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…]

Spreading the Faith: Mission, Migration and Movement

As you must have noticed, immigration has been much in the news of late, and mainly in the context of religion. This actually gets to a lot of work I have been doing recently about how religions move and spread – in this case, mainly Christianity. I’ll address various aspects of this in my next [Read More…]

Mixing and Merging Languages

One thing that makes me feel very much at home in Texas is the way people talk Spanish. To explain, I did not grow up in a Spanish speaking area, but the way Latino people navigate between languages reminds me so precisely of the sort-of bilingual environment in which I spent my childhood. Thinking about [Read More…]

The Graduate Course, and Other Mythical Beasts

I’m just preparing a graduate course that I am scheduled to teach next year. Through the years, I have taught a great many graduate courses of various kinds, but I have never explicitly addressed a basic question: what actually is a graduate course, what should it do, and how does it differ from undergraduate offerings? [Read More…]

Shadows of the Future

“Answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only?” (Ebenezer Scrooge, to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) I have been discussing some of the Megatrends that had transformed the US since the mid-1970s. (By the way, the word [Read More…]

And the Non-Stories

Recently, I write about some of the megatrends that have shaped American religion over the past few decades. Let me also add some trends that would likely have been forecast and expected in earlier decades, but which have not in fact occurred. It is interesting why expectations have been wide of the mark. I would [Read More…]

Branching Paths and Alternate Histories

I have long valued Rick Perlstein as an excellent scholar of recent American history, chiefly working on the 1960s and 1970s. Based on his recent writings, I also see that he must be a superlative teacher. Please bear those comments in mind when I express some disagreement with him on the theme of counter-factual history, [Read More…]

Forty Years On: American Megatrends

I am presently preparing some courses that I will teach at Baylor on “Late Modern” US history, defined as the era since 1975 or so. As I have asked before in a different context, what are the broad themes that we would expect in that era? What are the most significant changes that have occurred [Read More…]

Finding Jesus’s Mother

Over the Christmas season, we naturally hear so much about Jesus’s mother, Mary, and in conversations, I am always a bit taken aback (not to mention amused) to find how many of the popular stories circulating her actually derive from ancient apocryphal sources. Sorry, no, she wasn’t a Temple Virgin, set aside for her special [Read More…]