Interview with Matthew Bowman

Most historians publish their dissertations as a book, then aim for a second project that might tackle a larger topic or reach a broader audience. Matthew Bowman has worked in reverse. Earlier this year, Random House published his The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith. The paperback will be out on the weekend of the GOP Convention. I consider Matt a kindred spirit of sorts. I’m a Protestant who has written on my own tradition and then ventured… Read more

On the Road With Christian America

As many of the readers of my blog, “The Way of Improvement Leads Home” are aware, I have spent a good portion of 2011 and 2012 on the road and on the radio waves promoting my book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? In the process, I have learned a lot about what Americans think about the founding of the United States.  Many of the people I have encountered have been thoughtful, open-minded, and willing to listen to my… Read more

EAST IS EAST…

I recently learned a fascinating lesson about global Christianity – or to be more exact, the first phase of that great movement, over a thousand years ago. I also learned how little even educated people know about that phenomenon. I had the wondrous experience of visiting the Warriors, Tombs and Temples exhibit that is currently showing at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The exhibit is spectacular, based as it does on the vast terracotta army of soldiers that were… Read more

For Falls Church Anglican, Farewell to a Historic Building

This Sunday was the final meeting of Falls Church (Va.) Anglican at its historic location near Washington, D.C. The parish dates from 1732, the church’s brick sanctuary from 1767. George Washington and George Mason were among the church’s early vestrymen. Falls Church’s removal from the property resulted from the latest in a series of nationwide court decisions regarding congregations who have broken away from the Episcopal Church USA, often to re-affiliate with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a “missionary… Read more

FUTURE CHURCHES

I am a great admirer of the journalist John L. Allen, whose 2009 book The Future Church I have praised highly as a guide to the “megatrends” shaping Christian denominations generally, and not just Roman Catholicism. Allen is a very well informed author, whose views are arguably prophetic. He is in fact the main reason I follow the paper National Catholic Reporter, where he has a regular column. His latest contribution offers a catalogue of the candidates for the next… 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 readings. Plus, I’m a bit out of touch with the “pulse” of American evangelicalism, having spent the last several years mostly thinking about the history… Read more

What Jefferson Believed

There has been a lot of fuss lately about the beliefs of Thomas Jefferson and his understanding of the relationship between religion and the public life.   Most of the fuss has been focused on David Barton’s new book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myth’s You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson.  I must confess that I have not read Barton’s book (I would like to). But I did see him last week on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and have… Read more

FOOD AND FEAR

I just published a review in Books and Culture on the odd sounding topic of the Fear of Food, which is in fact the title of an excellent new book by Harvey Levenstein. Levenstein is a distinguished historian of food and eating, author of such books as Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet and Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in Modern America. In Fear of Food, he looks at the various waves of… Read more

United Methodists Maintain Traditional Stance on Sexuality

After a week of vitriolic debates and parliamentary wrangling, the United Methodist Church has concluded its quadrennial General Conference. In the lead story coming out of the meeting, delegates voted to maintain the denomination’s traditional stance on human sexuality, which holds that homosexual acts are “incompatible with Christian teaching.” That vote was keyed by the presence of theologically and socially conservative delegates from outside the United States, especially from sub-Saharan Africa, where Methodism is thriving. African delegates represented about 30% of attendees…. Read more

WHY THE FUTURE LOOKS GREEDY

Do you remember Gordon Gecko in the original film of Wall Street proclaiming that Greed is Good? Unwittingly, he may have been formulating a wonderful law about how religions rise and fall, and I’m not referring to the materialism of Prosperity churches. Worldwide, the churches that succeed and boom, that win and retain members, tend to be the “greedy groups” – greedy above all for your time and commitment. They don’t leave you alone for long, and in consequence, you… Read more

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