New Year, Old You

Many of us already have bound ourselves to resolutions this year.  After fitness the most popular ones include resolutions to learn something. Pick up a new language, Rosetta Stone ads implore.  The Teaching Company touts Latin 101 as its top-rated course. Resolutions to better the body may have obvious appeal (or not: this husk is [Read More...]

The Devil’s Progress

I remarked that Satan is difficult to trace in the canonical Old Testament, but that he becomes prominent in later centuries, in the so-called Inter-Testamental period (a phrase I hate, but let that pass). Moving the diabolical story forward to 200BC, we are clearly entering a different world, and the volume of material is impressive. [Read More...]

The Rise of Satan

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The story of Satan is one of remarkable upward mobility. Let me tell that story in barebones form here, and then discuss it in more detail in subsequent posts. Most people have a sense of the Devil’s biography, which owes a great deal to John Milton. In this popular vision, Satan was once a bright [Read More...]

The Best of 2014: My Favorite Posts of the Year

Happy New Year’s Eve! Yesterday, blogmeister Tommy Kidd graciously posted the top posts from each of the individual contributors who blog under his guidance here at the Anxious Bench.  In keeping with the spirit of the season, I have compiled my own list. First, although my Great Aunt Iris might have shared “The Religion of [Read More...]

The Curse of Memory

The recent furor over shootings of civilians by police has inspired a lot of discussion about eyewitness testimony and the nature of memory, and the question of just how reliable memory can be. If you read the grand jury testimony in the Ferguson, Missouri, case, a number of witnesses reported things that simply did not [Read More...]

The Sicilian’s Tale

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Not many people read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow any more, but some of his poems do have unexpected treats. Longfellow himself was a distinctly rational believer, a faithful Unitarian. Some of his poems, though, had a wider religious message, and his Christmas Bells has been much recorded in modern times. Someone could write a good book [Read More...]

The Christmas Truce and the Meaning of Peace in “No Man’s Land”

I’m pleased to feature a guest post from Bradley Strait, a senior history major at Asbury University. This is based in part on a paper he wrote for the class “Seminar on War, Peace, and Faith.” *** One hundred-years ago, almost to the day, in 1914, a Christmas story emerged out of the trenches. As [Read More...]

George Whitefield’s Christmas, 1739

As we observed George Whitefield’s 300th birthday last week, here’s a post on his 1739 Christmas travels and preaching, from the Anxious Bench archive: In December 1739, George Whitefield was completing a treacherous overland trip from Maryland to South Carolina, and he stopped for Christmas in New Bern (“Newborn”), a relatively new parish in North [Read More...]

Sons of Light and Sons of Seth

I discussed Dylan M. Burns’s book Apocalypse of the Alien God, an account of the influential early Gnostic sect called Sethians. Burns’s arguments resonated because of work I have been doing recently on the origins of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism, and the influence of the sectarian Judaism we know from Qumran and the Dead Sea [Read More...]

Teaching American Religious History

15 weeks for the history and present of religion in the United States. “American Religious History” or “Religion in America” is a bread-and-butter course for me (and for several of my co-bloggers, and probably for some readers). I’ve taught it perhaps five or six times, in both a history department and a religious studies department. [Read More...]


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