The American Exceptionalisms of Foner and the Cheneys

I’m pleased to present a guest post by John Wilsey, an assistant professor of history and Christian apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of the forthcoming American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea, which will be published by InterVarsity Press Academic. I had the privilege of reading [Read More...]

Yes, Remove the Confederate Flag. But What Then?

I have a pretty strong personal history of wrestling with the memory of the Confederacy. Having lived all over the South, I grew up hearing stories from relatives about the Lost Cause and how the Yankees took everything we had during Reconstruction. There was little mention of the role of slavery in the Confederacy. I [Read More...]

The Guy Who Killed the Guy Who Killed Lincoln

150 years ago this past Sunday, Boston Corbett killed the assassin John Wilkes Booth at a farm in Virginia. According to this terrific piece in the Washingtonian, the backstory of the guy who killed the guy who killed Lincoln is suffused with religion. Corbett’s life began innocuously enough. He made hats for a living and [Read More...]

Lincoln’s Shrewd Sermon

Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration as President of the United States. On that date, Lincoln delivered an address that, while never quite rivaling the Gettysburg Address in terms of fame, has nevertheless earned the lasting admiration of many Americans. Carl Sandberg termed it ”the great American poem”; Frederick Douglass praised [Read More...]

Evangelical Anti-abolitionists

Robert J. Breckinridge, ca. 1845

Even in slaveholding states, many white Americans were uneasy about the morality of black slavery in the decades that preceded the Civil War. However, there were two things such Americans disliked far more than slavery: black people and abolitionists. According to Luke Harlow’s recently published Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, those double [Read More...]

Scripture as Usable History II


In my last post I described the pushback from some American evangelicals against God-and-country Bibles like the Patriot’s Bible or the Bicentennial Bible. Another woefully understudied, but potentially significant, source of dissent is global evangelicalism. To my knowledge Mark Noll is one of the few to analyze foreign perspectives on America’s treatment of Scripture. In [Read More...]

Why Study History

why study history

As the Civil War ground to an end in early 1865, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address. It was a gracious meditation. He noted that both the North and South read the same Bible and prayed to the same God. Invoking the mystery of God’s ways, he declared, “The prayers of both could [Read More...]

The Bible, Slavery, and Sin

I have been reading Molly Oshatz’s thought-provoking new book Slavery and Sin: The Fight against Slavery and the Rise of Liberal Protestantism. Oshatz argues that the theological difficulties surrounding antebellum slavery gave rise to beliefs that became “hallmarks of liberal Protestant theology: God’s revelation unfolded progressively through human history, moral action had to be considered in [Read More...]

The Politics of Faith during the Civil War

Timothy L. Wesley has just published a book called The Politics of Faith during the Civil War (LSU Press, 2013). I have no vested interest in this, except that Dr. Wesley is attached to the History Department at Penn State, which was my former academic home. I cite it here because it might be of [Read More...]

Dying the Modern Death

Republic of Suffering

Welcome to this fourth installment of Death Wednesday here at the Anxious Bench. In my last post I described the nostalgic appeal of Trappist caskets and old-time burial practices at the bucolic Abbey of Gethsemani. For me and my students, Gethsemani seemed awfully appealing as we contemplated the likelihood of our own deaths in an [Read More...]