Ancient Pagan Ways, Continued

I did quite a few blogposts last year about the possible survival of ancient pagan ways into the Christian Middle Ages and beyond, with a special focus on British conditions. The general consensus these days is to minimize or deny such connections and continuities, and in general I sympathize with that view. But I am open to being convinced, and a recent case raises some intriguing possibilities.The continuity argument suggests that British people maintained their veneration for the same … [Read More...]

The Anabaptist Judith

From the Anxious Bench archives...Things were not going well in Münster (in present-day northwestern Germany) as of June 1534. The previous year, local Anabaptists, their ranks swollen by arrivals from the Netherlands and elsewhere, seized full control of the city. In February, a prophet named Jan Matthias had taken charge, whereupon Catholics and most Lutherans were stripped of their possessions and expelled from the city. That same month, Münster's Prince-Bishop Franz von Waldeck began a p … [Read More...]

George McGovern and the Religious Left

I'm pleased to post this interview with Mark Lempke, who just published the terrific book My Brother’s Keeper: George McGovern and Progressive Christianity with the University of Massachusetts Press. Mark teaches history in Singapore for the University of Buffalo. Part II, in which Mark explains why … [Read More...]

What Makes Protestants “Protestant”?

Last week Tim wondered about the definition of evangelicalism. Today I’d like to step back a category and ask: whether evangelical or mainline, churchly or individualistic, what makes Protestants “Protestant”?One could list a set of shared beliefs here, most likely starting with the solas of the … [Read More...]

“The Riddle of the Religious Other”

Often I have been asked about putting together a grant proposal or a book prospectus. So, I thought I would post here a current proposal (which is very much in progress!) that I plan to send to the Guggenheim Foundation and eventually to a publisher. I hope this might help anyone out there … [Read More...]

The World Set Free

Sometimes you see phrases and passages that are so provocative that they cry out to be placed in exams with “Discuss” after them. Here is a great example from H. G. Wells, whom we often regard as a patron saint of secular materialism.I am just reading his stunning novel from 1913, The World Set F … [Read More...]

Recalibrating the “Evangelical Paradigm”

This afternoon we're happy to welcome back our friend Tim Gloege. Inspired by a recent collection of essays in tribute to Mark Noll, Tim suggests four ways in which historians could recalibrate the "evangelical paradigm."Twenty years ago, I sat in a Wheaton College classroom with a half-dozen … [Read More...]

If You’re Interested in the History of Sports and Christianity…

From time to time, my propensity for dabbling has led me to write about the intersection of sports and Christianity. (For example, last summer I looked into the religious history of the Olympics.) But if you want to learn from a real expert on that combination of topics, then check out Paul Putz's … [Read More...]

The Value of Failure in Graduate School

This is from my Anxious Bench archives. I currently am teaching in London and gathering more material for future posts! You can look forward to a guest blogger (I think you will love his forthcoming book) on July 26, and I will return to my posts about medieval Christianity vs. modern Christianity … [Read More...]

Christian Responses to Lindbergh: “The New Christ”

...it seems as if all the hands in the world are touching or trying to touch the new Christ and that the new Cross is the Plane… (Harry Crosby, eyewitness to Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 landing in Paris) Transoceanic travel has become so commonplace that I'm not sure we can fully appreciate what Charl … [Read More...]

Counting Baptists and Naming Baptists

I recently published a piece in Christian Century on what I called the Baptist Exception. Unlike virtually all Christian churches and denominations, Baptists are not witnessing a fundamental shift of numbers to the Global South. Instead, they remain heavily concentrated in North America. As I think … [Read More...]

Theosophy and the Rise of the Modern

Last time, I described the enormous attraction of the Theosophical movement in the early twentieth century, when it played such a central role in Western culture. But what were the core themes that so appealed to highly educated thinkers and the avant-garde – in short, to Modernism and modernity? W … [Read More...]

Exeter Cathedral and Collective Memory

Most American visitors to European cathedrals are immediately struck by their vastness and grandeur. In most instances, however, the small details of cathedrals are what truly fascinate and keep the attention. This is true of the golden mosaics at Monreale, and it's certainly true of cathedrals in … [Read More...]

4 Reasons Why John Wesley Opposed the American Revolution

American Christians invoke John Wesley on all manner of subjects including sanctification, the sacraments, and social holiness. On this most sacred of American holidays, let us consider Wesley’s views on the American Revolution.Wesley, initially ambivalent about American independence, landed … [Read More...]

Does Patriotism Belong in Christian Worship?

“How can this not be a form of idolatry?,” asked our friend John Fea, about a Christian worship service last month that included flag-waving, indoor fireworks (!), and patriotic songs that made little or no mention of God. The church was First Baptist of Dallas, Texas, whose pastor, Robert Jeffress, … [Read More...]

The Man with the Snake-shaped Birthmark

An 1839 bulletin from the prestigious Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (forerunner to the New England Journal of Medicine) tells the story of Robert H. Copeland, otherwise known as “The Snakeman.” Copeland was born in South Carolina in the early nineteenth century and moved to Georgia before the C … [Read More...]

The Anxious Bench Half-Year in Review

Now that the first half of 2017 is behind us and the 4th of July weekend is ahead of us, let's review some Anxious Bench highlights — and suggest some holiday reading, in case you notice something you missed the first time. Not surprisingly, the new presidential administration has generated lots of p … [Read More...]

No Religion Higher Than Truth; or, Why Theosophy Matters

Theosophy is (a) a fringe esoteric/religious movement founded in the 1870s, one of many such marginal sects; or (b) the indispensable key to understanding Western culture in the early twentieth century. I can make a case for either of these extreme statements, but the arguments for (b) are much … [Read More...]

The Democrats Have a Religion Problem. But They’re Not the Only Ones.

So, you’ve probably heard by now: The Democrats have a religion problem.Historian Daniel K. Williams certainly isn’t the first to make this case, but in light of Jon Ossoff’s defeat in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District last week, Williams thought it an opportune moment to consider anew the D … [Read More...]

Wonder Woman and Complementarianism

It probably doesn't surprise you that I have always loved Wonder Woman. My mother will testify that it is one show my little sister and I refused to miss. It is also my first clear memory of watching TV.The story of Wonder Woman, however, didn't begin in 1975 with Lynda Carter as Diana Prince. … [Read More...]