Thoughts on That Last Thin Mint

Cookie Poster

This week closes Girl Scout cookie season in Massachusetts.  (There are people out there who politely beg off buying a box with the excuse that they still have some of last year’s in the freezer: that’s just wrong.) The Girl Scouts have successfully avoided much of the controversy dogging the Boy Scouts, although they have [Read More...]

Birmingham Revolution

Birmingham Revolution

For the February 2014 Patheos Book Club With the publication of Birmingham Revolutionon the occasion of the Birmingham Campaign’s fiftieth anniversary last year, IVP Books provided a readable, well-informed, and smartly packaged work that can serve as either an introduction to those unfamiliar with the seminal events of spring 1963 or a refresher for those [Read More...]

What to Publish, and When?

In response to one of my recent newsletters, a friend and former student asked, from the perspective of a Ph.D. student, “With seminar papers, conference papers, book reviews, and journal articles, there is a lot to think about. How to prioritize these? How to find time to work on long-term projects when the daily tasks [Read More...]

How to Stop Fiddling Around and Start Writing

A friend recently asked me about my writing practices – in particular, how do I keep track of notes as I am preparing to write? This allows me to make a recommendation that I hope you won’t find too peculiar: When writing, don’t take notes. Don’t make outlines. Just write. Let me clarify. What I [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...]

Hispanic America Is Our America

Good timing: January brought another round of Washington debate over immigration policy, and I found myself again in opening weeks of teaching a U.S. history survey course—1492-1846—just when Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States was released. By location, I could get away perfectly well with an eastern history of the [Read More...]

Shattering the Illusion, Part 1

Rosa Parks

  When authorities in Montgomery, Alabama arrested Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat to a white patron on December 1, 1955, African Americans in the city formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) in order to organize a direct action campaign.  Led by twenty-six year-old Martin Luther King, Jr., the MIA launched a boycott [Read More...]

William Taylor, a Global Reflex, and the Challenge to Gilded Age Methodism

Unpredictable Gospel

In my last post I described how evangelical missionaries were often agents of cultural sensitivity. William Taylor, for example, encouraged Xhosa converts in South Africa to continue using “Dala,” “Tixo,” or “Inkosi,” their native terms for God. For Jay Case, author of An Unpredictable Gospel, this was evidence of missionaries’ concern for native empowerment. “To [Read More...]

Waiting for the Christmas Witch

santa climbing window

After twelve days of feasting the Christmas Witch sneaks in to slip coal or candy into stockings. What? Not in your country? Perhaps you should be living in a different Nativity. The Nativity sets most us probably just packed away originate with St. Francis of Assisi, credited with making them part of Christian seasonal observance.  [Read More...]

On Pilgrimage in Advent

On his pilgrimage to Rome in 1263 Peter, a priest from Bohemia, stopped in the ancient Etruscan-Roman city of Bolsena.  He celebrated Mass at the lakeside church of Santa Cristina. Peter had been doubting transubstantiation, doubting the reality of Christ’s presence in Eucharist: was He really there, given as food for sinners, in the bread [Read More...]


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