Under God — since When?

Kevin Kruse’s One Nation Under God: How Corporate American Invented Christian America has received considerable attention since its release earlier this year. Deservedly so. I recently reviewed the book for Christianity Today and agree with some of the cautionary notes our Philip Jenkins sounded several months back. Philip suggests that reviewers’ excessively exuberant praise for [Read More…]

Early Christian and Medieval Heavens

Two weeks ago, I began a discussion of Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang’s Heaven: A History, in which they trace two millennia of Christian ideas about the afterlife. To what extent does human community persist in heaven? Does the hereafter, moreover, take place on earth or in heaven? Last time, I discussed M&L’s discussion of [Read More…]

The Quick Triumph of Same-Sex Marriage

From the 2013 Anxious Bench archives… About a decade ago, the historian David Chappell wrote a thoughtful book about religion and the civil rights movement, titled A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow. Among other ideas, Chappell presents the argument that the supporters of civil rights, ultimately, had religion on [Read More…]

The Biblical Heavens

What do you think of when you think of heaven? Is your first thought God and Jesus, or is it your loved ones (spouse, parents, children, and pets)? Over the past few years, I’ve dipped into Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang’s endlessly fascinating Heaven: A History, and I recently had the chance to read it [Read More…]

Child Preachers, Then and Now

The New York Times recently published a fascinating report on Brazilian Pentecostal “child preachers,” which it suggests is a major phenomenon. Without corroboration, Samantha Shapiro quotes a pastor who “estimates there are thousands” of evangelists and healers ages five to eighteen. This is the sort of journalism of the weird and unusual that is one [Read More…]

The King James Bible and American Religious History

After various children’s bibles, I first read the Good News Bible. Since the Bible turned out to be more interesting than most sermons and choral anthems, I am pretty certain I got through most of it in church services as a boy. Who wouldn’t find the narratives of Genesis both shocking and riveting! I then [Read More…]

Public Penance

There does seem to be a basic societal need for penance. In previous days, penance meant various forms of public punishment and humiliation. Today, only politicians and celebrities perform public penance, which usually means some sort of groveling apology for the cameras, a time in the wilderness, and then a public reemergence usually coupled with [Read More…]

Evangelical Oats

Reuben Torrey and Henry Crowell are the two key figures in Timothy Gloege’s outstanding Guaranteed Pure. In his book, Gloege develops a rich analogy between the rise of corporate advertising and the rise of American fundamentalism. Crowell grew up in a Presbyterian family, then was taken with Dwight Moody’s revival encouragement to “dream great things [Read More…]

Tom Brady and Joseph Smith, Lies and Liars

“And yet Joseph Smith was plainly a liar,” informs Lawrence Wright in his best-selling Going Clear. In an epilogue, Wright compares Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard to the founding prophet of Mormonism. As evidence, Wright points to Smith’s denial of polygamy and his claim that scrolls of Egyptian papyrus contained the writings of the biblical [Read More…]

Corporate Evangelicalism

Recently, Kevin Kruse’s One Nation Under God has generated considerable attention for its claims about the way that the 1930s and post-WWII alliance between politically conservative businessmen and evangelicals created modern ideas about “Christian America.” According to the book’s self-description, Kruse “reveals how the unholy alliance of money, religion, and politics created a false origin [Read More…]


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