“For Each and All: The Moral Witness of Asa Mahan,” by Christopher P. Momany, is a new book from the Publishing Office of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM). The book is a biography of Asa Mahan (1799–1889), an abolitionist, author, clergyperson, and first president of Oberlin College and Adrian College.
While the Civil War combatants battled over who could be considered full citizens and what rights, privileges, and duties we would afford each other, it was not a foregone conclusion that America would denounce slavery as unconditionally wrong. Into this arena stepped Asa Mahan. Mahan advocated for the intrinsic value of every human being, for our country to honor its covenant with its citizens, and for all to actively engage differences peacefully with justice and hope. Momany uses primary source material and helps readers wade through the moral and philosophical waters of antebellum America from which Asa Mahan drew religious convictions and crafted moral principles that remain relevant today. The author also shows how Mahan informed and interacted with leaders like Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
Christopher P. Momany is a chaplain and part-time professor of Philosophy/Religion at Adrian College, Adrian, Michigan. Author of many articles and the book, “Doing Good: A Grace-Filled Approach to Holiness,” Dr. Momany is also an elder in the Michigan Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
According to Momany, today’s students are the most “measured” generation in memory and are craving a new kind of “personalism” that values them as they are—individuals, each with intrinsic worth. At Adrian College, Momany sees students who are eager to learn more about the basic concepts of human dignity and unconditional respect for human value, especially as they “begin to build a framework in order to engage in public life.” He says, “We should not be afraid of philosophical concepts that seek to affirm human worth, and there is great potential for wider application of these ideas both within and outside the church.”
Momany hopes that just as students at Adrian resonate with the concept of “intrinsic worth,” so too can those who seek current remedies to problems such as human trafficking. The abolitionist movement of the early and middle nineteenth century relied on human rights language that still has currency, he says. “It is time to take those ethical and philosophical traditions seriously again, because some forms of postmodernism have paved the way for the increasingly authoritarian current in public life today. It is time to unite the traditions of philosophical ethics and church witness for justice.”
The book is widely acclaimed. Ronald C. White, a New York Times best-selling author of “American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant” and “A. Lincoln: A Biography,” says, “Christopher Momany deserves praise for restoring Asa Mahan to his deserved place in American history. Mahan’s multiple careers—antislavery advocate, theologian who taught Christian Perfection, and president of Oberlin and Adrian Colleges—are deftly defined within the larger crosscurrents of nineteenth century intellectual thought. Momany’s deep engagement with Mahan allows readers to see connections with contemporary issues.”
James Brewer Stewart, James Wallace Professor of History Emeritus, Macalester College; founder of Historians Against Slavery and author of “Holy Warriors: The Abolitionists and American Slavery,” says, “Thanks to this insightful study, scholars should think again before concluding that white abolitionists are best characterized as romantic ideologists and hard-boiled agitators, not as deep and highly rigorous thinkers. As a master of European philosophy and biblical exegesis, Asa Mahan challenges these generalizations. Grounded in solid research, cogently argued, and straightforwardly written, Momany puts us deeply in contact with an important and overlooked abolitionist thinker and educator.”
Nikki M. Taylor, Professor of History and Chair of the Department, Howard University, and author of “America’s First Black Socialist: The Radical Life of Peter H. Clark,” says, “‘For Each and All’ uses Mahan’s life story to craft an incisive intellectual history of the philosophies that underpinned the abolitionist movement. While most people do not appreciate Mahan’s intellectual contributions to the movement, Momany’s book provides a corrective; and as a result, Mahan emerges as someone who deserves a seat at the table of the greatest abolitionist minds in U.S. history.”
Volney Gay, professor, Vanderbilt University, author of “On the Pleasures of Owning Persons: The Hidden Face of American Slavery,” says, “In this book, Momany illuminates the life and thought of Asa Mahan. A brilliant theologian, Mahan pondered our American contradiction that many freedom-loving people, guided by God’s laws, practiced slavery.”
Wesley’s Foundery Books is an imprint of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church. Representing the rich diversity of the church, Wesley’s Foundery Books offer a disciplined and balanced approach. GBHEM’s Publishing Office produces books that engage, nurture, and advocate for the intellectual life of The United Methodist Church.
About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to build capacity for United Methodist lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in Christ’s calling in their lives, by creating connections and providing resources to aid in recruitment, education, professional development and spiritual formation. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call in their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.