Lincoln’s Thanksgiving: A Call to Gratitude, Humility, and Empathy

In the wake of a divisive election, we should revisit Abraham Lincoln’s original 1863 proclamation of a national day of Thanksgiving. We’ll find not only gratitude, but the virtues of humility and empathy. [Read more…]

The Problems of Writing Biography (Part 1 – Empathy and Exoneration)

While some of my colleagues here have written excellent examples of the genre, I’ve never had much desire to write a biography. In fact, it had been a few years since I’d even read such a book. But then a road trip that included numerous plays of the Hamilton soundtrack convinced me to download the Kindle [Read More…]

Unexpected Sites of Christian Pacifism: Hacksaw Ridge and Adventism

The new Mel Gibson movie Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of a WWII medic named Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist who participation in that war exemplifies the Adventist idea of “conscientious cooperation” [Read more…]

A Dispatch from Trump Country: The Past and Politics

For my fall sabbatical, my family has been blessed with the opportunity to spend four months living in one of the most beautiful parts of the country: the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia. It’s an area I know fairly well; my parents moved here from Minnesota twenty-three years ago. (The other reason for this move: [Read More…]

What Makes for the Best Historical Movies? (part 2)

Two more questions to ask of historical films: Are its makers actually interested in the past on its own terms? Are they provoking historical thinking? [Read more…]

What Makes for the Best Historical Movies? (part 1)

How should we evaluate historical movies like Free State of Jones? (part 1 of 3) [Read more…]

Death and Faith in the Civil War

In February of 1864, a Confederate officer named Franklin Gaillard received word of his father’s death. Gaillard was numb to death, having fought at Gettysburg the previous July. “It was the most shocking battle I have ever witnessed,” he wrote after his side’s bloody defeat. “There were familiar forms and faces with parts of their [Read More…]

Lincoln’s Shrewd Sermon

Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration as President of the United States. On that date, Lincoln delivered an address that, while never quite rivaling the Gettysburg Address in terms of fame, has nevertheless earned the lasting admiration of many Americans. Carl Sandberg termed it ”the great American poem”; Frederick Douglass praised [Read More…]

A Primer on the Southern Baptist Convention, Part 1

From the Archive In light of the upcoming annual meeting of the largest (for now) Protestant denominations taking place in Baltimore, MD next week, it seemed appropriate to re-run my two-part series from last summer, “A Primer on the Southern Baptist Convention.”  The first part will run today, the second will run on Saturday, June 7th.  Relevant updates [Read More…]

The Bible, Slavery, and Sin

I have been reading Molly Oshatz’s thought-provoking new book Slavery and Sin: The Fight against Slavery and the Rise of Liberal Protestantism. Oshatz argues that the theological difficulties surrounding antebellum slavery gave rise to beliefs that became “hallmarks of liberal Protestant theology: God’s revelation unfolded progressively through human history, moral action had to be considered in [Read More…]