Ironies in the City: Reflections on Stephen Smith's Pagans and Christians in the City

57 Journal of Catholic Legal Studies 3, 2019

Rutgers Law School Research Paper

17 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2019 Last revised: 13 Nov 2019

See all articles by Perry Dane

Perry Dane

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Rutgers Law School

Date Written: May 31, 2019

Abstract

This essay appeared as part of a symposium issue on Stephen Smith's new book, “Pagans and Christians in the City.”

Much of the Smith’s book is compelling, even lyrical. His account of the religious sensibility is powerful and convincing. Smith’s book is also more nuanced and hedged-about in its historical and theoretical claims than one would suppose from a headline account that would focus only on his two chapters near the end that drill down on contemporary issues in the so-called culture wars.

Nevertheless, some deep ironies and puzzles run through the text of “Pagans and Christians.” Smith is too careful and subtle to ignore these undercurrents entirely. But it is worth bringing them to the surface, not only for their own sake but because they might help suggest an alternative to Smith’s most rough-edged claims. My aim in this essay is not merely to nit-pick. But I do try by the accumulation of details to suggest a fundamental worry that goes to the most charged words and phrases at the heart of the book’s title — “pagans” and “culture wars.”

Keywords: Stephen Smith, Paganism, Christianity, Judaism, Law and Religion, Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause, Transcendence, Immanence, Charles Taylor, Kabbalah

Suggested Citation

Dane, Perry, Ironies in the City: Reflections on Stephen Smith's Pagans and Christians in the City (May 31, 2019). 57 Journal of Catholic Legal Studies 3, 2019; Rutgers Law School Research Paper . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3397327

Perry Dane (Contact Author)

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Rutgers Law School ( email )

Newark, NJ
United States
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