Of Slavs, Slaves, Vikings, and Genetics

I recently had a DNA test to help trace my ancestry, and the result surprised me. The larger story might shed light on one of the grimmest and most forgotten horrors of European history, an era of brutal slave trading.By way of background, my known genealogy is very straightforward indeed. It shows close to 100 percent Welsh - not just Welsh, but one specific bit of south Welsh. That means mainly West Glamorgan, within a few miles of the city of Swansea, although with a couple of English … [Read More...]

Please Stop Talking About “The Mother of All Bombs”

Last Thursday the United States military dropped a bomb on ISIS targets in eastern Afghanistan. Not just any bomb: the largest non-nuclear bomb in America’s arsenal, the 21,000-pound GBU-43/B, also known as the MOAB—a Massive Ordinance Air Blast. Apparently also known as “the Mother of All Bombs.”And just like that, the media is abuzz with talk of this Mother of All Bombs. As if it were perfectly natural to ascribe maternal qualities to one of the most destructive devices on the planet. … [Read More...]

Are Women Human in Christian Academia?

Recently, Karen Swallow Prior spoke out against the "Billy Graham rule"--married men distancing themselves from women to avoid temptation and the appearance of evil. For those of you who missed Prior's article, she eloquently argued that good moral character is better than rigid behavioral rules. As … [Read More...]

And Battles Long Ago

I have often posted on themes of history, memory, and forgetting, and some recent news stories brought that home to me powerfully - especially on all we have forgotten beyond hope of recovery. This issue of lost worldly glories seems appropriate for the Easter season.Earlier this year, Egyptian … [Read More...]

Lost Christian Nubia

A spectacular recent find in northern Africa throws new light on early church history, but at the same time it also points to the existence of a vast and forgotten Christian kingdom, and just how the faith – or indeed, any religion – fades and dies. The story makes for highly appropriate reading in t … [Read More...]

The End of Silence

Shusaku Endo's Silence is a very grim novel, as is the much-discussed recent film adaptation by Martin Scorsese.It is Japan, roughly 1639. After decades of fruitful missionary work begun by Francis Xavier in 1549, decades of bitter persecution have followed. There are still many Christians in … [Read More...]

Academic Freedom, Christian Higher Education, and the History of Sexuality

Today I'm delighted to welcome my colleague AnneMarie Kooistra to The Anxious Bench. AnneMarie is a graduate of Calvin College and the University of Southern California and an expert in the history of prostitution in late 19th and early 20th century Los Angeles. Her classes at Bethel include a pop … [Read More...]

Billy Sunday vs. Kaiser Wilhelm the Mephistopheles

On March 22, 1917, baseball player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday was preaching in Buffalo, New York when he turned to the issue foremost on the minds of most Americans: Jesus, you're sure taking a lot of back talk from the Kaiser. I wish, Lord, you'd tell America to help wipe Germany off the map, a … [Read More...]

Mea Culpa: On Charles Marsh’s Biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Between my own blog, this one, and a couple others, I've written about 1,500 posts in the last six years. I try to do it well, with a less formal tone and much greater pace than typical academic writing but still reflecting a reasonably careful degree of prior research. But I'm afraid that my haste s … [Read More...]

Adam and Eve Are Not Dead

Bruce Feiler has put Adam and Eve back in vogue with his book The First Love Story: Adam, Eve, and Us, reading that couple’s story as a classic--no, as the classic love story.  For Feiler it is not just classic but useful, the pair as role models for relationships today.  He thinks theirs is a great … [Read More...]

The Christian History of “Pagan” Easter

This is a slightly updated post from my Anxious Bench archives. Happy Easter!I bought Easter candy for my students. It was a mistake.Although the students made a valiant effort to eat as much as possible, they left a few Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs (a particular weakness of mine) in the candy … [Read More...]

A New Movie on Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today Union Theological Seminary concludes its annual lecture series in honor of one of its most distinguished former students, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed in a Nazi concentration camp 72 years ago tomorrow. Coinciding as it does with the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, thi … [Read More...]

American Violence: Honor and the American Difference

At the turn of the twentieth century, the United States was an exceptionally violent country, which really stood alone among advanced nations. I have been trying to account for this American Difference.As an illustration, let me take a series of events that occurred in the late 1890s, and which … [Read More...]

Is Complementarian Theology Abusive to Women?

 As you may have heard, Princeton Seminary decided to award Tim Keller the prestigious Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness. But then it revoked that honor after an outcry from faculty, students, and alumni who objected to Keller’s defense of complementarian t … [Read More...]

Gone Girl: Disappearing Women from “The Easter Hymn”

I bet that, for those of you attending church on Easter Sunday, at least half of you will sing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia! Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia! Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia! Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, … [Read More...]

American Violence: Things Fall Apart

I have been posting about the extreme violence that characterized US life around the turn of the twentieth century, roughly between 1877 and 1917 – all the private armies and paramilitary activity, the massacres and ethnic wars, the prevalence of political murder and assassination. These currents s … [Read More...]

The “Indefensible Hope” of Baseball

For my Twins and most other major league teams, today is Opening Day: the time each year when I’m reminded again that I love baseball far above every other sport — and that it’s hard to explain that love to non-fans. For example, the fact that baseball could inspire a writer as acclaimed as John Updi … [Read More...]

American Violence: Western Mythologies

I posted on the extreme violence that characterized the United States around the turn of the twentieth century. Many of the examples we might think of from that era concern the so-called Wild West, but we should be very careful in applying that label. Often, those conflicts mimicked exactly the same … [Read More...]

Being Protestant

    Early modern English Protestants, at least the more earnest among them, were known to be a rather dour bunch. "Better it is to goe sickly (with Lazarus) to Heaven," wrote Lewis Bayly in his The Practise of Piety, "than full of mirth and pleasures, with Dives, to Hell." That Bayly's devotional m … [Read More...]