegesis (RIPPLE). Kim-Cragg explains each "ripple" in this approach and exercise of creating and delivering sermons. The author delivers fresh insights while drawing on some traditional homiletical perspectives in the service of a homiletic that takes the reality of racism, migration, and environmental degradation seriously. Moreover, Kim-Cragg demonstrates the postcolonial sermon in action by including annotated homilies. This book contributes to the very first wave of the application of postcolonial scholarship in preaching. Given the continuing extent and influence of colonial worldviews and legacies, this approach should become a staple in preaching over the next generation.
Necropolitics: The Religious Crisis of Mass Incarceration in America explores the pernicious and persistent presence of mass incarceration in American public life. Christophe D. Ringer argues that mass incarceration persists largely because the othering and criminalization of Black people in times of crisis is a significant part of the religious meaning of America. This book traces representations from the Puritan era to the beginning of the War on Drugs in the 1980s to demonstrate their centrality in this issue, revealing how these images have become accepted as fact and used by various aspects of governance to wield the power to punish indiscriminately. Ringer demonstrates how these vilifying images contribute to racism and political economy, creating a politics of death that uses jails and prisons to conceal social inequalities and political exclusion.
Ben Wright's Bonds of Salvation demonstrates how religion structured the possibilities and limitations of American abolitionism during the early years of the republic. From the American Revolution through the eruption of schisms in the three largest Protestant denominations in the 1840s, this comprehensive work lays bare the social and religious divides that culminated in secession and civil war. Historians often emphasize status anxieties, market changes, biracial cooperation, and political maneuvering as primary forces in the evolution of slavery in the United States. Wright instead foregrounds the pivotal role religion played in shaping the ideological contours of the early abolitionist movement. Wright first examines the ideological distinctions between religious conversion and purification in the aftermath of the Revolution, when a small number of white Christians contended that the nation must purify itself from slavery before it could fulfill its religious destiny. Most white Christians disagreed, focusing on visions of spiritual salvation over the practical goal of emancipation. To expand salvation to all, they created new denominations equipped to carry the gospel across the American continent and eventually all over the globe. These denominations established numerous reform organizations, collectively known as the "benevolent empire," to reckon with the problem of slavery. One affiliated group, the American Colonization Society (ACS), worked to end slavery and secure white supremacy by promising salvation for Africa and redemption for the United States. Yet the ACS and its efforts drew strong objections. Proslavery prophets transformed expectations of expanded salvation into a formidable antiabolitionist weapon, framing the ACS's proponents as enemies of national unity. Abolitionist assertions that enslavers could not serve as agents of salvation sapped the most potent force in American nationalism, Christianity, and led to schisms within the Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist churches. These divides exacerbated sectional hostilities and sent the nation farther down the path to secession and war. Wright's provocative analysis reveals that visions of salvation both created and almost destroyed the American nation.
The Unitarian religious tradition was a product of the same eighteenth-century democratic ideals that fueled the American Revolution and informed the founding of the United States. Its liberal humanistic principles influenced institutions such as Harvard University and philosophical movements like Transcendentalism. Yet, its role in the history of American architecture is little known and studied. In American Unitarian Churches, Ann Marie Borys argues that the progressive values and identity of the Unitarian religion are intimately intertwined with ideals of American democracy and visibly expressed in the architecture of its churches. Over time, church architecture has continued to evolve in response to developments within the faith, and many contemporary projects are built to serve religious, practical, and civic functions simultaneously. Focusing primarily on churches of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple and Louis Kahn's First Unitarian Church, Borys explores building histories, biographies of leaders, and broader sociohistorical contexts. As this essential study makes clear, to examine Unitarianism through its churches is to see American architecture anew, and to find an authentic architectural expression of American democratic identity.
A lively and razor-sharp critique of mindfulness as it has been enthusiastically co-opted by corporations, public schools, and the US military. Mindfulness is now all the rage. From celebrity endorsements to monks, neuroscientists and meditation coaches rubbing shoulders with CEOs at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it is clear that mindfulness has gone mainstream. Some have even called it a revolution. But what if, instead of changing the world, mindfulness has become a banal form of capitalist spirituality that mindlessly avoids social and political transformation, reinforcing the neoliberal status quo? In McMindfulness, Ronald Purser debunks the so-called "mindfulness revolution," exposing how corporations, schools, governments and the military have co-opted it as technique for social control and self-pacification. A lively and razor-sharp critique, Purser busts the myths its salesmen rely on, challenging the narrative that stress is self-imposed and mindfulness is the cure-all. If we are to harness the truly revolutionary potential of mindfulness, we have to cast off its neoliberal shackles, liberating mindfulness for a collective awakening.
Islam is often described as abstract, ascetic, and uniquely disengaged from the human body. Scott Kugle refutes this assertion in the first full study of Islamic mysticism as it relates to the human body. Examining Sufi conceptions of the body in religious writings from the late fifteenth through the nineteenth century, Kugle demonstrates that literature from this era often treated saints' physical bodies as sites of sacred power. Sufis and Saints' Bodies focuses on six important saints from Sufi communities in North Africa and South Asia. Kugle singles out a specific part of the body to which each saint is frequently associated in religious literature. The saints' bodies, Kugle argues, are treated as symbolic resources for generating religious meaning, communal solidarity, and the experience of sacred power. In each chapter, Kugle also features a particular theoretical problem, drawing methodologically from religious studies, anthropology, studies of gender and sexuality, theology, feminism, and philosophy. Bringing a new perspective to Islamic studies, Kugle shows how an important Islamic tradition integrated myriad understandings of the body in its nurturing role in the material, social, and spiritual realms.
Ute Land Religion in the American West, 1879-2009 is a narrative of American religion and how it intersected with land in the American West. Prior to 1881, Utes lived on the largest reservation in North America--twelve million acres of western Colorado. Brandi Denison takes a broad look at the Ute land dispossession and resistance to disenfranchisement by tracing the shifting cultural meaning of dirt, a physical thing, into land, an abstract idea. This shift was made possible through the development and deployment of an idealized American religion based on Enlightenment ideals of individualism, Victorian sensibilities about the female body, and an emerging respect for diversity and commitment to religious pluralism that was wholly dependent on a separation of economics from religion. As the narrative unfolds, Denison shows how Utes and their Anglo-American allies worked together to systematize a religion out of existing ceremonial practices, anthropological observations, and Euro-American ideals of nature. A variety of societies then used religious beliefs and practices to give meaning to the land, which in turn shaped inhabitants' perception of an exclusive American religion. Ultimately, this movement from the tangible to the abstract demonstrates the development of a normative American religion, one that excludes minorities even as they are the source of the idealized expression.
An innovative history that shows how the religious idea of the heathen in need of salvation undergirds American conceptions of race.
If an eighteenth-century parson told you that the difference between "civilization and heathenism is sky-high and star-far," the words would hardly come as a shock. But that statement was written by an American missionary in 1971. In a sweeping historical narrative, Kathryn Gin Lum shows how the idea of the heathen has been maintained from the colonial era to the present in religious and secular discourses--discourses, specifically, of race.
Americans long viewed the world as a realm of suffering heathens whose lands and lives needed their intervention to flourish. The term "heathen" fell out of common use by the early 1900s, leading some to imagine that racial categories had replaced religious differences. But the ideas underlying the figure of the heathen did not disappear. Americans still treat large swaths of the world as "other" due to their assumed need for conversion to American ways. Purported heathens have also contributed to the ongoing significance of the concept, promoting solidarity through their opposition to white American Christianity. Gin Lum looks to figures like Chinese American activist Wong Chin Foo and Ihanktonwan Dakota writer Zitkála-Sá, who proudly claimed the label of "heathen" for themselves. Race continues to operate as a heathen inheritance in the United States, animating Americans' sense of being a world apart from an undifferentiated mass of needy, suffering peoples. Heathen thus reveals a key source of American exceptionalism and a prism through which Americans have defined themselves as a progressive and humanitarian nation even as supposed heathens have drawn on the same to counter this national myth.