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…]

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

For professors, writing letters of recommendation is a constant part of the job. Wise undergraduate and graduate students should make it as easy as possible for your professors to write them. Although few professors will write overtly negative letters, faint praise can just as easily condemn an applicant, especially when they are applying for highly [Read More…]

Deciding about College

The season has arrived when many graduating high-school seniors and their parents begin to make decisions about college for next fall. Certainly, many considerations go into a decision of this magnitude, and no simple formula applies to all. Even so, as someone in the academic world, permit me suggest ten questions that thoughtful Christian (or [Read More…]

“You Know Where Else They Have May-Day Military Exhibitions?”

Wes Craven wasn’t the only rebel at Wheaton. Many students in the 1960s and 1970s echoed his cultural critique. Much of the dissent centered on the mandatory ROTC program at the college. Support for ROTC weakened in the mid-1960s, as did support for the elaborately staged annual Veterans Day chapel services and the regular features [Read More…]

Professors and the New Public Sphere

I have been reading Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. This remarkable book came out in 2008 but had already pegged the significance of social media in uncanny ways. The cost of communicating quickly with large numbers of people has collapsed because of e-mail, blogs, and platforms like Twitter. This has [Read More…]

Show a Bishop some Hospitality

On Monday, April 20, Boston’s Archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, visited Gordon College, where I teach. It was an instructive time for the entire college community. His talk was entitled “Our Common Concern for the Least among Us.” Recognizing abiding differences between Catholics and Protestants, he nonetheless enjoined all Christians to pursue what we might call [Read More…]

Serendipity in the Stacks: A Case against Bookless Libraries

Several months ago Florida Polytechnic University opened a brand-new library. Its architecture, designed by Santiago Calatrava, is striking. Even more striking is what this library lacks: books. I’ll repeat that: you can’t check out any physical books at FPU’s library. You can, however, read from a screen. Staffers say that electronic workstations give students access [Read More…]

The Best Evangelicals on Campus

The recent de-recognition of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship by the massive California State University system is another escalation in a long simmering conflict. Often with considerable hyperbole, evangelicals have long complained of mistreatment at the hands of university administrators and professors. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, referred to UCLA as the “little [Read More…]

In Memoriam: Dale A. Johnson (1936 – 2014)

Feeling a vocational calling to teach, I completed all of the graduate school application necessaries in the fall of 2000.  I secured recommendations letters, practiced and sat for the GRE, wrote essays, ordered transcripts, and made contact with potential supervisors at the schools to which I considering applying.  Fatigued from the process and the other [Read More…]

Penn Prof: Religious Colleges Should Not Be Accredited

University of Pennsylvania professor Peter Conn says at the Chronicle of Higher Education that religious colleges (presumably meaning only conservative Christian colleges) should not receive accreditation. Conn: Providing accreditation to colleges like Wheaton makes a mockery of whatever academic and intellectual standards the process of accreditation is supposed to uphold. If accrediting agencies are playing [Read More…]


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