Part 1: Survey of seemingly unrelated Christians in the "colonialist moment" that help map out the major shifts happening in the theological architec Part 1: Survey of seemingly unrelated Christians in the "colonialist moment" that help map out the major shifts happening in the theological architecture of Christianity that result in its "diseased social imagination"- Zurara, Acosta, Colenso, & Equiano are "microcosms"
Part 2: Reflects on concepts, Christian doctrines, and events t ogether that have not previously been thought about together - specifically: -Race, space, place, geography, identity -Theological significance of Native American identities and Jewish-Gentile identity in relation to black-white racial identity -The importance of translation, literacy, and language...more
"The crucial point here is not merely that the policy of lying was hardly ever aimed at the enemy...but was destined chiefly, if not exclusively, for"The crucial point here is not merely that the policy of lying was hardly ever aimed at the enemy...but was destined chiefly, if not exclusively, for domestic consumption, for propaganda at home, and especially for the purpose of deceiving Congress" (p. 14).
"The historian knows how vulnerable is the whole texture of facts in which we spend our daily life...It is this fragility that makes deception so very easy up to a point, and so tempting" (p. 8).
On the process of 'internal self-deception': "It is as thought the normal process of self-deceiving were reversed; it was not as though deception ended with self-deception. The deceivers started with self-deception...Probably because of their high success, not on the battlefield, but in the public relations arena...And since they lived in a defactualized world anyway, they did not find it difficult to pay no more attention to the fact that their audience refused to be convinced than to other facts" (p. 35).
"For the trouble with lying and deceiving is that their efficacy depends entirely upon a clear notion of the truth that the liar and deceiver wishes to hide. In this sense, truth, even if does not prevail in public, possesses an ineradicable primacy over all falsehoods" (p. 31).
Helpful pairing: Kathryn Gines on Arendt's anti-black racism. Kathryn T. Gines. "Hannah Arendt, Liberalism, and Racism: Controversies Concerning Violence, Segregation, and Education." The Southern Journal of Philosophy (2009) Vol. XLVII....more
Really helpful introduction to contemporary debates in feminist thought and practice. Read this over break to try to get a jump on this semester's priReally helpful introduction to contemporary debates in feminist thought and practice. Read this over break to try to get a jump on this semester's primary source readings in gender....more
I found Bender’s concept of “entanglement” helpful. According to Bender, spirituality is entangled in social life, history, and scholarship, so tryingI found Bender’s concept of “entanglement” helpful. According to Bender, spirituality is entangled in social life, history, and scholarship, so trying to analyze it on a purely individual level “distorts” what’s really happening. Thus Bender questions our basic mythology about spirituality: the belief that it is a highly individual religious experience that emerges out of an ineffable mental state and has no history or social meaning. She points out that the scholarly category of spirituality—how it’s theorized and studied as a specifically individual-level phenomenon—is suspiciously linked to particular theologizing accounts (Schleiermacher, Otto, Eliade—and arguably William James?). Like Kathryn Lofton, Bender further suggests that our assumptions about the religious/secular divide result in us overlooking things that look, act, and function a lot like religion in secular spaces. Bender’s intervention is assert that contemporary spirituality should be analyzed not just at the individual level but in organizational, geographical, and historical terms, and she directs our attention to where spirituality is produced and what it does for its practitioners....more
In a patriarchal black church that does not ordain women--why do black women outnumber black men? How do black women exercise agency and power in theIn a patriarchal black church that does not ordain women--why do black women outnumber black men? How do black women exercise agency and power in the COGIC without access to traditional church offices? Anthea Butler argues that in the case of the COGIC church mothers, the Holiness belief in sanctification motivates their work for spiritual, social, and political change (from "Bible, Bath, and Broom" to the Saints School and from temperance to interracial women's organizing in support of American troops in World War II) . The practice of the "sanctified life," in turn, gives COGIC church mothers status and influence as teachers and leaders of the church's female majority. The dual pursuit of "purity" and "power" means that church mothers are both epitomes of ideal women's domesticity and empowered subverters of gendered lines of authority within the church. Once COGIC women form the parachurch Women's Department, they become "power brokers" who have great, though by no means total, influence over the men who occupy ordained offices ("teaching" balances out "preaching"). Ultimately, there are more women than men in the black church because it is a place where black women who believe in sanctification can live holy lives and get things done, in the church and, eventually, the world. ...more
Benjamin J. Kaplan’s Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe (2007) is a cultural and social historBenjamin J. Kaplan’s Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe (2007) is a cultural and social history that re-examines the question of how communities within what had formerly been known as Western Christendom dealt with religious diversity. Traditional historiographies of religious tolerance in Europe have focused on intellectual and political history—what tolerance meant to elites. Kaplan’s contribution is a focus on everyday people in the context of villages, towns, and cities, and he highlights and challenges the way that prevailing (elite) narratives link religious tolerance to Enlightenment values of rationality and secularism. He’s particularly concerned to point out that secularism is designed to accommodate religious individualism, but not religious groups: to the extent that participation in secular society is linked to cultural assimilation, individuals for whom religious group identity is important may be faced with choosing between their religion and engaging in the public sphere. This dilemma informs Kaplan’s interest in critiquing the Enlightenment narrative’s claim to religious toleration by looking at the many different forms of toleration in early modern Europe. Kaplan is concerned that modern secular societies are so invested in the Enlightenment myth of toleration that it “narrows our thinking about ways to avoid or resolve conflict in the present” (7). ...more
Barbara Diefendorf’s Beneath the Cross: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth-Century Paris (1991) is a social history which aims to systematically re-Barbara Diefendorf’s Beneath the Cross: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth-Century Paris (1991) is a social history which aims to systematically re-examine religious conflict in sixteenth-century Paris in the years leading up to the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in order to answer the following questions: Why did the 1572 coup against Huguenot leaders escalate into a city-wide massacre of Protestants? What was the nature of the religious conflict in Paris, and what role did Paris play in the larger Wars of Religion?
Like a good detective, Diefendorf notices that the traditional historiography of the Wars of Religion, and especially for the Saint Bartholomew’s day massacre, is suspiciously focused on the political and gives little analysis on the role of popular religion. (I suppose all good historians are detectives—and Beneath the Cross does read a bit like a murder mystery, crime scene and all.) She suggests that confessional bias is partly to blame: both Catholic and Protestant historians were embarrassed by the religious violence and hatred, and even historians without confessional bias were uncomfortable looking too closely at popular fanaticism (5). Not until the 1970s and 1980s do historians begin examining popular piety, most notably in Denis Crouzet’s “radical thesis”—which is radical in that it focuses entirely on religious belief as the source of the violence!
Diefendorf’s historiographical intervention builds on this work: she pays particular attention to the religious factors that contributed to the conflict, although she also discusses political factors. Her premise: historians should study Saint Bartholomew’s day as not just a prelude to a political crisis that leads to absolute monarchy, but as an “episode in the struggle over the Reformation of the Christian faith” (177). Diefendorf argues that in the fifteen years of social, economic, and political tensions due to famine, plague, and war immediately before the massacre (1557-1572), non-elites among Catholics and Huguenots are increasingly religiously radicalized, despite the interests of Parisian officials and the king’s court in keeping peace, which ultimately results in the 1572 massacre and the revolt of the Catholic League. At the same time, the early foundations of the “politique” faction are established by Parisian officials who recognize that moderation is critical to preventing anarchy are also to be found in this period. Ultimately, Diefendorf uses a breadth of evidence to argue that the massacre is not the result of “top-down” political violence but, rather, the result of a crusade against heresy by the common people that gets reflected back to the level of city officials and kings, who have very little power to curb it....more
Question(s): Where should we place Catholic women in the history of the Progressive Era and American feminism? How do gender and religious identity shQuestion(s): Where should we place Catholic women in the history of the Progressive Era and American feminism? How do gender and religious identity shape how Catholic women respond to the key concerns of the Progressive Era: education, suffrage, and women’s participation in public life?
Conclusion: Although Catholic women are not “New Women,” neither are they “priest-ridden.” They are absent from the historiography because mainstream narratives of U.S. religious history and feminist history overlook them as agents who prioritize religious solidarity over gender-based alliances (making them doubly invisible, as women who are not proto-feminists). Catholic women participate in the broader Catholic project of using gender ideology in order to show how Catholics are ideal citizens (patriotic, domestic, and pious)—a project directly in response to anti-Catholic nativism. Sometimes this reinforces gender subordination. Yet Catholic women also use gender ideology to expand their opportunities—a move that is strategically important in the wake of the Americanist controversy within the Catholic church—justifying actions that might otherwise be considered outside the scope of the “True Woman.”
Intervention: Cummings’ intervention in the historiography is to consider Catholic women part of the history of the Progressive Era and American feminism and to employ religion as a category of analysis in order to understand their actions.
Argument/Further Questions: Cummings turns to four prominent Irish-Catholic women as case studies. Two are women religious and two are lay women: Margaret Buchanan Sullivan (writer), Sister Julia McGroarty (founder of Trinity College), Sister Assisium McEvoy (key player in the establishment of the Philadelphia parochial school system), and Katherine Eleanor Conway (journalist and well-known antisuffragist). Cummings provides many examples of how these prominent Catholic women were attuned to anti-Catholic bias and consistently prioritized solidarity with other Catholics in light of this political reality.
Cummings draws on the work of historians Meager and Skerrett to make the interesting point that, for Irish Catholics in the early twentieth century, Irish ethnic identity gets subsumed into Catholic religious identity (Chapter 4), implying that Irish Catholic women emphasize Catholic solidarity in response to anti-immigrant as well as anti-Catholic attitudes (the two are intertwined). Might this be a place where we need to be cautious about the generalizability of Cummings’ argument to explain the actions of Catholic women who are not Irish Catholic? For example, is “Catholic” solidarity (broadly defined) a motivating concern for German Catholics, who provide an example of a Catholic ethnic subgroup who were interested in forming separate ethnic dioceses and who came into conflict with Irish Catholics over this? Cummings is not unaware of the limits of her argument, stating in the introduction that her sample is not meant to be representative of all Catholics. What might studies of Catholic antisuffragist positions in other ethnic groups contribute to our understanding of how gender and religious identity shape Catholic women’s responses to the Progressive Era?
Cummings also provides examples of how Catholic women manipulate gender ideology in order to gain more autonomy, most frequently by turning to the Catholic past for examples of strong women. However, Cummings doesn’t paint too rosy a picture: she highlights the “limits” of Catholic gender ideology, pointing out how it can undermine alliances among Catholic women and between Catholic and non-Catholic women, as well as how it can result in women receiving less recognition for their work and in women being given more work and less administrative power. It seems to me that Cummings shows a bit of her hand here—she is sympathetic to the frustrations Catholic women express about gender subordination, and nudges the reader to look forward in time to see how future generations of Catholic women will respond to these frustrations, presumably once the political need for Catholic solidarity has lessened.
I was intrigued by how, in the epilogue, Cummings suggests that Conway is a foremother to both Phyllis Schlafly, a political conservative who argued against the Equal Rights Amendment and happens to be Catholic, and Sister Helen Prejean, a nun who uses her Catholic religious tradition to justify her involvement in socially progressive causes. Is the main takeaway for us as readers that Catholic women have always had agency and that contemporary Catholic women are participating in a long tradition of creatively adapting religious identity (and/or gender ideology) for their own purposes? What are other takeaways we should consider? I found Cummings’ arguments persuasive, and I’m finishing this book with a lot more insight about how gender and religious identity shape Catholic women’s responses to the Progressive Era. So, more generally, I’m left curious about how gender and religious identity shape Catholic women’s political commitments later in the twentieth century, and I’d be interested to learn how others may be doing this already or building on Cummings’ work.
Historiographical connections: Cummings’ concerns and historigraphical intervention are similar to those of Catherine Brekus in Strangers and Pilgrims; this makes a lot of sense given that she identifies Brekus as a mentor in her acknowledgements. She also references Ann Braude’s work on women in U.S. religious history....more