Temperance after Prohibition

While Prohibition is a byword for failed legislation, temperance concerns survived the ratification of the 21st Amendment. But in recent years, more restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol have been disappearing. [Read more…]

The Benedict Option, New England Edition

Ian Lovett’s recent Wall Street Journal essay traces a growing trend among traditional Christians to move to remote locations, often near a monastery, to recreate a kind of life that recalls Christian devotion in an earlier time, like the Middle Ages.  In Oklahoma, California, Texas, and Arkansas, Lovett finds new outposts of Catholics who prefer [Read More…]

Blood From The Sky

I have not read this yet, but I just came across a book that looks exactly my kind of thing. This is Adam Jortner, Blood from the Sky: Miracles and Politics in the Early American Republic (University of Virginia Press, 2017). Here is the description: In the decades following the Revolution, the supernatural exploded across [Read More…]

Spreading the Faith: Immigrant Religion and Ethnic Religion

I wrote about the relationship between immigration and religious change, and the enormous impact of successive immigrant movements in shaping American religious patterns. Immigrant churches or congregations generally share certain characteristics and habits that provide useful tools for analysis and prediction. But that gets to some thorny issues of definition, and specifically about how we [Read More…]

Still Searching for Christian America

“At times of crisis it is a natural human reaction to turn to the past for support.”[1] These words were written by evangelicals, to evangelicals. In 1983. Wait—1983? But Ronald Reagan was president at the time. What could possibly have been the source of evangelical angst back then? In fact, the causes were many. The [Read More…]

Did Medieval Christians Know Jesus?

Recently I was made aware of an online church history curriculum.  At first glance, it seemed promising (at least from my perspective as a medievalist). It dedicated two weeks to the Medieval Church (five if you include the three weeks of Reformation), and it began the lesson for the High Middle Ages with this disclaimer: [Read More…]

The Christian History of “America First”

While many Christians have criticized the Trump administration’s embrace of an “America First” policy, the pre-WWII movement that made that phrase famous had the support of a wide array of American Christians. [Read more…]

Spreading the Faith: How Migration Changes Religion

Whatever might drive them to move, migrants carry their religions with them. Yet the religions they bring to their new lands do not remain unchanged. The fact of movement itself is a powerful dynamic force in religious change, and this is nowhere more obvious than in the United States. In his classic book The Uprooted [Read More…]

Spreading the Faith: Moving Coins and Moving Communities

I posted recently on issues of migration and mission, and how each of those terms can be applied to the spread of religions. In particular, I stressed the many factors that might cause a religion to spread, quite apart from conscious, deliberate evangelization. Often, we exaggerate deliberate missionary activity while underplaying the role of other [Read More…]

Are the gods present?

“After he has lunched on his God on Sunday, / You should worship his turd on Monday.” So the French Huguenot polemical poet Agrippa d’Aubigné mocked the Catholic Eucharist. Early Protestants felt and feigned horror at the idea that Catholics believed that they chewed, swallowed, and digested the very body of Jesus Christ. They were [Read More…]