When death comes before life

Martin Luther, mindful of the trials and blessings of family life, offered balm to women suffering one of its sorrows: the death of a child before birth.  He counseled pastors “not to frighten or sadden such mothers by harsh words because it was not due to their carelessness or neglect that the birth of the [Read More...]

Giving Cotton Mather his due

Cotton Mather

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the birth of Cotton Mather (1663-1728).  Descendant of leading Puritan ministers, defender of colonial liberties, esteemed pastor of a large Boston congregation, and enlightened proponent of science, Mather is an important figure in American colonial history.  Despite all his works—or maybe because of all his works—Mather has received [Read More...]

Should Christians mind how babies come to be?

Is in vitro fertilization (IVF) a moral issue? Jennifer Lahl, in a recent post at Christianity Today’s her.meneutics, ponders the new Pew survey revealing most Americans think it’s not. Lahl, President of The Center for Bioethics and Culture, is concerned that Christians are not more concerned about reproductive technologies, IVF, and surrogacy.  Some Protestants’ too-ready [Read More...]

Burning importance of women’s rights?

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

  Last month I visited the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York, around the anniversary of the town’s most famous event, the 1848 women’s rights convention. Called by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott and colleagues, the meeting convened in hot July at the Wesleyan Chapel.  This was a seminal gathering, drawing together [Read More...]

Whither Luther?

Hilary Sherratt, an alumnae of Gordon College and a guest blogger for this post, was a participant on Professor Tal Howard’s recent trip to sites of the Protestant Reformation in Germany.  His own reflections on this trip appeared in an earlier blog, “The Incombustible Martin Luther.” Whither Martin Luther? Whither Christian Unity? – Ecumenical Purpose [Read More...]

Blessing upon Childbirth–Royal and Otherwise

The imminent birth of an heir—Prince William and Duchess Kate’s baby due within a few weeks—recalls the potential of royals to (re) set expectations about birth. When anesthesia was pioneered in the nineteenth century, its appeal in obstetrics was obvious.  Chloroform, applied to a cloth and held over the nose and mouth of the laboring [Read More...]

“No Purely Feminine Woman”

Margaret Fuller

“While women sometimes wished to be men in order to partake of their freedoms and opportunities, ‘men never.’”   This statement appears in Megan Marshall’s new biography of  Margaret Fuller (1810-1850).   The quotation continues: men never “in any extreme of despair, wished to be women,” Marshall summarizes, since there was nothing enviable in women’s lot, [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...]

WHAT DO CHILDREN NEED? A THERAPIST OR A SHOVEL?

That children should do chores might seem so obvious as to be unworthy of mention.  I considered the question in a recent Boston Globe article.  No suspense: I do think children should do chores.  But revisiting an important book about the Reformation, of all things, strengthened that conviction. Considering “The Religious Beliefs of Teenagers” in [Read More...]

Redefining Parenthood?

This week The New York Times noted a new landmark in the transformation of parenthood.  Julie Cohn’s article follows the experience of women in a Vietnamese village who, because war in the 1970s reduced their chances of becoming brides, decided to have children anyway. One by one they asked men — whom they would never [Read More...]


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