Archives for April 2013

Three Cheers for the Twidiocracy

The latest issue of The Weekly Standard includes a rant against Twitter by Matt Labash, who does not have a Twitter account. I am on Twitter, and I like it a lot. Of course, it has its vapid and vicious aspects, but all in all, I find that Twitter is the most useful means of staying [Read More…]

Discovering Saints and Sisters

In 2005 some visitors to a German museum accidentally found themselves in an exhibit called “Crown and Veil,” a dazzling collection of art and artifacts from women’s monastic houses.  Perhaps guessing the title would hold out to them something glamorous and familiar—princesses? wedding dresses?—the guests expressed their dismay upon discovering what it held: “Oh dear, [Read More…]


No, the title isn’t a typo. From my earliest years, I have always had a special affection for Western films, and a few of these at least make powerful religious statements. Westerns after all are set in a particular period of US history, roughly 1870-1900 or so, a time when religion broadly defined played a [Read More…]


I have been working recently on the survival of ancient alternative gospels and other scriptures through the Middle Ages and Early Modern period. Ireland especially was a staggeringly rich treasury for “lost” early Christian texts. This would be so important because of the critical role that Irish monks played in the conversion of England and [Read More…]

Christian Critics of Capitalism

There are certain columns those with an interest in the history and present of American Christianity should read. The Wall Street Journal‘s weekly Houses of Worship essay (see the recent pieces on Jackie Robinson and Robert Edwards). Our own Philip Jenkins’s essays at Real Clear Religion (see his recent column on the anniversaries of Waco [Read More…]


I am thinking of founding a Museum of Religiously Incorrect Art. We presently live in a world of broad ecumenism and toleration: just think of reactions to the new Pope Francis. It’s instructive, then, to recall how much religious debate through the centuries has been so extremely confrontational and downright nasty, and this is especially [Read More…]

Background Checks and the Branch Davidians

In the furor over the recent situations in Boston and West, Texas, we passed quietly over the 20th anniversary of the April 19, 1993 final assault on the Branch Davidian center in Elk, Texas (conventionally reported as “Waco,” which is nine miles away). I do not want to engage the technicalities or disputes surrounding the [Read More…]


I’ve noted recently how thin the lines between canonical and non-canonical scriptures were in many churches through history, and especially the millennium or so of the Middle Ages. But beyond raising an interesting point about different attitudes prevailing in the past, what does that tell us about Christian history more generally? Why does it matter?  [Read More…]


I recently argued that, contrary to our usual assumptions, many of the old Gnostic gospels remained accessible long after the Roman Empire accepted orthodox Christianity. However much church authorities might have wanted to eliminate them, they circulated quite widely. One puzzling piece of evidence comes from Nicephorus, the ninth century Patriarch of Constantinople. Appended to [Read More…]

Faith and Marriage

 Interfaith marriage is skyrocketing in contemporary America. A generation ago, around fifteen percent of Americans married outside their faith, which probably mostly meant Catholics marrying Protestants. Now, according to Naomi Schaefer Riley, the rate is forty-two percent. As Americans continue to delay marriage and drift away from their parents and religious upbringings during their young [Read More…]