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Empire of Sacrifice: The Religious Origins of American Violence
New York University Press
Publication Date :
1 Jan 2012
It is widely recognized that American culture is both exceptionally religious and exceptionally violent. Americans participate in religious communities in high numbers, yet American citizens also own guns at rates far beyond those of citizens in other industrialized nations. Since September 11, 2001, U.S. scholars have understandably discussed religious violence in terms of terrorist acts, a focus that follows U.S. policy. Yet, according to Jon Pahl, to identify religious violence only with terrorism fails to address the long history of American violence rooted in religion throughout the country's history. In Empire of Sacrifice, Pahl explains how both of these distinctive features of American culture - being exceptionally religious and exceptionally violent - work together by exploring how constructions along the lines of age, race, and gender have operated to centralize cultural power across American civil or cultural religions in ways that don't always appear to be "religious" at all. Pahl traces the development of these forms of systemic violence throughout American history and focuses an intense light on the complex and durable interactions between religion and violence in American history, from Puritan Boston to George W. Bush's Baghdad. Jon Pahl is Professor of the History of Christianity in North America at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. He is the author of many books, including Paradox Lost: Free Will and Political Liberty in American Culture, 1630-1760 and Shopping Malls and Other Sacred Spaces: Putting God in Place.