America’s Public Bible

Many historians have observed that early Americans lived in a culture drenched in scripture. Through the nineteenth century, Americans’ oral and written speech dripped with biblical allusions that we might miss if we are not familiar with the language of the King James Bible. We might also note that whereas Old Testament narratives and texts resonated deeply [Read More…]

Sacred Violence in Early America

In 1637, English forces and their native allies encircled a Pequot village and burned alive some five hundred men, women, and children. John Mason termed it a “fiery oven” and declared: “It was the LORDS DOINGS, and it is marvelous to our Eyes.” William Bradford, then governor of New Plymouth, allowed that “it was a [Read More…]

Forgeries and Schadenfreude

Nearly four years ago, Karen King publicized a Coptic manuscript she had dated to the fourth-century. It contains the words, “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife.’” King did not claim the papyrus as evidence that the historical Jesus had married, but she did consider it evidence that early communities of Christians believed that he had. [Read More…]

ratemydeity.com

Review sites protect us from the hotel that serves rubbery scrambled eggs as its “free hot breakfast,” from the physician who hacks off the wrong limb, and from the college professor who expects students to read assigned texts. We live in an internet culture saturated with review sites. Yelp, tripadvisor, angie’s list, amazon. But for the things [Read More…]

The Future of American Evangelicalism

Nearly twenty years ago, Christian Smith assessed American evangelicalism as “embattled but thriving.” Nowadays, just “embattled” seems more apt for the preeminent impulse in the *history of American religion (*at least for much of that history). From the rise of the “Nones” to the collapse of the Religious Right to declines in church membership, the [Read More…]

Changes at the Bench

The Anxious Bench began its life as a blog some four years ago. Since then, we’ve published more than a thousand posts on a wide variety of themes pertaining to the global history of Christianity. As is the case with many group blogs, on occasion individuals have departed and new contributors have taken a seat on the [Read More…]

A Punch in the Gut

Rupert Neudeck died earlier this week at the age of seventy-seven. Mostly unknown in the United States, Neudeck was among Europe’s most radical and provocative humanitarians of the last half-century. Neudeck attracted public attention in 1979 when he, his wife Christel, and several high-profile supporters chartered the freighter Cap Anamur in a privately funded effort [Read More…]

Earthly Passions and Celestial Parts

“How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?” In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul dismissed skeptics of the bodily resurrection as fools, but the topic remained thorny among Christians for centuries. What was the difference between what Paul termed “celestial bodies” and “bodies terrestrial?” Paul made some clear [Read More…]

Calvin, Calvinism, and the Institutes

“The whole of sacred doctrine consists of two parts,” wrote John Calvin at the outset of his 1536 Institutes of the Christian Religion, “knowledge of God and of ourselves.” Likewise, in his expanded 1559 edition of the Institutes, Calvin repeated that human wisdom “consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of [Read More…]

The Rise of “Abrahamic Religions”

Most semesters, I teach a course my university titled “Religions of the West.” Given my own background of research and writing, I at first considered pretending that the “West” meant the “American West” and having my students discuss Native American spirituality, Spanish missions, and Mormonism. Alas, “Religions of the West” meant the broader histories of [Read More…]