May 4, 2005
Readings on Church and State
Martin E. Marty
With all the stir about "church" and "state" these days, a friend asked for a brush-up reading list for summer. I was glad to work that up, and thought it might be of interest to Sightings readers -- a bonus issue, if you will. Here are some readings:
John Witte, Jr., Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment (Westview Press, 2nd edition). I work with Witte on various projects, and identify most with his approach. This is paperback, basic, and good on history, theology, politics, Constitution, courts, and the contemporary scene. Start here!
Philip Hamburger, Separation of Church and State (Harvard University Press) is the giant work that you cannot bypass. I have major disagreements with it, but I also learned from it. Hamburger leads the school that notices that "separation of church and state" is not in the First Amendment. His novel argument: It has always been championed by people who "had a case," from Jefferson -- decades later -- through anti-Catholic Protestants. I don't think he "solves" the issues, but there is never a dull moment as he adduces evidences one must take seriously.
William Lee Miller, The First Liberty: America's Foundation in Religious Freedom, expanded and updated edition (Georgetown University Press). Being more in the Madisonian than the Jeffersonian tradition, I gravitate to this "modern classic" by a veteran who tells the story well. Even Roger Williams gets to sneak into this one.
Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore, The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness (W. W. Norton & Company). This is more polemical than the others, a pointed address to the issue of misusing the Constitution to advance particular religious causes. The authors suggest that such misuse is as bad for religion as it is for politics.
Sidney E. Mead, The Lively Experiment: The Shaping of Christianity in America (Harper & Row). A point of privilege for me -- he was my teacher -- this half-century-old set of essays frames the historical background and argues for "Enlightenment" themes. I remain influenced, even though we had major arguments (as teachers and students should). These are eloquent, elegant, memorable essays. A classic.
Mark Douglas McGarvie, One Nation Under Law: America's Early National Struggles to Separate Church and State (Northern Illinois University Press) -- by a scholar who was new to me and to the fray (and it is a fray!). Excellent portrayal of struggles in the states for a half-century after the Bill of Rights.
Mark A. Noll, America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (Oxford University Press). People in our religious-historians' guild would likely call this the most important book for background on how "evangelicals" in the early days related to "enlightenment" and fused two theologies that stand behind current expressions.
Some samples of "the other side," in case I've clung too much to the middle: Daniel L. Driesbach, Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State (New York University Press) painstakingly revisits the metaphor of the wall; Terry Eastland, ed., Religious Liberty in the Supreme Court (Eerdmans Publishing Company), is a case-by-case study that leans rightward; James Hitchcock, The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life (Princeton University Press), a two-volume critique by a very conservative Catholic scholar.
Martin E. Marty's biography, current projects, upcoming events, publications, and contact information can be found at www.illuminos.com.