Museum Catechesis

The tourist arrives in a city like Florence, Italy, ready to gape at the Renaissance. Though postured to appreciate it, book in hand and eyes directed up, he might find himself at a loss, like the man ahead of me at the Florentine baptistery who, under the mosaic of Christ Pantocrator, asked the Italian leading [Read More…]

Religious Conviction and “Altruistic Evil”

The murders in Beirut, Paris, and San Bernardino raise many questions, but few are as haunting and recurring as this one: how in the name of religious conviction can acts of such ghastly violence be committed? Sadly, this might well be the defining riddle of our age. But it’s an old one and many explanations [Read More…]

You are not still working on that

Though Thanksgiving is rooted in real historical events, intentional misremembering of those events is a big part of our holiday observance.   In his new documentary about the Pilgrims, Ric Burns rues the way we “forget almost everything actual about the Pilgrims when we sit down to eat turkey on Thanksgiving.” What we honor as authentic [Read More…]

India Today and Hindu Nationalism

After traveling in the United States, G. K. Chesterton famously described America as “a nation with the soul of the a church.” Something akin to this could be said of India, but to church one must quickly add Buddhist stupa, Jain mandir, Sikh gurdwara, Parsi dar-e mihr, Muslim mosque, and, not least, Hindu temple. Indeed, [Read More…]

Religion, Secularization, and the Academy

On my campus, there are plenty of signs that religion is not going quietly into the night. On a thoroughfare outside the main student center, very loud preachers have been hosting “sin awareness” days. Is that really needed? Pro-life groups have been stationed a hundred yards away, displaying fetal photographs and engaging passers-by in what [Read More…]

Because a Conference Paper is Usually Just a Conference Paper

I originally published this post last year when I was just a guest blogger. As I am in the midst of conference preparation (indeed, my writing group just this morning gave feedback on my draft for a January 2016 conference), I thought this could be useful for others. Happy Conferencing! We academic folk have all [Read More…]

The Problem of Inequality–for Puritans

It’s that time of year when New England muscles into the spotlight, showing off Patriots and scarlet maples, clear skies and Salem-witch shenanigans. But showing off–and the way that exacerbates anxieties of economic inequality—is not the New England way, at least not from the region’s seventeenth-century colonial beginnings. It should be said straightaway that the [Read More…]

How to Start a Writing Group

My writing group just celebrated our 5th anniversary. Although our idea for the group was born during a faculty retreat, it took us a year before we hashed out a plan. We were all tenure-track and anxious about the promotion process. What we wanted was a support structure for both writing accountability and boosting publications. What [Read More…]

Pope Francis and Our America

At the end of the first visit of Pope Francis to the United States, we should remember that his Holiness came to us by way of Cuba. And coming by way of Cuba, his travels might remind us of the shared historical experience of the United States and those Spanish-speaking lands south of the border, [Read More…]

Rome, for Protestants

Most people today ooh-and-aah when they experience or envision a trip to Rome. It was not always so. Until the era of modern tourism, trips to Rome were rare, undertaken only by the wealthy. For devout Protestants, encountering Catholicism’s Eternal City could often induce more revulsion than admiration. Prior to Italian unification in the 1860s-1870s, [Read More…]