Congratulations to Our Own!

If you are still agonizing over how to select that life-changing-yet-affordable Christmas gift, we at the Anxious Bench — especially the prolific among us — are here to help. A few days ago, Christianity Today announced that our Thomas Kidd’s biography of George Whitefield has won its 2015 book award for History / Biography. I [Read More…]

The King of Beaver Island

Most people with only a passing acquaintance with the history of Mormonism presume that there was a simple transition to Brigham Young’s leadership after the June 1844 murder of Joseph Smith, Jr. In truth, Smith’s death precipitated several competing claims to leadership. A new “Kindle Single” authored by John J. Miller in The Polygamist King [Read More…]

Muslims, the New Mormons

In 1890, the U.S. Supreme Court — in upheld laws intended to disenfranchise Mormon polygamists. The 1882 Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act required voters to swear that they were not polygamists, and the Idaho Territory had passed a statute requiring voters to attest that they were not Mormons. In Idaho, church member Samuel Davis was convicted of [Read More…]

The Thanksgiving before the First Thanksgiving

The Mayflower pilgrims anchored at what is now Provincetown Harbor on the south side of the Cape Cod hook on November 11, 1620 (November 20 by our calendar). When a party waded ashore, William Bradford wrote some years later: they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over [Read More…]

Surprised by Joy

Joy Davidman Gresham is best known for the very end of her life. As depicted in the film Shadowlands, she and the renowned Christian author Clive Stapleton Lewis married after Joy was diagnosed with terminal cancer.                 Recent years have brought an avalanche of books about C.S. Lewis, who a half-century after his death continues [Read More…]

Religion, Secularization, and the Academy

On my campus, there are plenty of signs that religion is not going quietly into the night. On a thoroughfare outside the main student center, very loud preachers have been hosting “sin awareness” days. Is that really needed? Pro-life groups have been stationed a hundred yards away, displaying fetal photographs and engaging passers-by in what [Read More…]

Trump, Presbyterians, and Adventists

A few days ago, Donald Trump thought it wise to remind Republican primary voters that he’s Presbyterian and Ben Carson belongs to some weird religion: I’m Presbyterian. Can you believe it? Nobody believes I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian . . . Boy, that’s down the middle of the road folks, in all [Read More…]

For Evangelicals, Party Trumps Personalities

My co-blogger Thomas Kidd suggests that church-going evangelicals and a group he calls “paleo-evangelicals” (already disaffected with the Republican Party) should desert the Republicans should Donald Trump capture the GOP nomination. I am in the camp of those who consider that outcome an improbability in two respects. First, despite widespread dissatisfaction with “establishment” politicians, Republicans [Read More…]

Station Eleven

Last year, John Wilson of Books & Culture praised Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven. Over the years, B&C has placed several splendid novels on my radar screen, including Mischa Berlinski’s Fieldwork (Berlinski’s second novel will appear this coming March). Station Eleven did not disappoint. Mandel’s is an artfully crafted narrative, weaving together [Read More…]

Playing Mormon, Playing Indian

In 1869, Lucy Stanton Bassett traveled from New York to Utah, possibly riding on the transcontinental railroad completed that May. When she reached Utah, she was reunited with her parents and children, and she met her grandchildren. For tens of thousands of Americans and Europeans, the journey to Zion was a rite of passage, a [Read More…]