At the Rethinking Religion blog of Columbia University’s Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life, Joseph Blankholm responds to Denis Lacorne’s recent presentation, at Columbia, of his latest book Religion in America (Columbia University Press, 2011), which explores the multiple and divergent narratives situating faith’s place in the foundation and ongoing life of the American republic. Lacorne also examines how the United States’ seemingly peculiar mixture of principled secularism and overt public religiosity has been understood, and misunderstood, by French philosophers and other observers of the American scene. As Blankholm has it:
The failure of French understanding is due to the failure of the narratives themselves. As many scholars have shown, American politics and religion follow neither the story of tidy separation between church and state, nor the Romantic tale of a Christian people who founded a “city upon a hill.” Thus while Lacorne’s book is very much about the formation and development of these two narratives, it is also about their limits and their sites of surplus. The life of a nation is always more complex than the stories its biographers tell, and the story of religion and politics in America is no different.