Over at The New Republic, Mark Lilla reviews historian Brad S. Gregory’s latest book, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society.
Posts Tagged ‘Protestant Reformation’
At the Harvard University Press Blog, historian Brad S. Gregory discusses his latest book, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society: Brad S. Gregory’s new book, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society, is very much in the tradition of and in conversation with Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age. Both are [...]
What we need is a bird’s eye view, and that requires taking theology seriously, and considering a longer view of the history of Western civilization than any sociological survey can provide. [...] American Grace adopts a position of respectful skepticism toward theology. The authors dutifully reproduce the questionnaire of “measures of theological belief and religious commitment” included in their survey, but they express surprise that many Americans “have stable views on such seemingly arcane theological issues” as whether a person is saved by faith or by their own good deeds. (Calling this fundamental question “arcane” is a bit like expressing confusion at that obscure rule in baseball that allows a player to score a run by crossing home plate.)
One of the great benefits of conducting research at the British Library is that days off provide the opportunity to soak up some of London’s first-class cultural amusements. Like Paris, Rome, and Washington D.C., England’s capital is a museum city, brimming with galleries and monuments. The city itself is a reminder of traditions jostling—often uneasily—with the seemingly ineluctable pressure of changing values and mores. I try to keep business and pleasure separate, of course, but while taking in the portraits at the National Portrait Gallery I was struck by the way in which this cultural history constructs a certain trajectory of secularization.
The current campaign within the Archdiocese of New York to canonize the radical activist Dorothy Day (1897-1980) offers a good example of what Elizabeth Povinelli, writing here on December 13 (“Can Sex be a Minor Form of Spitting?”), calls the “mutual conditions and secret agreements” that tie the sexual revolution and Catholic teaching together behind the scenes—and of the “transformation in the field of sin” sealed in their alliance. It isn’t simply that the candor with which Cardinal O’Connor and now Cardinal Egan have described Day’s sexual agency, single motherhood, and presumed abortion signals the Church’s accommodation to new, post-1960s norms of frankness.
Why is it that sex is such a central part of American political life anyway? Why, when The New York Times reported on the influence of “values” voters on the 2004 Presidential election, did the Times name only two “values,” both of them reflecting a conservative sexual ethic: opposition to abortion and opposition to “recognition of lesbian and gay couples”?
Despite the putative separation of church and state, one of the major places in the U.S. where religion and the state remained entwined is around sexuality, specifically at the point of marriage, where religious officials are actually empowered to act on behalf of the state. And whenever politicians talk about marriage laws, they nearly always do so with reference to religious commitments—and the political affiliation or philosophy of the policymaker doesn’t much matter in terms of this outcome.