Reading John Fea's review of The King's Three Faces below (scroll down to the next blog entry), and thinking of this in conjunction with Philip Hamburger's Separation of Church and State and works which analyze "cultural anti-Catholicism" (of which there are many indeed, Jenny Franchot's Roads to Rome coming immediately to mind), leads me to a brief query: is the history and historical effects of anti-Catholicism becoming a new defining theme in colonial and antebellum American religious/legal/constitutional/political history? Doubtless this is overstating the case, but it's remarkable how many roads are leading away from Rome, as it were, at the same time.
I might add that anti-Catholicism as a defining trope in these and other works is coming in for its share of criticism: see Mark McGarvie's takedown on Hamburger's thesis, and Eric Hinderaker's appreciative but skeptical look at The King's Three Faces in a recent Reviews in American History. Nonetheless, this convergence of work has made me think more deeply about what Robert Orsi and others have called the deeply Protestant assumptions (acknowledged or unconscious) which have informed the discipline of religious studies as well as the practice of American religious history.
Just a few thoughts from ruminating on John Fea's last post, as well as on my ongoing attempt to construct a social history of what "religious freedom" has meant in American history.