How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

For professors, writing letters of recommendation is a constant part of the job. Wise undergraduate and graduate students should make it as easy as possible for your professors to write them. Although few professors will write overtly negative letters, faint praise can just as easily condemn an applicant, especially when they are applying for highly [Read More…]

Secularization or Religious Pluralism?

What is the “big story” that scholars should tell about the relationship of religion to the modern world? For many decades, social scientists believed that modernization led ineluctably to secularization. Modern goods such as science, democracy, technology, social mobility, and the free market meant that, sooner or later, religion was destined to swoon and irreligion [Read More…]

1741: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Climate

I recently posted about understanding the social dimension to religious crises and conflicts.  Briefly, I suggested that pre-Modern societies were prone to severe dangers from crop failures, sometimes linked to climatic changes, and that these echoed through the whole society in terms of dearth and famine, disease and epidemic. At such times, people were prone [Read More…]

Salvation Mountain

For historians and other scholars, religion provides an endless supply of fascinating narratives. And few experiences are as sweet as encountering a previously unknown but utterly bizarre and remarkable story. I had that experience reading Sara Patterson’s just-released Middle of Nowhere: Religion, Art, and Pop Culture at Salvation Mountain, a lucid chronicle and analysis of [Read More…]

The Constitution “Divinely Inspired”? Ben Franklin Answers

Last week I posted about a Ted Cruz rally at which Glenn Beck argued that the Constitution and the Bible were both “sacred scriptures.” What would the Founding Fathers think about this? It so happens that, in a little-noticed 1788 editorial, Ben Franklin directly denied that the Constitution was “divinely inspired.” But as usual with the [Read More…]

1680: Apocalypse and Modernity

The years between 1675 and 1685 were marked by repeated catastrophes, involving wars and revolts, dearths and plagues, and unprecedented weather conditions. Not surprisingly then, across Christian Europe, many believers imagined the fast approaching end of the existing world. It was in 1678 that the first part of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress described the simple [Read More…]

1680: Revolts in America

I have been posting on the catastrophic years around 1680, when climate-induced changes vastly increased social tensions, spawning revolts and social crises. The 1670s was also a turbulent period in North America itself, and weather played its role – as how could it not? In 1676, Nathaniel Bacon led his famous revolt in Virginia, which [Read More…]

Emptiness

In Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, he includes what most scholars regard as an early Christian hymn. It praises Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God,           did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born [Read More…]

Unexpected Sites of Christian Pacifism: South Korea

South Korea is an embattled nation. Birthed out of brutal Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945 and then invaded by a Marxist army in 1950, it since has been threatened by North Korea, its totalitarian, atheistic, saber-rattling neighbor to the north. The understandable result has been a militarized nation that requires mandatory service for all [Read More…]

Ted Cruz: When Civil Religion Goes Too Far

Our fellow Patheos blogger Warren Throckmorton posted about recent comments Glenn Beck made at a Ted Cruz rally, held at a South Carolina church, about the Constitution and the Bible both being “sacred scriptures.” [start at :50] Christian conservatives need to draw a clear line on this topic. Yes, religion and the Bible have had [Read More…]


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