About David Swartz

Scripture as Usable History

Patriot's Bible

The Bicentennial Bible (1975) and the American Patriot’s Bible (2009) tie scripture closely to right-wing politics. The marginal notes feature quotations from Dick Cheney and other conservative activists on the subjects of liberty and the efficacy of public school prayer and free-markets. The Bicentennial Bible declares that Scripture is “America’s Book from Almighty God.” These [Read More...]

Spirits Eat Ripe Papaya

Spirits Eat Ripe Papaya

It’s beach-reading season—and I have a can’t-miss recommendation. Spirits Eat Ripe Papaya, the debut novel of St. Mary’s College (Ind.) history professor Bill Svelmoe, is a hysterical account of the foibles of good-hearted, but sometimes naïve missionaries. I recommend the book for several reasons. First, it offers texture and empathy. I grew up in the [Read More...]

Black religion and Vietnam

Beyond Vietnam

On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. preached at Riverside Church in New York City. In his sermon (listen to it here) he publicly broke ranks with the policies of President Lyndon Johnson and the white liberal establishment (which still largely supported the war) as he condemned American involvement in Vietnam. King articulated what [Read More...]

Slow Church: A Report from the Trenches

Young boys using mobile phone.

As an admirer of the Englewood Review of Books, I have been anticipating the release of Slow Church. Now that it’s in my hands, I’m happy to report that it doesn’t disappoint. I am thoroughly convinced by the book’s critique and vision. I’ll leave the close outlining of the book’s contents—on ethics, ecology, and economy—to [Read More...]

“Then I Shall Be a Wicked Child, and the Great God Will Be Very Angry with Me”

New England primer

One beautiful spring afternoon four years ago, I came across a horrifying scene in my living room. One of my two-year-old sons was standing on the back of the couch with his legs spread and his arms outstretched. My other two-year-old son stood facing him with an imaginary hammer in his hand and a determined [Read More...]

Picturing Pain

Southampton

Last week several dozen scholars of religion met at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom to discuss the global history of evangelicalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The conference, organized by Kendrick Oliver, whose research on religion and the space program you really must become acquainted with, was terrific. Papers ranged from [Read More...]

Just Spirituality

Just-Spirituality

The stereotypical religious conservative sees social justice, at best, as a distraction from practices of piety or, at worst, a heretical deviation from the gospel. The stereotypical religious progressive sees social justice as a biblical imperative—but seems to have no time for spiritual disciplines such as prayer, meditation, and fasting. This seems to be changing [Read More...]

Unexpected Sites of Christian Pacifism: Pentecostal Edition

John_Ashcroft

In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Attorney General of the United States John Ashcroft, a prominent advocate of the war in Iraq, wrote a song called “Let the Eagle Soar” (you can listen to it here).  It is a deeply patriotic song, one he liked to mix with morning prayer meetings at [Read More...]

The Strange Case of Two Stony Brook School Classmates

Felicity, California

Several weeks ago I settled down to my usual Sunday afternoon reading of the New York Times. I encountered one of the more fascinating profiles I’ve read in a while. It opened like this: “One morning in late January, Jacques-André Istel woke up at his home in Felicity, Calif., did 100 push-ups and 125 squats, [Read More...]

Unexpected Sites of Christian Pacifism: Holiness Edition

pentecostal-holiness-statements

Jay Beaman, a sociologist at Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon, likes to do historical experiments. After extensive research he sends emails to members of Ancestry.com, telling them that he has found a relative of theirs who claimed religious objection on their World War I draft card. These relatives were members of holiness and Pentecostal [Read More...]


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