The Religious Revolution of the 1970s: The Case of Iran

I have been doing a series of posts about the global revival of religious politics during the mid-1970s. As part of this, I have offered a framework for what was happening at this time, suggesting why discontent being expressed in those traditional religious forms. Throughout, we must stress the effects of the 1973-75 economic crisis.At many points, Iran’s religious politics offer a surprisingly close analogy to the US pattern. One of the pivotal events of this era was the 1979 revolution a … [Read More...]

God and the 2016 Presidential Debates

Four years ago, I wrote a post on "God and the Presidential Debates" after the first round between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The substance of that post follows here, after a brief update.God, Christianity, and religion were almost entirely absent from this week's first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I thought Clinton might work in a reference to her Methodist faith, about which I thought she spoke very effectively at the Democratic National Convention. I expected Trump … [Read More...]

Hey White Evangelicals, Welcome to Anabaptism

After centuries of relying on sky-high Amish birthrates for church growth, Anabaptism has exploded in just several months. The surprising converts include a lot of conservative white evangelicals who are not known for their pacifism, simple living, or belief in the separation of church and state. … [Read More...]

Beyond Books: The “Head of Christ”

To conclude this series responding to Christian History magazine's list of 25 Christian "writings that changed the church and the world," I want to go beyond writing altogether and suggest that other modes of creative expression and communication have done just as much to shape Christian belief and i … [Read More...]

The Religious Revolution of the 1970s: The Case of Israel

I have been posting about the aggressive revival of religious politics during the mid-1970s, and suggested parallels between events in the United States and many other nations around the world in the very same years. Specifically, I offered a model for what was happening at this time, and which had … [Read More...]

The 1970s and the Revenge of God

In my last blogpost, I discussed the political and cultural transformations of the 1970s, a global shift not just to conservatism but particularly to religious traditionalism. In different forms, we see such a pattern in the US, but also in countries like Israel, Iran and India, and across the … [Read More...]

An Open Letter to the ESV Translation Committee

I’m not a biblical translator, or even a biblical scholar.I’m a historian.As a historian, I was intrigued when I heard the news that “the Permanent Text of the ESV Bible” had been released. (The English Standard Version, for those not in the know, is an “essentially literal” translation of th … [Read More...]

Burning Witches in Medieval Europe?

Kilkenny lies deep in southern Ireland.Its history lies just as deep in the medieval past. The thirteenth-century cathedral of St. Canice stands next to a 9th-century monastic tower; a castle still sits on the site of William Marshall's 12th-century Norman foundations; and a … [Read More...]

Beyond Books: “Come, Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest”

Only one American work made the cut for Christian History magazine's list of 25 Christian writings "that changed the church and the world": Jonathan Edwards' Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746), ranked #23. It's hard to question the significance of a preacher whose books and sermons conti … [Read More...]

Counting Down to the Reformation at 500

There’s an African proverb, I am told, that goes like this: “If I don’t beat my own drum, who will?” In this spirit, permit me to make known to Anxious-Bench readers two publications of mine. The first is recently out; the second will be out in a matter of weeks. It has been a delight working with … [Read More...]

The Anxious Bench at the Conference on Faith and History

One of our favorite organizations is the Conference on Faith and History, which was founded in 1967 and describes itself as a community of scholars exploring the relationship between Christian faith and history. We welcome members from a variety of Christian traditions around the world. We also … [Read More...]

When The Backwardness Came Back

In a recent post, I referred to economic pressures, and particularly oil prices, as a factor driving social change. Over my next few entries, I will expand on that point with a focus on a particularly critical era, namely the 1970s. Economic crisis – specifically, the oil crisis – drove social cha … [Read More...]

Black Church, White Jesus

Jesus and I were the only white people in the room.When I was twenty years old, I went to Washington for an unpaid summer internship. The nonprofit arranged for me to stay in a small cottage behind a lawyer's house in one of the area's affluent suburbs. In the cottage, there was no air … [Read More...]

Mother Teresa, Eastern Kentucky, and Transnational Charity

The canonization of Mother Teresa on September 4 was a global affair. The coronation occurred at the Vatican in front of 120,000 people. The people in her homeland of Macedonia rejoiced. So did the members of the Missionaries of Charity, the blue-and-white robed religious order she founded in 1950. … [Read More...]

Beyond Books: Hymns as Christian Writing

What are the most influential writings in Christian history?Last fall the magazine Christian History tackled that question, surveying church historians to come up with a list of the top 25 Christian “writings that changed the church and the world.”I enjoy Christian History; in fact, I'm in th … [Read More...]

Only Yesterday: On Teaching Very Recent US History

I wrote recently about the problems of defining the major themes in recent American history. That actually gets to a much bigger issue, namely how do we teach that “Late Modern” era in universities and colleges. If I can borrow the title of the classic 1931 book by Frederick Lewis Allen on the 192 … [Read More...]

The Best 100 Films, and the Rest

I recently blogged about recent European films about faith and religion. That post was in my mind as I looked at the listing of the 100 best films of the current century, since 2000. That’s an impressive list, but with some odd absences. Of course that’s subjective, but I do see a real and rather wor … [Read More...]

Writing the 21st Century

Last time, I discussed the issues involved in trying to write the very recent history, namely the years since 2000. (Do check out that post as the essential background for the present posting).I won't detail my planned chapter outline in too much length, but let me just give you the main … [Read More...]

Crisis of Corporate Evangelicalism (Part 4 – The “Other” Evangelicals)

In July 1925, America was gripped by a spectacle of the sort that reality TV would later perfect. The small hamlet of Dayton, Tennessee hosted a trivial court case that town leaders puffed into a media circus. The contest was whether evolution should be taught in public schools.At the … [Read More...]

The Divorce of a Pastor’s Wife in 1860 Texas

I went to a perfect wedding last weekend.It was deep in the rural heart of Central Texas. Wide open fields dotted with cattle and the occasional John Deer tractor were broken by scattered farm houses. The roads were narrow and dusty; population signs for the small towns counted inhabitants by … [Read More...]