Archives for September 2012


The new book The Color of Christ, by Edward Blum and Paul Harvey, is rightly drawing attention, and praise. To over-simplify a complex argument, it shows how changing racial conceptions and images of Christ have been used as political weapons, often in the cause of White supremacy. A radical departure from this tradition is the [Read More…]

Joel Osteen, Evangelical

For many Americans, Joel Osteen is the public face of evangelical Christianity. For many evangelical Christians, Osteen is not an evangelical Christian. Despite what follows, I have never taken much of an interest in such debates. Arguing over whether or not someone is an “evangelical” is rarely fruitful or uplifting. In fact, when I watch [Read More…]

We’re #95! We’re #95 We’re #95!!

According to Kent Shaffer at Church Relevance, “The Anxious Bench” is the 95th best “church blog” on the Internet.  I am not sure what this all means, but the ranking has me thinking.  Are we really a “church blog?”  I prefer to think of us as a religious history blog that might be useful to [Read More…]

“Volunteering” to Pray: Church, State, and College Football

The Freedom from Religion Foundation’s (FFRF) campaign to remove religion from American public life has opened a new front: stopping public prayers at college football games. It sent “cease and desist” letters to the University of Tennessee recently, asking that both its Knoxville and Chattanooga campuses end their rituals of pregame prayers. Chattanooga complied, but [Read More…]


In Denmark not long ago, I was of course struck by the rich sense of history at every turn, by the roster of mighty leaders and epochal events. Speaking with Danes though, a foreigner might be surprised to find just how they rank these great figures. Kings, generals, inventors, writers? Yes, yes, plenty of those. [Read More…]


You have probably observed the media fuss over the ancient text – a lost gospel? – that apparently refers to “Jesus’s wife.” The story is a classic illustration of how the media misinterpret religious stories, but the underlying issue is of rather more interest. Briefly, Harvard Professor Karen King reported the discovery of a Coptic [Read More…]

The Baptism of Early Virginia

Over at Religion in American History, our friends have posted a fascinating interview with Rebecca Goetz, author of the recently published The Baptism of Early Virginia (Johns Hopkins University Press). A few highlights: – On in importance of religion for understanding race in early American history: This was the early 2000s, so race, class, and [Read More…]

The Founding Fathers, Barack Obama, and “Taking Care of Our Own”

Here’s a piece that I wrote after Obama’s acceptance speech at the DNC.  It originally appeared at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, but I thought Anxious Bench readers might be interested in it as well.   For those who have already seen it, I apologize for the cross-post. — The Founding Fathers would have been [Read More…]

“Thenceforward, and Forever Free”: Remembering Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation

This week marks the 150th anniversary of two of the most significant events of the Civil War: the Battle of Antietam (Sept. 17) and the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (Sept. 22). The contrast between these two events remains poignant a century and a half later: the most deadly single day of battle in American history signaled [Read More…]

Death with Dignity or Physician-Assisted Suicide?

  What happens out West does not necessarily stay there.  On November 6, voters in the State of Massachusetts, where I live, will have a “Death with Dignity” Act on their ballot, of the sort that has passed in recent years in Oregon and Washington State.  In an election year when economic issues seem to [Read More…]