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…]

The Puritan Way of Seeing Christ

Several years ago, my co-blogger Philip Jenkins penned a thoughtful post on Protestant iconoclasm, its centrality to the Reformation, and its resemblance to Muslim iconoclasm. The “stripping of the altars,” to borrow Eamon Duffy’s phrase, was — per Jenkins — “one of the greatest catastrophes that ever befell Europe.” No argument here. Still, in Deborah [Read More…]

When the Mormon Jesus Was Married

It is a staple of anti-Mormon literature (and evangelical countercult literature more generally) that the Mormon Jesus is not the Christian Jesus. One subject that repeatedly surfaces in such arguments is that nineteenth-century Mormon leaders believed that Jesus married, married more than once, and had children. As the film The God Makers explains, “Mormon apostle Orson Pratt [Read More…]