Reformations, Plural

Over the next couple of years, we are going to be hearing a great deal about commemorating the European Reformation, which had its symbolic beginning with Martin Luther’s deeds in October 1517. In that sense, “the Reformation” was a specific series of events that occurred in Europe at a particular time, a historical moment like [Read More...]

Station Eleven

Station Eleven

Last year, John Wilson of Books & Culture praised Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven. Over the years, B&C has placed several splendid novels on my radar screen, including Mischa Berlinski’s Fieldwork (Berlinski’s second novel will appear this coming March). Station Eleven did not disappoint. Mandel’s is an artfully crafted narrative, weaving together [Read More...]

From “Mannish Woman” to Missionary

Sarah Goodrich, a missionary to China, begged her family and friends back at home in the United States not to picture her as “a mannish woman.” That she had to issue such a plea reflected a common American judgment of female missionaries at the turn of the twentieth century. The single woman missionary, writes historian [Read More...]

How and When to Say ‘No’

In my weekly newsletter I have written about alleviating stress and explained why saying ‘no’ is essential to health and long-term productivity. But this is easier said than done. When do you say no? How do you choose between many promising-sounding opportunities? And how do you say no without seeming like a prima donna? The [Read More...]

Heads up on key new books in American and global religious history

Over at the Christian Century, Philip Jenkins and Grant Wacker offer suggestions for some key new books on American and global religious history.  One of the most tantalizing, co-edited by my friends Perry Glanzer and Joel Carpenter, is Christian Higher Education: A Global Reconnaisance, which seeks to give a global map of the recent development of Christian higher [Read More...]

Noah’s Magic

I have been writing about the semi-lost Book of Noah, parts of which survive in the Book of 1 Enoch. In trying to understand its role and origins, I would stress its practical role as a valuable textbook for those seeking protection against evil forces. Much of Noah seems designed for a community deeply interested [Read More...]

Playing Mormon, Playing Indian


In 1869, Lucy Stanton Bassett traveled from New York to Utah, possibly riding on the transcontinental railroad completed that May. When she reached Utah, she was reunited with her parents and children, and she met her grandchildren. For tens of thousands of Americans and Europeans, the journey to Zion was a rite of passage, a [Read More...]

The Measure of a Woman: Donald Trump and St. Margaret’s Dragon

“Women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.” So Republican Presidential Candidate Carly Fiorina responded to Donald Trump at the Second G.O.P. Debate (Wednesday, September 16, 2015) after a moderator reminded how Trump had previously used Fiorina’s physical appearance to criticize her political aspirations. “Look at that face! Would anybody vote [Read More...]

Searching for the Political Messiah

Some signs would suggest that we’re finally seeing the decline of the Donald Trump candidacy/reality show. If so, Republicans and the evangelical “base” will go on in search of their candidate of choice. And GOP candidates will go on trying to convince us that they are the next Reagan, and the anti-Obama. Vetting the candidates [Read More...]

Reading Noah

In my last post, I discussed the Book of Noah, a semi-lost text that presently survives in very partial form in the Book of 1 Enoch. Here, I want to suggest some of the things we can learn from reading this book. Why should we read Noah? I should add that, as I mentioned in [Read More...]