This Thanksgiving, Stop Idolizing the Pilgrims

A couple of years ago at Christianity Today, I reviewed Robert Tracy McKenzie’s excellent book The First Thanksgiving. Here’s a sample: In 1623, Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford proclaimed the first Thanksgiving. “The great Father,” he declared, “has given us this year an abundant harvest…and granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.” [Read More...]

Islam: Inherently Violent?

The jihadist attacks in Paris have grieved and frightened the world again with the reality of Muslims committing violence in the name of Islam. Again we face the question – is Islam inherently violent? Are Muslims required to commit violence as a religious obligation?  There is no doubt that unsettling numbers of Muslims would not [Read More...]

The Origin of “In God We Trust”

The national motto “In God We Trust” has a complicated and contested history. Even though the phrase first appeared on American coins during the Civil War, it was only officially adopted as the national motto in 1956, during the Cold War era. Where did the phrase come from before the Civil War? There seems little [Read More...]

The Most Evangelical Founding Father?

In spite of some Christian revisionist attempts to cast them all as evangelical believers, the Founding Fathers’ faiths ran the gamut from traditional Christianity to outright skepticism. I wrote my biography of Patrick Henry because I was interested in how Henry, a traditional Anglican, sorted out the challenges raised by the Revolution, slavery, and other [Read More...]

Choosing a Book or Dissertation Topic

John Turner recently had a fabulous post on “Publishing without Perishing” which is full of excellent suggestions on how to survive writing your first book or your dissertation. There’s much fodder there for discussion, but today I want to consider the issue of selecting a dissertation topic. Of course, my perspective is shaped by my [Read More...]

Donald Trump and the Coming Christian Political Realignment

As Donald Trump has maintained strong leads in primary states like South Carolina, some observers like Matt Lewis have begun to speculate about what it would be like if this guy actually became president. I still believe (and fervently hope, for the sake of the republic) that Trump has no chance of becoming president, but [Read More...]

How and When to Say ‘No’

In my weekly newsletter I have written about alleviating stress and explained why saying ‘no’ is essential to health and long-term productivity. But this is easier said than done. When do you say no? How do you choose between many promising-sounding opportunities? And how do you say no without seeming like a prima donna? The [Read More...]

Heads up on key new books in American and global religious history

Over at the Christian Century, Philip Jenkins and Grant Wacker offer suggestions for some key new books on American and global religious history.  One of the most tantalizing, co-edited by my friends Perry Glanzer and Joel Carpenter, is Christian Higher Education: A Global Reconnaisance, which seeks to give a global map of the recent development of Christian higher [Read More...]

Searching for the Political Messiah

Some signs would suggest that we’re finally seeing the decline of the Donald Trump candidacy/reality show. If so, Republicans and the evangelical “base” will go on in search of their candidate of choice. And GOP candidates will go on trying to convince us that they are the next Reagan, and the anti-Obama. Vetting the candidates [Read More...]

Jonathan Edwards and the Sanctified Emotions

A recent e-mail conversation with Lauren Winner raised an important question – in the view of Jonathan Edwards and similar eighteenth-century evangelicals, do the emotions become more, or less, central to the Christian life as the believer proceeds in sanctification? After the resurrection, and during the millennial reign of Christ, will believers’ emotions be “engaged and [Read More...]