Was Missionary Work Liberating for Women?

It depended. “Multiple freedoms and multiple opportunities reinforced each other,” writes historian Jane Smith in The Gospel of Gentility, “and [female missionaries] described themselves as “fulfilled,” “found,” and “happy.” “My face is so red and rosy I look like I had had an over dose of paint,” wrote Jessie Ankeny after arriving in Fukien. “I [Read More…]

The Origin of “In God We Trust”

The national motto “In God We Trust” has a complicated and contested history. Even though the phrase first appeared on American coins during the Civil War, it was only officially adopted as the national motto in 1956, during the Cold War era. Where did the phrase come from before the Civil War? There seems little [Read More…]

India Today and Hindu Nationalism

After traveling in the United States, G. K. Chesterton famously described America as “a nation with the soul of the a church.” Something akin to this could be said of India, but to church one must quickly add Buddhist stupa, Jain mandir, Sikh gurdwara, Parsi dar-e mihr, Muslim mosque, and, not least, Hindu temple. Indeed, [Read More…]

Peoples Beyond Palestine

I have been posting about the shifting boundaries of the Jewish world during the Second Temple era, and of Jewish political power. By the start of the Common Era, the Herodian family definitely ruled on behalf of the Roman Empire, but the territories in which they operated were far more diverse, ethnically and religiously, than [Read More…]

Religion, Secularization, and the Academy

On my campus, there are plenty of signs that religion is not going quietly into the night. On a thoroughfare outside the main student center, very loud preachers have been hosting “sin awareness” days. Is that really needed? Pro-life groups have been stationed a hundred yards away, displaying fetal photographs and engaging passers-by in what [Read More…]

The Most Evangelical Founding Father?

In spite of some Christian revisionist attempts to cast them all as evangelical believers, the Founding Fathers’ faiths ran the gamut from traditional Christianity to outright skepticism. I wrote my biography of Patrick Henry because I was interested in how Henry, a traditional Anglican, sorted out the challenges raised by the Revolution, slavery, and other [Read More…]

The Limits of Judea

I posted about the shifting frontiers and definitions of the ancient lands described in the Bible. At various times, they were either much larger and more expansive than what we think of in terms of modern Palestine, while on other occasions they were considerably smaller. I think we tend to lose track of this when [Read More…]

Halloween–More Christian than Pagan…

I carved pumpkins with my kids this week. My son is finally old enough to wield his own knife, but my daughter had to settle for a marker. I, of course, had to clean out the insides. The effort was well worth it (even with the mess on my patio) when we lit the candles [Read More…]

Palestine, Judea, and the Wider World

I have been working on the Second Temple era of Jewish history, of what is sometimes called the Inter-Testamental period (roughly 300 BC – 50 AD). I am increasingly aware of the need to define the geographical scope of any such project, and the quite radical changes that through the centuries affected the limits of [Read More…]

Trump, Presbyterians, and Adventists

A few days ago, Donald Trump thought it wise to remind Republican primary voters that he’s Presbyterian and Ben Carson belongs to some weird religion: I’m Presbyterian. Can you believe it? Nobody believes I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian . . . Boy, that’s down the middle of the road folks, in all [Read More…]