DOWN FROM THE HIGH CASTLE

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As a historian of religion, I am haunted by Zippo cigarette lighters. Let me explain. As a teenager, I was stunned by reading Philip K. Dick’s novel The Man in the High Castle, originally published in 1962. The book’s theme seems almost commonplace in retrospect, as so many other works have used its central idea [Read More...]

Tweeting the Bible

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Is the Bible a funny book? Nearly a decade ago, I read David Maine’s winsome and witty novel The Preservationist, an imaginative  retelling of Noah and the flood that is simultaneously irreverent and faithful toward the biblical narrative. Maine’s The Fallen, a novel about Adam, Eve, and their expulsion from Eden, proved a splendid follow-up. [Read More...]

An Appalachian Revivalist in Queen Victoria’s South Africa

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In 1866 William Taylor, a renegade Wesleyan evangelist from the Appalachians, arrived in the south of Africa. A tall six feet with a long, scraggly beard that draped down over a barrel chest, Taylor was “a Methodist preacher of the old school.” He was “adept at charming his hosts, delivering folksy sermons, deflecting opposition, spinning [Read More...]

Of Platforms and Publishing

In my recent post on publishing, I noted that “To publish a book with an established press, you ordinarily need a “platform” from which to write a book – in the world of religious history, the most common such platforms are an academic position or a pastorate,” and that “Platform is a much bigger issue, increasingly [Read More...]

FROM ANGELS TO ARMAGEDDON

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Over the past couple of years, I have been working on a book about the religious aspects of the First World War, to be published in this centennial year of 2014. It will appear this coming May, as The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (HarperOne). It’s an ambitious [Read More...]

Year of Mercy-ing

I was struck by Jeremy Lott’s year-end piece at Real Clear Religion: “The Year of the Sinner.” Apparently, Pope Francis (it is so much easier for non-Catholics to have a pope without Roman numerals after his regnal name) caused a stir in some quarters by telling America that Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s basic identity is that [Read More...]

Personality-Driven Leadership, Evangelicalism, and the NFL

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The National Football League (NFL) playoffs begin this weekend.  Over the next several weeks, twelve teams–six from each conference–will contend for a chance to play for the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLVIII, held at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.  Holding a virtual monopoly on professional football in North America, the NFL manages [Read More...]

New Year’s Resolution: Read More Books!

[Today's post is from my Patheos archive] Happy New Year! I have routinely resolved at the New Year that I’d like to read more, and to read more intentionally. (Of course, a major part of my job as a history professor is reading, and much of that reading is pleasurable, but I am talking about [Read More...]

PROPOSING BOOKS

Tommy Kidd and I have both recently posted about writing and publishing – chiefly in history, but what we said also applies to plenty of other humanities disciplines. Assume you have an idea for a book, but don’t know exactly how to get it into print. Tommy mentioned submitting a proposal to the publisher, to [Read More...]

OUR BETTER ANGELS

I have been re-reading Steven Pinker’s provocative book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011). Briefly (and his argument is quite dense – 830 pages!) Pinker argues that mass violence and killing have steadily declined through the centuries, and that even the appalling wars of the twentieth century were far less [Read More...]


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