From Jeremiad to Jihad: Religion, Violence, and America

From Jeremiad to Jihad: Religion, Violence, and America

From Jeremiad to Jihad: Religion, Violence, and America

From Jeremiad to Jihad: Religion, Violence, and America

Synopsis

Violence has been a central feature of America's history, culture, and place in the world. It has taken many forms: from state-sponsored uses of force such as war or law enforcement, to revolution, secession, terrorism and other actions with important political and cultural implications. Religion also holds a crucial place in the American experience of violence, particularly for those who have found order and meaning in their worlds through religious texts, symbols, rituals, and ideas. Yet too often the religious dimensions of violence, especially in the American context, are ignored or overstated--in either case, poorly understood. From Jeremiad to Jihad: Religion, Violence, and America corrects these misunderstandings. Charting and interpreting the tendrils of religion and violence, this book reveals how formative moments of their intersection in American history have influenced the ideas, institutions, and identities associated with the United States. Religion and violence provide crucial yet underutilized lenses for seeing America anew--including its outlook on, and relation to, the world.

Excerpt

Martin E. Marty

The contents of this book are strikingly diverse: Amalek, Iraq, and Ghost Dance; covenant, rights, and manifesto; schools and war; providence and cinema, Alma White and coercive interrogation. Can a topic as clearly focused as religion and violence in America be so hydra-headed as to yield a list of elements that differ so vastly? It can and it does. Consider the title’s key terms, which ground this book in a dynamic American context.

The jeremiad is a rhetorical legacy of the colonial era, best understood as biblically informed and inflamed rhetoric intended to chastise a sinful people, enjoin humility, and call them to repentance. Yet this book limits the jeremiad neither to the colonial period in which it was prominent nor to the pulpits from which jeremiads were preached. Instead, the editors and authors use jeremiad as a trope for framing and interpreting religiously informed expressions of discontent with the state of American society, focusing on moments attended by calls for and acts of violence. Over time jeremiads and their variations urged Americans aspiring to communal piety or purity to focus on the “sins” of next-door neighbors who were irritants, threats, or competitors, whether they were witches, “heretics,” schismatics, or simply “other.” Preachers and self-styled prophets also called on Americans to demonstrate or recapture their virtue through violent re sis tance to global enemies such as “papist” Rome, marauding Mexico, militaristic Germany, and myriad other “foreign” specters. Proslavery jeremiads that equated racial tolerance with sinfulness and corruption provoked violence against African Americans in the form of intimidation, lynching, segregation, and more subtle but still damaging acts designed to snub, demean, and degrade in the name of God.

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