Archives for February 2013


We have just entered the season of Lent. Thinking about the history of this time tells us a lot about the church’s changing attitudes to those very Biblical ideas of fasting and penance. To understand where this time came from, it’s helpful – oddly – to look first at Muslim practice. Muslims today have a [Read More…]

Nat Turner’s Bible

A few months ago, I went to Harper’s Ferry with my wife and daughter. It’s a very odd National Historical Park because the National Park Service clearly does not know how to interpret John Brown’s life. Of course, it would be impossible to interpret John Brown’s life without antagonizing some potential visitors. Was he a [Read More…]

Some Thoughts on Dr. Ben Carson’s Prayer Breakfast Speech

Political conservatives are singing the praises of Dr. Ben Carson’s speech last week at the National Prayer Breakfast.  Carson, a Johns Hopkins University pediatric surgeon and an evangelical Christian, used the speech to attack political correctness and Obamacare.  Oh, and did I mention that the President of the United States was seated a few feet [Read More…]

The Puritans: Neither Democratic nor American?

As I discussed in my post “Puritans: The Original Republicans?“, few historians today remain interested in Puritanism as the seedbed of American democracy. But as demonstrated by Michael Winship’s excellent book Godly Republicanism, the Puritans may well have been America’s first republicans (small ‘r’), with their loathing of political and ecclesiastical tyranny. It has been interesting [Read More…]


Through the years, I have written a good deal about the globalization of Christianity in the modern world, but that interest springs naturally from much older interests of mine in transnational linkages in earlier eras. As I posted recently, the church of the early Middle Ages was thoroughly transcontinental, with all sorts of unsuspected linkages [Read More…]

Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week: Sean Wilentz reviews Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold Story of the United States. The secret writing of American slaves John Turner on Henrietta Mears and evangelical women Joe Creech reviews David I. Smith and James K.A. Smith, ed. Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping [Read More…]


I recently suggested that studying the history of the so-called  “Dark Ages” gives a wonderful background for understanding contemporary Christianity worldwide. Nowhere is that more true, oddly, than in the central theme of globalization itself. When you explore the world of Late Antiquity, roughly from the fourth century through the ninth, you see a Christian [Read More…]

Henrietta Mears and the History of Evangelical Women

A few months ago, our Thomas Kidd praised Catherine Brekus’s just-released Sarah Osborn’s World as an especially compelling religious biography. I recently had the chance to read Sarah Osborn’s World along with a class of students at George Mason University.  I came away just as impressed. I recommend it to anyone interested in the historical [Read More…]

The Quandary of African American Evangelicalism

Guest post from Miles S. Mullin II, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s J. Dalton Havard School for Theological Studies: John Fea’s recent Anxious Bench post, “Where Are the Studies of Twentieth-Century Black Evangelicalism?” raised an excellent question, one that confronted me over a decade ago as a graduate student in Dennis Dickerson’s Religion and the Civil Rights [Read More…]

George Whitefield, Confessional Protestant Whipping Boy

Over at the Old Life website, our friend D.G. Hart has a piece, “Between Whitefield and the Vatican,” which argues that George Whitefield (the greatest evangelist of the eighteenth century, and the subject of my current book project) focused too much on the Spirit and personal experience, while Roman Catholics focus too much on the institutional [Read More…]