• The Night Watch on the Wall: On Randall Balmer’s Solemn Reverence

    Adam McDuffie (see profile)
    Religious Studies
    Religion, History, Politics and government, Law, Constitution (United States)
    Item Type:
    Book review
    Separation of Church and State, Baptist History, Religious Freedom, Politics, First Amendment
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    This brief review explores Randall Balmer's recent work, Solemn Reverence: The Separation of Church and State in American Life. In this capsule history of church/state separation, Balmer deftly and succinctly illustrates the centrality of religious freedom to the story of America. Seeking to respond to American evangelical trends toward Christian Nationalism, particularly among Baptist circles, Balmer focuses in large part on the role of Baptist actors in this narrative of religious freedom. While telling a compelling tale, Balmer falls short in telling a narrow tale. The simplicity and concision of Solemn Reverence belie the complex realities of religious freedom in the United States. These minor qualms aside, Balmer has produced an engaging and highly readable book without sacrificing attention to detail. If meant primarily for a Protestant Christian audience, or even an audience of evangelicals who may need to hear this rebuttal of Christian Nationalism the most, then the book has met and exceeded its goals. But if Balmer is seeking to instill reverence for the true scope of the impact that separation of church and state has had, we must look further afield. What should not be overlooked in either case is Balmer’s warning that the First Amendment has been “resilient,” but that does not mean its “future is secure.”
    Published as:
    Online publication    
    Last Updated:
    2 years ago
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