Thursday, December 18, 2008

Vincent Rougeau's "Christians in the American Empire"

Vincent Rougeau is associate professor of law at the University of Notre Dame. He teaches a law and religion seminar on Catholic social thought, as well as courses in contract law and real estate transactions. He currently directs the Center for Law and Government at Notre Dame Law School, and previously served as associate dean from 1999-2002.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Christians in the American Empire: Faith and Citizenship in the New World Order, and reported the following:
On page 99 of my book I consider the different ways a liberal, democratic state might deal with the special concerns of minority groups, while still remaining true to a commitment to the equality of all persons. This is from a chapter that looks at the debate over affirmative action in the United States as part of a larger struggle to understand the role of collective identity in what has long been a very individualistic American culture.

One important argument I make in Christians in the American Empire is that the fierce devotion to individual autonomy in American law and public policy exists in deep tension with the communal notion of human dignity in many Christian traditions, particularly Catholic social thought. Individual autonomy, and the drive for unlimited economic expansion unchecked by a strong sense of responsibility for the community or the public good, have been cornerstones of the economic and foreign policies of American political and economic elites for decades, particularly those on the political right. The current economic meltdown is just one of the devastating consequences of this ethos.

Another important part of my book is a critique of the uncritical association of conservative Christians--the Religious Right--with the aggressive militarism and neo-liberal, free market economic policies of the Republican party despite obvious conflicts with traditional Christian teaching. Christians in the American Empire challenges American Christians and others of goodwill to resist becoming apologists for political agendas that serve the powerful and to develop more complex notions of religious engagement in American political life. This means bringing Christian values like human dignity, economic responsibility, solidarity, and meaningful participation for the poor into decisions about law and policy, not only in the United States, but also worldwide. Indeed, Christians need to recognize the international implications of their values and see themselves as important voices in discussions about the global common good.
Read more about Christians in the American Empire at the Oxford University Press website.

Learn more about Vincent Rougeau's research, teaching, and publications at his Notre Dame faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue