What’s Present is Prologue to the Past

Jennifer Schuessler at the New York Times introduces cutting-edge historical scholarship to the masses. Last summer, she published a piece on Mormon history, and this past spring an article on scholarship about American capitalism followed (that piece discussed, among other books, Bethany Moreton’s To Serve God and Wal-Mart). Most recently, Schuessler introduced readers to recent [Read More...]

End Hymnal Wars

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Never agree to serve on a hymnal committee. First of all, if your church (like mine) is still using hymnals, that’s probably a sign that its membership (like mine) is aging and shrinking. Second, one can be certain that a new hymnal — or any new decision about congregational singing and music — will produce [Read More...]

Cold, Tired, and Single in Zion

One of my favorite things about spending several summers in Utah was enjoying an extra holiday on July 24th, commemorating the 1847 pioneer trek from the Missouri River to the Salt Lake Valley. For my family, Pioneer Day meant the Pioneer Day Classic road race in Provo, which loops around the Provo Temple (and, unlike [Read More...]

The Jesus Movement

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It’s hard not to like the Jesus Movement, but until recently, there wasn’t a good history of this revolutionary moment in the evolution of American evangelicalism. Now, there is. Larry Eskridge’s God’s Forever Family is a book you should read. I recently reviewed the book for Christianity Today. A number of years ago, I became [Read More...]

Evangelical Philosophers in the Chronicle

I don’t think of the Chronicle of Higher Education as an especially hospitable venue for evangelicals. Thus, I was surprised this week to read a fascinating and even-handed portrait of William Lane Craig. Written by Nathan Schneider, the piece follows Craig from the evangelical subculture (including his part-time teaching at Biola) to debates against atheists [Read More...]

History, Myth, and Genuine Religion

For centuries, European Christians (and their American descendants) mostly categorized religious systems according to their similarities and differences vis-à-vis Christianity. There were monotheistic or highly evolved religions versus “primitive” or “idolatrous” religions. There were universal religions versus ethnic, narrow-minded religions (that formulation demoted Judaism in comparison with the previous sentence). Some of those taxonomic schemes [Read More...]

Two New England Women

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Is history an art or a science? History is empirical and creative. We can marvel at both the diligence of archival research (which itself often involves creativity) and at the creativity of a historian who can unlock the past to us in all of its stunning strangeness and similarity. “History … [is] an imaginative creation,” [Read More...]

Penance in a White Sheet

John Doyle, 1839 Lithograph

While rereading Edmund Morgan’s magisterial American Slavery, American Freedom, I was struck by his discussion of public penance performed by early Virginian fornicators and adulterers: The courts, for example, prescribed penances for couples who appeared with children too soon after marriage, requiring them to appear at church the next Sunday dressed in white robes and [Read More...]

A Model of Christian Charity

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Nearly every semester, I have the occasion to ask at least one class of students to read John Winthrop’s 1630 sermon, “Christian Charity, a Modell Hereof.” Most of my students have rather negative impressions of Puritanism, which in their minds probably equals religious intolerance and the execution of teenaged witches. I don’t assign them Winthrop [Read More...]

The Mormon Image in the New York Times

The New York Times was not especially kind to either Mitt Romney or his faith during last year’s presidential election. Every so often, however, the gray lady runs a fascinating piece that pertains to the ways that Americans view Latter-day Saints. Four years ago, the paper ran a story about how returned Mormon missionaries make [Read More...]


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