The Thanksgiving before the First Thanksgiving

It probably didn't look overly much like Charles Lucy's Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers

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...]

Eating Eel: Your Guide to an Authentic Thanksgiving

Yesterday Tommy Kidd praised Tracy McKenzie’s book for its “entertaining retelling of a seminal moment in American history.” I agree. In fact, I assign it to my Study of History course (which covers the methods and philosophy of history) at Asbury for several reasons. First, it unpacks some of the mechanics of good historical research. [Read More...]

The Origin of “In God We Trust”

The national motto “In God We Trust” has a complicated and contested history. Even though the phrase first appeared on American coins during the Civil War, it was only officially adopted as the national motto in 1956, during the Cold War era. Where did the phrase come from before the Civil War? There seems little [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...]

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...]

“You Know Where Else They Have May-Day Military Exhibitions?”

DSC_0155 Feb 16, 1968

Wes Craven wasn’t the only rebel at Wheaton. Many students in the 1960s and 1970s echoed his cultural critique. Much of the dissent centered on the mandatory ROTC program at the college. Support for ROTC weakened in the mid-1960s, as did support for the elaborately staged annual Veterans Day chapel services and the regular features [Read More...]

The Popes and America

Editors’ Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on the Pope in America: Implications, Collaborations, Challenges. Read other perspectives here. In September 22-27, Pope Francis will visit the United States, making stops in Washington, New York, and Philadelphia. Most discussion in anticipation has focused on the Pope’s attendance at the World Meeting [Read More...]

Five Thoughts on Evangelical History

Nathan Finn (an occasional Anxious Bench guest blogger) recently published a review essay in Themelios on the state of “evangelical history after George Marsden.” In it, he introduces the Marsden generation of scholarship and then comments on recent books by Steven Miller, Matthew Sutton, and Molly Worthen. My first thought when reading the essay is [Read More...]

Seer Stones and Prophetic Authority

Last week, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made national and international news by releasing photographs of a seer stone used by Joseph Smith during the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. For some contemporary Latter-day Saints and for some outside critics of the church, the fact that Joseph Smith used a [Read More...]