Archives for April 2013

George Beverly Shea (1909-2013)

From Bev Shea’s NYT obituary: Though Mr. Shea was long a vital part of Mr. Graham’s work — Mr. Graham routinely insisted that without him he would have had no ministry — he retained a wry modesty about his role. “The people didn’t come to hear me,” Mr. Shea told The Charlotte Observer in 2009. [Read More…]


I have been writing about the Other texts that shaped Christian thought through the long Middle Ages, all the alternative gospels and apocryphal texts that literate people read with almost the same veneration that they paid to the canonical scriptures. One problem with finding such materials is that we often don’t know exactly the point [Read More…]

Understanding the Puritans

The scholarly study of the Puritans has been marked in recent years by attempts to understand them in a fully transatlantic context. This follows a broader trend in early American history to focus on “Atlantic world” perspectives, rather than proto-national American ones. While others could view this de-emphasizing of the future United States as ideologically [Read More…]

Two Popes Walk into a Bar …

A more accurate title for this blog would be “Watching the Papal Transition from Catholic Europe.”  But I couldn’t resist, even though I don’t have a punch line–or even a joke for that matter. But down to business. I am on sabbatical this spring semester, spending part of it as a visiting scholar at the [Read More…]


Whenever I teach a course on Christian history, I always use samples of music, whether medieval chants or modern hymns, because that was commonly the means by which believers heard and absorbed their doctrine. In recent posts, I have been discussing some of the alternative scriptures that so powerfully shaped Christian thought, and one at [Read More…]


I posted recently about how the wide range of alternative gospels and scriptures disappeared from the Christian mainstream after about 400 – or rather, how they did not disappear. In reality, these Other Gospels were lost only in the sense that they dropped out of mainstream use for some churches, at some times, in certain [Read More…]

Religion and the Victory of Same-Sex Marriage

About a decade ago, the historian David Chappell wrote a thoughtful book about religion and the civil rights movement, titled A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow. Among other ideas, Chappell presents the argument that the supporters of civil rights, ultimately, had religion on their side. In other words, while [Read More…]


Any book on Christian history by Diarmaid MacCulloch is likely to be an important contribution. I was delighted then to read news of his latest book, Silence in Christian History (London: Allen Lane, 2013. To be published in the US in September). Lucy Beckett’s review in the Times Literary Supplement is particularly full. I stress [Read More…]

Can North Carolina Make Christianity Its Official Religion?

North Carolina legislators recently made an ill-fated attempt to introduce Christianity as the state’s official religion. The move was precipitated by an ACLU lawsuit against the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, a board notorious for allowing people to utter Jesus’s name in prayers at their meetings. The establishment proposal generated a predictably breathless response from the left. [Read More…]


In recent years, lost or hidden gospels have generated huge public interest, and every few years brings some new discovery: the Gospels of Mary and Judas, even (questionably) the tale of “Jesus’s Wife.” But the whole narrative of those alternative scriptures is based on a false assumption, or rather a myth. According to the common [Read More…]