Monday Miscellany: A Christian Like Wills, and a Muslim Like Obama


At Cliopatria, Manan Ahmed discusses Islamophobia and the internet Swift-Boating of Barack Obama (unsuccessful this time, I hope). He writes:

The rumors about Obama's faith, then, are not just manifestations of a post 9/11 Islamophobia or a peculiar xenophobia about his African father. They are, in fact, uniquely American - based on our long history of mis-trust and mis-apprehension of a faith that we associate with our own 'Others.'

Ahmed's post is recommended reading, not least for a thoughtful discussion of the appearance of Islam in American slave codes, and sensationalist reporting on black Islam earlier in the 20th century.

Meanwhile, Patrick Allitt and John Wilson each provide thoughtful reviews of Garry Wills, Head and Heart: American Christianities. An interesting passage from Wilson's review:

I'm dubious about his head-versus-heart schema in any case. Dispensationalists, for example, whose latter-day influence is evident in the "Left Behind" series of books, are archevangelicals in Wills' telling. But a surprising number of the most fervent Dispensationalists I encountered in my youth were engineers, "head people" to a fault, always eager to show you their meticulously prepared charts in which all history was reduced to tidy logical order. I fled from them.

It reminds me of the connection found in academic studies of modernity (more specifically, engineering types), and various fundamentalisms; the findings of some of Scott Appleby's fundamentalism project of years past come to mind. Fundamentalism can present a "tidy logical order" that must, ultimately, speak to the heart of the head types.