MAMELUKES AND JANISSARIES

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I recently wrote a piece for Realclearreligion on the Genízaros, native militias that the Spanish used to control the old Southwest. Their name is sometimes translated as “Hispanicized Indians,” and you can buy T-shirts today proclaiming “Genízaro New Mexico: Native Pride.” Oddly, though, the group offers a sidelight on early versions of globalization. It even [Read More...]

DUALIST CHRISTIANITY

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I have been writing on the persistence of alternative forms of Christianity through the long Middle Ages. In my next couple of postings, I will be focusing on one remarkable and powerful movement that flourished in South-Eastern Europe, namely the Bogomils, and their truly ancient ideas. When we look at the alternative Christian worlds of [Read More...]

Christians on Campus

“Christians are ousted wherever possible on campus,” complained Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) founder Bill Bright a few years before his 2003 death. With some regularity universities make news for de-recognizing student campus ministries that require their leaders to adhere to certain religious criteria (most often a statement of faith). This, a number of high-profile [Read More...]

Recovering the Ars Moriendi*

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”  – Luke 24:5b NRSV According to the accounts found in the Synoptic Gospels, the female disciples that travelled to Jesus’s tomb the first Easter morning expected nothing spectacular.  They merely intended to finish preparing the corpse for its [Read More...]

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

The Boston Marathon bombings and the faiths of the Tsarnaev brothers have renewed the debate about the nature of Islam, so this week I am reposting my review of Miroslav Volf’s Allah: A Christian Response, from the Patheos archives. – President George W. Bush created a boiling controversy amongst evangelicals in 2003 when he declared that [Read More...]

RED EASTER

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I originally wrote the following piece for my church’s newsletter. Bear with me if my remarks are obvious. I hope it might be of interest. On May 19, the church celebrates the great feast of Pentecost, with all its rich imagery of fire from heaven, tongues of flame, and speaking in tongues. In the Western [Read More...]

THE GOSPELS OF ISLAM

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I have been tracking the ancient “lost gospels” through the Middle Ages, when these alternative scriptures continued to exercise a remarkably wide influence. This was especially true in the cultures of Islam, which emerged in a largely Christian world fascinated by apocryphal writings. Even in the fifth century, Arabia was proverbially haeresium ferax: the breeding [Read More...]

How does God still speak?

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Until recent decades at least, nearly all Americans have believed in an unchanging God, “the same yesterday, today and forever.” If God does not change, does God’s manner and rate of revelation change over time? Typically, those who have wrestled with the issue of canon in the history of American religion have made only crude [Read More...]

Bourbon Fudge and Trappist Caskets

Merton grave

This past semester for me focused inordinately on death. I taught a course called “War in the American Memory” and covered the Holocaust in World Civilizations. And then—even though commencement was already over—fellow blogger Miles Mullin piled on with a terrific post on how modern Americans outsource death and dying. It’s the semester that won’t [Read More...]

Benjamin Franklin, George Whitefield, and the Founding of the University of Pennsylvania

Many people are not aware of the vital friendship between Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield. Franklin became Whitefield’s key publicist and printer in the colonies in the early 1740s, and their relationship lasted until Whitefield’s death in 1770. They also exchanged friendly letters on many topics. One of the most fascinating exchanges between them came [Read More...]


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