A Humble Proposal

At the beginning of each semester, I ask my students to call me David, not Dr. Swartz. Part of the reason I ask them to use my first name is because my religious tradition trained me that way. Raised a Mennonite and nurtured on the language of the “priesthood of all believers,” we never called [Read More...]

The Historian’s Vocation in the Age of Information, Part 1*

Over the past two decades, the exponential advance of information-sharing and communication-oriented technology transformed and continues to transform everything from recipe-sharing to research.  Since 1990, when I first entered the academic world, portable data storage technology evolved from state-of-the-art 5.25 inch, “high density” floppydisks, which stored 360 KB of data, to flash-drives the size of [Read More...]

The Rise of Liberal Religion


I’ve recently cracked open Matthew Hedstrom’s recently published The Rise of Liberal Religion. Hedstrom’s book is providing me with an opportunity to reconfigure my thinking and teaching on the respective trajectories of twentieth-century (and beyond) Protestant liberalism and evangelicalism. In recent decades pundits and some scholars have made much of the post-WWII evangelical resurgence, coupled [Read More...]

Unsecularize the Academy?


This morning, I began reading Brad Gregory’s magisterial The Unintended Reformation: How A Religious Revolution Secularized Modern Society. It’s not a subtle or irenic book. “Judged on their own terms,” Gregory concludes, “and with respect to the objectives of their own leading protagonists, medieval Christendom failed, the Reformation failed, confessionalized Europe failed, and Western modernity [Read More...]


Not for the first time, a conversation with Tommy Kidd has set me thinking. Whenever I teach a course on virtually any topic, I use non-textbook materials including memoirs, autobiographies, and/or fiction as a basis for discussion. (See for instance a course I taught for many years at Penn State on Modern Christianity, with the [Read More...]

Remembering Megan

Professors are not supposed to attend the funerals of their students. But roughly one year ago today I was sitting in a funeral home in southern New Jersey mourning the death of Megan. She died on May 25, 2011 from complications related to her ten year battle with Lupus.  She was 31 years old.  Megan [Read More...]

How to Teach about American Evangelicalism

This coming fall, I’m teaching a dedicated course on evangelicalism in the United States for the first time. I’ve spent a large portion of my career researching and writing about evangelical Christianity, so this should be an easy task. But I’m having a great deal of difficulty deciding how to structure the course and choose [Read More...]