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Captain America and the Crusade Against Evil: The Dilemma of Zealous Nationalism [Paperback]

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Item Number 143780  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   392
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.18" Width: 6.28" Height: 0.9"
Weight:   1.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 14, 2004
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802828590  
EAN  9780802828590  


Availability  134 units.
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Item Description...
Overview
As immediate and relevant as today's headlines, this book sets forth a bold argument with direct implications for political life in America and around the world. Combining incisive cultural analysis and keen religious insight, Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence maintain that American crusading - so powerfully embodied in popular entertainments - has striking parallels with Islamic jihad and Israeli militancy. According to Jewett and Lawrence, American civil religion has both a humane, constitutional tradition and a violent strand that is now coming to the fore. The crusade to rid the world of evil and "evildoers" derives from the same biblical tradition of zealous warfare and nationalism that spawns Islamic and Israeli radicalism. In America, where this tradition has been popularized by superheroic entertainments, the idea of zealous war is infused with a distinctive sense of mission that draws on secular and religious images. These crusading ideals are visible in such events as the settling of the western frontier, the World Wars, the Cold War, the Gulf War, and America's present war on terrorism. In exploring the tradition of zealous nationalism, which seeks to redeem the world by destroying enemies, the authors provide a fascinating access to the inner workings of the American psyche. They analyze the phenomenon of zeal - the term itself is the biblical and cultural counterpart of the Islamic concept of jihad - and address such consequential topics as the conspiracy theory of evil, the problem of stereotyping enemies, the mystique of violence, the obsession with victory, and the worship of national symbols such as flags. This critical book, however, is also immensely constructive. As Jewett and Lawrence point out, the same biblical tradition that allows for crusading mentalities also contains a critique of zealous warfare and a profound vision of impartial justice. This tradition of prophetic realism derives from the humane side of the biblical heritage, and the authors trace its manifestations within the American experience, including its supreme embodiment in Abraham Lincoln. Isaiah's "swords into plowshares" image is carved on the walls of the United Nations building, thus standing at the center of a globally focused civil religion. Grasping this vision honored by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam alike includes recognizing the dangers of zealous violence, the illusions of current crusading, and the promise of peaceful coexistence under

Publishers Description
As immediate and relevant as today's headlines, this book sets forth a bold argument with direct implications for political life in America and around the world. Combining incisive cultural analysis and keen religious insight, Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence maintain that American crusading - so powerfully embodied in popular entertainments - has striking parallels with Islamic jihad and Israeli militancy. According to Jewett and Lawrence, American civil religion has both a humane, constitutional tradition and a violent strand that is now coming to the fore. The crusade to rid the world of evil and "evildoers" derives from the same biblical tradition of zealous warfare and nationalism that spawns Islamic and Israeli radicalism. In America, where this tradition has been popularized by superheroic entertainments, the idea of zealous war is infused with a distinctive sense of mission that draws on secular and religious images. These crusading ideals are visible in such events as the settling of the western frontier, the World Wars, the Cold War, the Gulf War, and America's present war on terrorism. In exploring the tradition of zealous nationalism, which seeks to redeem the world by destroying enemies, the authors provide a fascinating access to the inner workings of the American psyche. They analyze the phenomenon of zeal - the term itself is the biblical and cultural counterpart of the Islamic concept of jihad - and address such consequential topics as the conspiracy theory of evil, the problem of stereotyping enemies, the mystique of violence, the obsession with victory, and the worship of national symbols such as flags. This critical book, however, is also immensely constructive. As Jewett and Lawrence point out, the same biblical tradition that allows for crusading mentalities also contains a critique of zealous warfare and a profound vision of impartial justice. This tradition of prophetic realism derives from the humane side of the biblical heritage, and the authors trace its manifestations within the American experience, including its supreme embodiment in Abraham Lincoln. Isaiah's "swords into plowshares" image is carved on the walls of the United Nations building, thus standing at the center of a globally focused civil religion. Grasping this vision honored by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam alike includes recognizing the dangers of zealous violence, the illusions of current crusading, and the promise of peaceful coexistence under international law. Instructive, relevant, and urgent, Captain America and the Crusade against Evil is sure to provoke much soul-searching and wide debate.

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More About Robert Jewett & John Shelton Lawrence

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Robert Jewett is Visiting Professor of New Testament at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

Robert Jewett currently resides in the state of Iowa.

Robert Jewett has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Abingdon Basic Bible Commentary
  2. Genesis to Revelation
  3. Hermeneia: A Critical & Historical Commentary on the Bible


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Improve our customers experience by registering for an Artisan Biography Center Homepage.



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Reviews - What do our customers think?
An unwanted common ground?  Apr 7, 2007
This is a book with many important points to make. Other reviewers have done a fine job, so I'll point out just a few.

OK, here's the disclaimer first. I am not saying we should not fight terrorism, nor am I denying that "jihad" is a term usually used in reference with making the "world of war" submit to the "world of Islam". That said, I still find the central points of this book very much worth considering, since it seems our nation's foreign policy is in some ways mirroring the jihadist's foreign policy.

The book's cases in point? OBL and Bush both have these commonalities in terms of foreign policy. One, both see God as blessing their worldviews. Two, both have enemies in grip of the devil (Great Satan is us for OBL, Iran etc and the Axis of Evil is OBL, NK, Iran, Iraq and everyone who doesn't help us). Three, victory is measured by killing or converting the Other. Thus four: violence is a means to do this, and God blesses it as in some way redemptive.

With much of the Republican Party being a wing of the conservative, pro-Israeli Christian movement (no longer interested in "Reaganesque" small government), Captain America is revived from the dusty pages of the comics to fly again, this time for the cause of God- are we not the city on the hill?

These and other points raised in the book should cause us to pause for a moment, and question both our real motives for our policies and to really think about their affect upon the rest of the world. This doesn't excuse terrorism's evil reality, but it may help us be more thoughtful in our response to the underlying causes of "why they hate us" so much, instead of a muscular, steroidal reaction which is actually playing right into the hands of the Islamist revolutionaries' playbook with a "see, I told you so" response leading to 1000 more OBLs.
 
Book review  Jul 4, 2006
Captain America and the Crusade against Evil: The Dilemma of Zealous Nationalism; Book Review

Extrapolation

September 22, 2004

No. 3, Vol. 45; Pg. 320; ISSN: 0014-5483

Kapell, Matthew

As I sit writing this, American troops remain in Afghanistan and Iraq, some of those troops have recently been implicated in the possible torture of Iraqi citizens and the President is quite sure that the decision to invade these two countries was the correct one.

I believe that the President should read Captain America and the Crusade Against Evil very carefully. (Assuming he reads, that is.)

Jewett and Lawrence have brought together some of their most powerful arguments from the previous book, The Myth of the American Superhero (see my review in Extrapolation, 44, 2: 247-249), and an excellent knowledge regarding American foreign policy to produce a book that, though written before the current conflict, seems almost prescient. The authors undertake this project by examining American popular culture as part of an American civil religion that has as its central theme that only America can redeem the world.

Jewett and Lawrence see American civil religion in comic books, television shows, films video games, political discourse and a host of other mediums. Their thesis is, as they put it, "to explain why America, in the wake of September 11, seems so proudly resolute about repeating the errors of the Cold War" (5). To do this they trace the American conception of itself though the repeated use of biblical language and rhetoric, holy war, crusades (against Native Americans, Communists, terrorists, Iraqis, you name it) through all of American culture. Obviously, this is a large-scale task and one that can only be accomplished through a strong central thesis and theme holding the entire project together. They use as their central metaphor for this American cultural belief the character of Captain America. For the authors, Captain America represents the American hero who comes in as a lone fighter for the American way, destroying the "evil doers" because it is so obvious who they are: the non-Americans. Repeated references to films such as the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises as well as other sf films make this a useful book for Extrapolation readers. Jewett and Lawrence have presented a thesis useful not only for understanding how Americans think, but how the classic representation of the hero (especially obvious in sf) is problematic in that it is antithetical to small-d democratic ideals. Jewett and Lawrence find the stories in popular media that Americans enjoy are too often centered around "a cool and reluctant killer willing to forsake love and law to rescue a decent life for the community" whose democratic institutions are incapable of working well enough to save itself (31). And, of course, this model is present in a host of sf works, and it is worthwhile to reflexively think about that.

But to accomplish this feat they must go back to the early days of the English colonies, noting the specific sense of mission that those early settlers had, and how those beliefs shaped the way we think about ourselves as a nation today. From Cotton Mather to Timothy McVeigh, from the nineteenth century frontier ideology that effectively destroyed so many Native American cultures, to the current so-called "war on terror" for Jewett and Lawrence all find themselves with a similar cultural, rhetorical and narrative structure. This structure is specifically Biblical in nature, and was transplanted to these shores by the Puritans. For the Puritans violence would be "redemptive, it would convert the world" (250). This violent tendency with American culture weaves its way through the developing cultures on the continent from that time until today, providing an ideal cultural justification for the destruction of other cultures, other nations, other ways of life.

I happen to collect old history textbooks. One that I have from the middle of the 1920s has as its final chapter title, "America Enters the Great War to Make the World Safe for Democracy." That title might do more to explain what Jewett and Lawrence are attempting to understand and explain than would anything I could put into this review. Captain America is a wide-ranging book, as you would expect from the authors. They have been working with this topic in one form or another since the 1970s, and it shows: they have a clear, clean style, and obvious mastery of their topic, and the willingness to explain their thesis in a variety of ways. Thus, the conquering of the American West is as an important topic of the Cold War, the first Gulf War, and September 11th. Their backgrounds are complimentary for this work as well. Jewett is a religious scholar teaching in the American Studies program at the University of Heidelberg, Lawrence an Emeritus professor of Philosophy from Morningside College. Thus Jewett brings a wonderful knowledge of Biblical texts and their interpretation by Colonists and, after the revolution, by Americans. His interpretation of the eschatological beliefs of the Puritans brings much to the text. Lawrence wonderfully traces the effects of such beliefs through the culture--especially popular culture--and its effects of the American philosophy of itself over time.

But in the final analysis what Jewett and Lawrence are trying to do is not disable the paradigm of American heroism, but only to modify it. It is, they write, "not an alien vision, though it is vastly different from the one America has recently been following" (314). In the end Jewett and Lawrence do see a shining city on a hill, there is no question of that. But it is a shining city that demands no war to build. It is a city of peace, where all are welcome, where individuals and groups can work through problems without resorting to the removal of democratic conditions. It is a city in which I would very much enjoy living.
 
Interesting  Oct 14, 2005
These two author's earlier work "The Myth of the American Superhero" explored the presentation of Justice as needing a redeemer figure replete with an arsenal of `righteous' weaponary and how this image has affected the US idea of politics. This earlier book represents the `secular' aspects. In "Captain America and the Crusade against Evil" Jewett and Lawrence show how this mindset coupled with the US's puritan backdrop has made this monomyth into a national obsession bearing all the hallmarks of Civil Religion (Civil that is unless you disagree with it)!

When I first heard the thesis of this book in a presentation by one of the authors my thoughts were dismissive. While the hegemony of the US is something I abhor for the thesis to work the US must be full (en masse) of some incredibly stupid and gullible people. After reading the first installment this impression remained. However, in this book, particularly in their discussion of the various forms of zeal, a more nuanced and convincing portrayal is offered. Even where people clearly don't believe the hype US foreign policy is locked into a mindset that cannot accept any inference of inferiority without the collapse of the American Ideal.

As such I found this book generally convincing and therefore extremely depressive. If the world social forum is correct in its hope that `another world is possible' this book makes clear that this is only with a radical re-assessment of the US self-understanding.
 
Interesting thesis  Jan 7, 2004
The idea of this book is that comic book superheros are an ideal character in how America solves its foreign policy crisis. The authors want to show that America feels that it has a do it alone mentality to save the world much like comic books.
The authors do not say that comic books make policy, but that they reflect American thoughts regarding its place in the world.
Overall, the authors present their thesis and give adequate material to back up their ideas. However, it seems at times that the superhero motif gets stretched thin. This book is interesting if one wishes to see how popular culture reflects that ideas of government and religious ideologies.
 

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