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…]

Christmas and Epiphany, Birth and Baptism

You may have noticed an interesting theological debate currently under way among evangelicals. Critiquing the New Testament evidence for the Virgin Birth, Atlanta megachurch pastor Andy Stanley ventured the opinion that “Christianity doesn’t hinge on the truth or even the stories around the birth of Jesus. It really hinges on the resurrection of Jesus.” This [Read More…]

The Magi and the Cave of Treasures

As any Bible reader knows, the infant Jesus was visited by Magi, who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and a cold coming they had of it. But where did they actually get these gifts from? However arcane and speculative such a question may seem, the resulting curiosity generated a vast body of Christian literature. Although [Read More…]

That REALLY Old Time Religion

Over the past few months, I have posted quite a few items on the subject of possible pagan survivals into medieval and even modern societies, as indeed has my Baylor colleague Beth Barr. I stand by everything I have written in those pieces – but I really have some questions that remain open. They are [Read More…]