I wrote an essay for Christian Century‘s “Then and Now” column that, in the wake of #Brexit, looks at the unfortunate history of religious nativism. It looks at nineteenth-century minister Theodore Parker’s abolitionist theology to touch on how religion can serve to both unite and divide people. Here’s the key quote:
Religion, within this particularly political sphere, can serve as a uniting factor that casts a broad net of inclusion—or as a hatchet that cleaves groups asunder. #Brexit’s appeals to ethnographic fears, and Donald Trump’s rhetoric of religious exceptionalism and racial exclusion, are only the most recent examples of this unfortunate tradition, rooted in the Christian experience.
Parker is currently a central focus in a book manuscript I’m working on which looks at the political theologies of the Transcendentalists, especially within the context of America’s debates over democracy in an age of slavery.
For those interested in my sources, here they are:
“more due”: Wendell Phillips, “Theodore Parker,” in Phillips, Speeches, Lectures and Letters, 2nd series (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1894), 433.
“social being”: Theodore Parker, “Political Application of Christianity to Life,” Parker Sermon Book, 10:342, Theodore Parker Papers, Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School.
“natural law”: Parker, “Some Account of My Ministry,” 1853, 37, Theodore Parker Papers, Box 24, Folder 1.
“true purpose”: Parker, “The Progressive Development of Religion in Man End in Men,” Parker Sermon Book, 9:389.
“power of civilization”: Theodore Parker to David Wasson, December 12, 1857, Theodore Parker Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
“slavery is abolished”: Theodore Parker Parker to Miss Hunt, June 3, 1858, in Octavius Brooks Frothingham, Theodore Parker: A Biography (Boston: James R. Osgood, 1874), 473.