Too Many Historians Have Ignored or Downplayed the Role of the Bible in American Public Life

March 31 2021

Reviewing The Bible in American Law and Politics, a new 700-page reference work on the subject, Daniel Dreisbach asks a straightforward question: “Why has so little scholarship focused specifically on the Bible’s influence on American politics and law?”

The Bible, after all, was the most venerated, authoritative, and accessible book for much of American history; and few observers would deny its prodigious influence more generally on the nation’s life and culture.

The biblical illiteracy of our age may explain the failure of some scholars to recognize its presence in public life. Also, scholars trained in the modern academy with its emphasis on the strictly rational and the secular may discount biblical themes because they find them less noteworthy or sophisticated than other intellectual contributions. There may even be a discomfort with or, perhaps, hostility toward explicitly religious material and themes. Some commentators object to the mere acknowledgment of biblical influences on civic life, viewing it as a betrayal of a commitment to church-state separation. Some fear that acknowledging biblical influences will fortify the alleged theocratic impulses of some 21st-century citizens.

Some commentators find a focus on God, religion, and the Bible divisive or even offensive 21st-century, secular sensibilities. In an admonition seldom mentioned in the scholarly literature, for example, George Washington warned in his Farewell Address (1796) that one who labors to subvert a public role for religion and morality cannot claim the mantle of patriotism. Such rhetoric, unexceptional in its time, is discordant with the secular ethos of our time.

Read more at Providence

More about: Bible, Religion and politics, U.S. Politics


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy