Archives for November 2012


Depending on which media source you read, the recent election marked the Fall of the Religious Right, the End of White America, or the Collapse of the Republican Party (you know, like the Democratic Party vanished for ever in the 1980s, never to rise again). Nobody is underestimating the scale of the calamity for conservatism [Read More…]

Religious Moments

Churches and their leaders  generally don’t take kindly to outside scrutiny, but that scrutiny is something that all institutions sorely need. The “Mormon moment” brought forth a deluge (see this compilation) of articles, op-eds, and blog posts about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ranging from the scholarly to the uninformed and from [Read More…]

Preaching Bonhoeffer and the Uses of the Past

Anxious Bench blogger John Turner asked me to republish this piece here.  It originally appeared on November 8, 2012 at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  -JF Last night at Messiah College I heard Christian writer Eric Metaxas give a very entertaining, humorous, and inspiring lecture on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  The lecture was [Read More…]

Culture-Changing Christians

When Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, many disappointed supporters – including a number of evangelicals – suggested that his defeat spoke to an American culture in decline. For politics to change, they say, culture must change. Glenn Beck, for example, tweeted that “the time for politics is over. I’m doubling down on my [Read More…]

The “Modern Secular University”

  Members of religious orders who served as faculty on the first universities of the Middle Ages would certainly find it of more than passing interest that the term “university” today is often associated with adjectives such as “modern” and “secular” as in the “modern secular research university.” In the United States, pride of place [Read More…]

Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week: The Roanoke Colony New issue of the Journal of Southern Religion Jill Abramson reviews Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power.  Joyce Appleby reviews it here How to be in a Springsteen documentary  Church affiliation in colonial America and today America and the Republic [Read More…]


Not long ago, John Turner ignited controversy when he challenged the idea that Mormonism was a “cult,” a concept I have myself  written on at some length. (By the way, some scholars define “cult” as “a small unpopular religion,” without specifying whether the unpopularity is merited). For present purposes though, I am interested in another [Read More…]

New History of New Thought

John S. Haller Jr.’s The History of New Thought helped me understand a subject that has always vexed me. Several years ago, I read Catherine Albanese’s magisterial A Republic of Mind and Spirit, which presents “metaphysical religion” as a commonly omitted branch of American religious history. “Metaphysical religion…” she argues, “is at least as important [Read More…]

Why I am Glad the Election is Over

“As an American historian, what do you think about the 2012 presidential election?” I am asked this question often and I am never sure how to answer it.  Ask me in another ten or twenty years and maybe I might have an answer.  Or maybe ask another historian one-hundred years from now.  Sure, historians can [Read More…]

Are Evangelicals Welcome on the “Front Porch”?

I have written here several times about thoroughly conservative evangelicals who are “reluctant” Republicans. I call these folks “paleo evangelicals.” I noted that some (though surely not all) of the paleo evangelicals are fans of websites such as the Front Porch Republic (which emphasizes “place, self-government, sustainability, limits, and variety” as key terms in any real [Read More…]