Are the gods present?

“After he has lunched on his God on Sunday, / You should worship his turd on Monday.” So the French Huguenot polemical poet Agrippa d’Aubigné mocked the Catholic Eucharist. Early Protestants felt and feigned horror at the idea that Catholics believed that they chewed, swallowed, and digested the very body of Jesus Christ. They were [Read More…]

Biographies Full of Females

Who’s significant? As Chris Gehrz discussed in a recent post, his students — and most publishers — think that a “biography is a book written about a significant individuals.” Most of those individuals happen to be men in positions of political power. Presidents, kings, businessmen, and a few religious leaders thrown into the mix. This [Read More…]

The Problems of Writing Biography (Part 1 – Empathy and Exoneration)

While some of my colleagues here have written excellent examples of the genre, I’ve never had much desire to write a biography. In fact, it had been a few years since I’d even read such a book. But then a road trip that included numerous plays of the Hamilton soundtrack convinced me to download the Kindle [Read More…]

Perishing While Flourishing

A few years ago, I went through the painful process of winnowing down the stacks of books and journals in my office. I was moving, and it would cost too much to move everything. Most of the academic periodicals I could simply access online as needed, so many went into the recycling box. Books went [Read More…]

Beyond Books: Hymns as Christian Writing

Do we overstate the influence of books and underestimate the importance of other types of Christian writing? First in a series: the power of hymns. [Read more…]

How a Dissertation Becomes a Book

The first book of most academic historians is a strange creature: a dissertation that has become a book. How and when should newly minted Ph.D.’s transform those dissertations into books? It is one of the most important and — often — most perplexing moments in an academic career. This is the first in a series [Read More…]

Summer Reading List of American Protestant History

Interested in the history of American Protestantism? A few summer reading suggestions… [Read more…]

The Future of American Evangelicalism

Nearly twenty years ago, Christian Smith assessed American evangelicalism as “embattled but thriving.” Nowadays, just “embattled” seems more apt for the preeminent impulse in the *history of American religion (*at least for much of that history). From the rise of the “Nones” to the collapse of the Religious Right to declines in church membership, the [Read More…]

Earthly Passions and Celestial Parts

“How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?” In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul dismissed skeptics of the bodily resurrection as fools, but the topic remained thorny among Christians for centuries. What was the difference between what Paul termed “celestial bodies” and “bodies terrestrial?” Paul made some clear [Read More…]

The Rise of “Abrahamic Religions”

Most semesters, I teach a course my university titled “Religions of the West.” Given my own background of research and writing, I at first considered pretending that the “West” meant the “American West” and having my students discuss Native American spirituality, Spanish missions, and Mormonism. Alas, “Religions of the West” meant the broader histories of [Read More…]