The Great War, and the Futile War

We are hearing a lot this year about the centennial of the First World War, and time and again, we hear what a “futile” and “meaningless” struggle that was. Obviously, then, by extension, US entry into that war – which we commemorate next month – must have been a tragic blunder. This is for instance [Read More…]

The Forgotten History of “Christian” Political Activism

Across the political spectrum, most Americans would automatically describe the country’s religious heritage as “Judeo-Christian.” Rarely, though, do they think about the origins of this term, or how exceedingly odd it would have appeared before the 1950s (and still does to many non-Americans). In fact, the Judeo-Christian concept has a highly political origin, and was [Read More…]

Forgetting American Terror: The Christian Front

Imagine American cities under siege by extreme Right-wing movements and paramilitary groups calling for armed violence, and actually attacking Jews and other minorities in the streets. You might think that such horrors would be hard to conceal, and the resulting soul-searching would give abundant material to later historians. But here is a mystery. The situation [Read More…]

Paul Winter: Of Anti-Catholics, Anti-Semites, and Nazis

This post concerns an authentically frightening figure in US history, and one whose career speaks powerfully to contemporary debates about religious and ethnic prejudice. If our history had traveled in somewhat different directions, he might have become very powerful indeed. Be very grateful that you have never heard of Paul Meres Winter. A hundred years [Read More…]

Blood From The Sky

I have not read this yet, but I just came across a book that looks exactly my kind of thing. This is Adam Jortner, Blood from the Sky: Miracles and Politics in the Early American Republic (University of Virginia Press, 2017). Here is the description: In the decades following the Revolution, the supernatural exploded across [Read More…]

Spreading the Faith: Immigrant Religion and Ethnic Religion

I wrote about the relationship between immigration and religious change, and the enormous impact of successive immigrant movements in shaping American religious patterns. Immigrant churches or congregations generally share certain characteristics and habits that provide useful tools for analysis and prediction. But that gets to some thorny issues of definition, and specifically about how we [Read More…]

Spreading the Faith: How Migration Changes Religion

Whatever might drive them to move, migrants carry their religions with them. Yet the religions they bring to their new lands do not remain unchanged. The fact of movement itself is a powerful dynamic force in religious change, and this is nowhere more obvious than in the United States. In his classic book The Uprooted [Read More…]

Spreading the Faith: Moving Coins and Moving Communities

I posted recently on issues of migration and mission, and how each of those terms can be applied to the spread of religions. In particular, I stressed the many factors that might cause a religion to spread, quite apart from conscious, deliberate evangelization. Often, we exaggerate deliberate missionary activity while underplaying the role of other [Read More…]

Spreading the Faith: Lessons from US History

We hear a lot today about the effects of immigrants on American religion, and the rise of a majority-minority country. I am always surprised that in such discussions, writers rarely pay attention to an era of US history that is today more relevant than ever, namely the mass influx of immigrants in the previous great [Read More…]

Spreading the Faith: Daniel Syndrome

Another in a series of posts about the many and various ways in which religions spread – often by people who originally had no intention whatever of becoming missionaries, or indeed of leaving their homes. Sometimes, people really do set out to spread their religion to new parts of the world, and they enjoy great [Read More…]