Donald Trump and the Crisis of American Populism

In the 1960s William F. Buckley famously quipped that he’d rather be governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston phone book than by Harvard’s two thousand faculty members. I still agree with Buckley, but events of 2015 have made my populist leanings waver. We are waiting to see whether Donald Trump’s enormous [Read More…]

Apocalypse at Dabiq

Over the past year, the word Dabiq has come to be associated with some horrendous deeds. That is the name of the emetic publication of the group ISIS/Daesh, in which it presents its propaganda and advocates acts of terror worldwide. Here, though, in a series of posts, I want to describe where the name comes [Read More…]

The Study Quran

For the unfamiliar (that includes me), the Qur’an is an imposing, rather intimidating scripture. Unlike the Bible, it doesn’t contain long chunks of historical narrative that allow one to advance in something like chronological order. Without knowing the context of the individual sections (or sections of sections), one encounters a bewildering array of spiritual, legal, [Read More…]

A Pastor’s Quick Guide to Reliable Historical Research

A friend of mine was preparing his sermon. We happened to be at the same social function, and so he casually asked me what I knew about medieval illuminations (i.e. fireworks). To be honest, I didn’t know much. From my years of teaching world history I knew that gunpowder and fireworks had originated in Asia and [Read More…]

Top Posts of 2015, Anxious Bench

Here are the year’s top posts of 2015 by author. Thanks for reading and supporting us at the Anxious Bench! Beth Allison Barr, “Halloween: More Christian Than Pagan” Agnes Howard, “How We See the Fetus” Tal Howard, “Moors, Saracens, and Turks: Islam and Europe’s Deep History” Philip Jenkins, “Mormons and New World History” Thomas Kidd, [Read More…]

The Ghosts of Stonehenge

‘Tis the year’s midnight, and ’tis the day’s, and a good time to think of lost worlds and ghosts – in this case, the phantoms of bygone faiths. I offer a strange story, which raises some intriguing questions about the possible limits of popular memory in a non-literate society. And although this concerns ancient Britain, [Read More…]

In Our Time

Here is my Christmas present to Anxious Bench readers. Do you ever listen to podcasts? Arguably the very best source of first class podcasts, all free, is http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts They offer perhaps hundreds of programs on a near-infinite variety of themes, with multiple updates daily. Specifically religious series include Heart and Soul, and Beyond Belief. Here, [Read More…]

The First Bath

Shepherds, magi, the ox and the ass… how can you say anything new about the Christmas scene? Through much of Christian history, there was actually a lot more to the story, mainly derived from the second century “Infancy Gospel of James,” the Protevangelium. This told elaborate stories of the birth, many involving the midwife, Salome. [Read More…]

Joseph Smith’s Last Christmas

2 o[clo]ck about 50 couple sat down at my table to dine. while I was eating my scribe called on me to selmnz [solemnize] the Marriage of Doct Levi Richa[r]ds & sarah Griffiths [Griffith] — but. as I could not leave. I referred the subj[e]ct to Presidt B[righam] Young. who married th[e]m. A large party [Read More…]

Christmas, Augustine, and the Fornication of Demons

Nothing conjures up good Christmas cheer like St. Augustine. Consider this line from his Sermon 191 (out of an estimated 8,000 in his lifetime) delivered on Christmas Day: “He likewise made His Church a virgin by ransoming her from the fornication of demons.” This quote appears in an Augustinian meditation on the miracle of the [Read More…]


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