What to do about what’s wrong with America

One of the happy characteristics of America, mythical or actual, is its hospitality to those who want to begin the world anew, whether by building a purified church, crafting a commonwealth—whose very name suggests there is such thing as a recognizable public good—or establishing a new order of the ages. For centuries space remained between Atlantic and Pacific for those anxious to try again to get things right. The United States, especially in the nineteenth century, was sprinkled liberally with… Read more

Five Rivers Flowing Out Of Paradise

Five rivers flowed out of Paradise, and we all know their names. That may sound like a riddle, but it actually points to some truly radical interpretations of Scripture, and maybe even to a revolution in Western thought. It also suggests one possible outcome of the Radical Reformation. The story involves Gerrard Winstanley (1609-1676), the legendary seventeenth century English radical and mystic, who in 1648-1649 led the communal sect of the Diggers, or True Levellers. Both the Diggers and Winstanley… Read more

Who has the power to recalibrate the “Evangelical Paradigm”?

Today we welcome Janine Giordano Drake to the Anxious Bench. Janine is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Providence, a small Catholic liberal arts college in Great Falls, Montana. – Kristin A few weeks ago, Tim Gloege penned a powerful, articulate defense of why, and how, we need to reorient the way we historicize evangelicalism within American history. Gloege reminded us, through the example of a great new essay collection, that social and political history needs to inform the… Read more

Prosperity Gospel Apocalypse: Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s PTL Empire

The Bakker’s had become proponents of the prosperity gospel, a message that fit the 1980s perfectly. Read more

How a Non-Western Non-Christian Can Help American Christians Think About Western Civilization

How the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo both celebrated and criticized Western civilization – and came to admire Jesus in the process. Read more

The Last Religion Standing

What will be the last religion standing? Read more

Ancient Pagan Ways, Continued

I did quite a few blogposts last year about the possible survival of ancient pagan ways into the Christian Middle Ages and beyond, with a special focus on British conditions. The general consensus these days is to minimize or deny such connections and continuities, and in general I sympathize with that view. But I am open to being convinced, and a recent case raises some intriguing possibilities. The continuity argument suggests that British people maintained their veneration for the same… Read more

The Anabaptist Judith

From the Anxious Bench archives… Things were not going well in Münster (in present-day northwestern Germany) as of June 1534. The previous year, local Anabaptists, their ranks swollen by arrivals from the Netherlands and elsewhere, seized full control of the city. In February, a prophet named Jan Matthias had taken charge, whereupon Catholics and most Lutherans were stripped of their possessions and expelled from the city. That same month, Münster’s Prince-Bishop Franz von Waldeck began a protracted siege of the… Read more

George McGovern and the Religious Left

I’m pleased to post this interview with Mark Lempke, who just published the terrific book My Brother’s Keeper: George McGovern and Progressive Christianity with the University of Massachusetts Press. Mark teaches history in Singapore for the University of Buffalo. Part II, in which Mark explains why he’d want McGovern on his pub trivia team, will be published in two weeks.  –David *** David Swartz: Who was George McGovern? Mark Lempke: In the most immediate sense, George McGovern was a Democratic… Read more

What Makes Protestants “Protestant”?

What makes Protestants “Protestant”? A new history suggests that it’s not about Reformation doctrines or even biblical authority, but an ongoing “love affair with God.” Read more

Follow Us!