Temperance after Prohibition

Yesterday the Minnesota Senate voted to repeal a law whose roots reach back to the birth of the state in 1858: a ban on Sunday liquor sales. Gov. Mark Dayton has already said that he would not veto that change, so if the House and Senate versions can be reconciled, Minnesotans will no longer need to drive to Wisconsin to buy alcohol on the Sabbath. I'm not sure that will change my life all that much, but as a historian, this news did get me thinking that the Temperance movement lived on long afte … [Read More...]

The Benedict Option, New England Edition

Ian Lovett’s recent Wall Street Journal essay traces a growing trend among traditional Christians to move to remote locations, often near a monastery, to recreate a kind of life that recalls Christian devotion in an earlier time, like the Middle Ages.  In Oklahoma, California, Texas, and Arkansas, Lovett finds new outposts of Catholics who prefer the Latin Mass and want to live with like-believing neighbors. These people "are part of a burgeoning movement among traditional Christians. Feeling be … [Read More...]

Blood From The Sky

I have not read this yet, but I just came across a book that looks exactly my kind of thing. This is Adam Jortner, Blood from the Sky: Miracles and Politics in the Early American Republic (University of Virginia Press, 2017).Here is the description:In the decades following the Revolution, … [Read More...]

Spreading the Faith: Immigrant Religion and Ethnic Religion

I wrote about the relationship between immigration and religious change, and the enormous impact of successive immigrant movements in shaping American religious patterns. Immigrant churches or congregations generally share certain characteristics and habits that provide useful tools for analysis and … [Read More...]

Still Searching for Christian America

“At times of crisis it is a natural human reaction to turn to the past for support.”[1]These words were written by evangelicals, to evangelicals. In 1983.Wait—1983? But Ronald Reagan was president at the time. What could possibly have been the source of evangelical angst back then?In fact … [Read More...]

Did Medieval Christians Know Jesus?

Recently I was made aware of an online church history curriculum.  At first glance, it seemed promising (at least from my perspective as a medievalist). It dedicated two weeks to the Medieval Church (five if you include the three weeks of Reformation), and it began the lesson for the High Middle … [Read More...]

The Christian History of “America First”

Ever since Donald Trump's inaugural address, Christian writers have hastened to argue that "America First" is not consistent with our faith. "'America First' is a perilous policy," Griffin Jackson told readers of Relevant, "because it is rooted in self and selfish egoism. It is built on the premise t … [Read More...]

Spreading the Faith: How Migration Changes Religion

Whatever might drive them to move, migrants carry their religions with them. Yet the religions they bring to their new lands do not remain unchanged. The fact of movement itself is a powerful dynamic force in religious change, and this is nowhere more obvious than in the United States.In his … [Read More...]

Spreading the Faith: Moving Coins and Moving Communities

I posted recently on issues of migration and mission, and how each of those terms can be applied to the spread of religions. In particular, I stressed the many factors that might cause a religion to spread, quite apart from conscious, deliberate evangelization. Often, we exaggerate deliberate … [Read More...]

Are the gods present?

"After he has lunched on his God on Sunday, / You should worship his turd on Monday." So the French Huguenot polemical poet Agrippa d'Aubigné mocked the Catholic Eucharist. Early Protestants felt and feigned horror at the idea that Catholics believed that they chewed, swallowed, and digested the … [Read More...]

Betsy DeVos, Sandra Bullock, and the Historical Cost of School Choice

As David's sabbatical in Thailand continues, we welcome Rusty Hawkins to The Anxious Bench for a timely guest post on the history of school choice. Rusty is associate professor of history and humanities and the associate director of the John Wesley Honors College at Indiana Wesleyan University. He i … [Read More...]

When Religious Biography Is Not Hagiography: Woodrow Wilson

Can a Christian historian write a religious biography without falling back into hagiography, a term that evokes ahistorical, moralizing accounts of saints?That was the question lying behind my three-part fall series on the problems of writing biography, a type of project that I'm still c … [Read More...]

Nicholas of Cusa on the Diversity of Religions

In my last post, I profiled Raymond Llull (1232-1316) as a forerunner of modern-day interreligious dialogue. In this one, and for the same reason, I profile Nicholas of Cusa (1401-61), a fascinating figure in the Christian intellectual tradition. A native of Kues on the Mosel river, Cusa received … [Read More...]

Spreading the Faith: Lessons from US History

We hear a lot today about the effects of immigrants on American religion, and the rise of a majority-minority country. I am always surprised that in such discussions, writers rarely pay attention to an era of US history that is today more relevant than ever, namely the mass influx of immigrants in … [Read More...]

Heroes of the Faith: True, but not Accurate

Today at the Anxious Bench we welcome Bruce Berglund, professor of history at Calvin College. He is co-editor of the collection of essays, Christianity and Modernity in Eastern Europe. His book Castle and Cathedral in Modern Prague: Longing for the Sacred in a Skeptical Age will be published this … [Read More...]

Dance and the Church: A History More Complicated than Footloose…

Today we are pleased to welcome Lynneth Miller to the Anxious Bench. Lynneth is a PhD candidate in the Baylor History department specializing in British and Women's History. She holds an MLitt from St. Andrews and is writing a dissertation on Dance and the Church in England. It’s the climatic s … [Read More...]

Unexpected Sites of Christian Pacifism: Baptists during WWII and Vietnam

During World War II, nearly 12,000 Americans registered as conscientious objectors and joined the Civilian Public Service (CPS). Unwilling to take human life, they instead served their country by doing everything from fighting forest fires to serving as test subjects for medical experiments. Most c … [Read More...]

Spreading the Faith: Daniel Syndrome

Another in a series of posts about the many and various ways in which religions spread - often by people who originally had no intention whatever of becoming missionaries, or indeed of leaving their homes.Sometimes, people really do set out to spread their religion to new parts of the world, and … [Read More...]

Spreading the Faith: Mission, Migration and Movement

As you must have noticed, immigration has been much in the news of late, and mainly in the context of religion. This actually gets to a lot of work I have been doing recently about how religions move and spread - in this case, mainly Christianity. I'll address various aspects of this in my next few … [Read More...]

Biographies Full of Females

Who's significant?As Chris Gehrz discussed in a recent post, his students -- and most publishers -- think that a "biography is a book written about a significant individuals." Most of those individuals happen to be men in positions of political power. Presidents, kings, businessmen, and a few … [Read More...]