American Religion in the 1950s

From the Archive.  Originally posted July 31, 2013. In American memory, the 1950s are often portrayed as a mundane, picturesque prelude to the chaotic, transformative decade that would follow.  Popular contemporary television portrayals of the decade such as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966), Father Knows Best (1954-1960) and Leave It To Beaver (1957-1963) helped create the stereotype of the 1950s [Read More...]

Lincoln’s Shrewd Sermon

Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration as President of the United States. On that date, Lincoln delivered an address that, while never quite rivaling the Gettysburg Address in terms of fame, has nevertheless earned the lasting admiration of many Americans. Carl Sandberg termed it ”the great American poem”; Frederick Douglass praised [Read More...]

A Thief in the Night

A_Thief_in_the_Night_poster

Today, as part of a course on religion and film, I had the opportunity to discuss the 1972 film A Thief in the Night with a group of religious diverse undergraduate students. My church — a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregation that straddled the worlds of evangelical and mainline Protestantism — did not screen the film [Read More...]

Americans Incarcerate

An 1858 Harper's illustration of a freezing "shower"

Americans incarcerate. So begins and ends Jennifer Graber’s The Furnace of Affliction: Prisons & Religion in Antebellum America. Americans incarcerate. One of out every hundred American adults is behind bars. One would rather not think about the economic, emotional, and spiritual cost of this mass imprisonment. I imagine that most Americans and most American Christians [Read More...]

The Promises and Perils of Denominational History

Today’s guest post is by Nathan A. Finn, who serves as associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also directs the Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality. You can follow him on Twitter​. Near the end of my time in college, I was a history major who knew I [Read More...]

Jesus Delayed

Sutton

Christians have no good reason to believe Jesus is coming soon. Okay, in the final chapter of John’s Apocalypse, Jesus himself says, “See, I am coming soon” (I prefer the King James Version’s “Behold, I come quickly”). But let’s face it, “soon” and “quickly” do not usually mean after two millennia. Indeed, a surface reading [Read More...]

The Kirtland Temple

Kirtland Temple, 1934, from the LOC Historic American Buildings Survey collection

Every year tens of thousands of people visit the Kirtland Temple, dedicated in 1836 by what was then the Church of the Latter Day Saints. The vast majority of those visitors are members of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they come in part to see where Joseph Smith and Oliver [Read More...]

Divided by Reason: Molly Worthen on Evangelicalism

For good reason, Molly Worthen’s Apostles of Reason has enjoyed a lot of attention (Slate, Christian Century, National Review, Religion and American History blog, The Nation). It is a wonderfully provocative and ambitious book with a panorama of fascinating and diverse characters. As I point out in my review of the book over at Marginalia, [Read More...]

Evangelical Anti-abolitionists

Robert J. Breckinridge, ca. 1845

Even in slaveholding states, many white Americans were uneasy about the morality of black slavery in the decades that preceded the Civil War. However, there were two things such Americans disliked far more than slavery: black people and abolitionists. According to Luke Harlow’s recently published Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, those double [Read More...]

New Year, Old You

Many of us already have bound ourselves to resolutions this year.  After fitness the most popular ones include resolutions to learn something. Pick up a new language, Rosetta Stone ads implore.  The Teaching Company touts Latin 101 as its top-rated course. Resolutions to better the body may have obvious appeal (or not: this husk is [Read More...]


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