Lev Grossman’s _The Magicians_ and the Spiritual Longing of America’s Young

The Magicians Lev Grossman Viking, 2009Yes, you get a book review of a four year old book.  But, it's free.  Spoilers.  What you need to know: the  magicians of the title are a handful of America's bright but directionless teenagers, lifted from their daily lives and transported to Brakebills, a college for magicians in upstate New York. There they fight, drink, sleep around, moan about how directionless they are in the way most of America's generation Y and millennials seem to, and eve … [Read more...]

How Not To Think About Fundamentalism

One of my earliest mentors in the historical profession was a former member of Students for a Democratic Society.  He was also a remarkably dynamic teacher who enjoyed pulling reversals in the classroom: before the break, Arthur Schlesinger was the wise and normative advocate of measured reform; after the break Arthur Schlesinger was a googly-eyed plutocrat.   This was a rather blunt way to introduce us to issues of master narratives, methodology, and historiography (in addition to Schlesinger), … [Read more...]

Tentative Notes Toward a Theory of Liberal Mormonism

In 1955, Louis Hartz published a famous and deeply influential book called The Liberal Tradition in America.  Therein he argued that American politics actually functions on an extraordinarily narrow spectrum, that the American left and American right share far more philosophical principles than they would dare admit to their own followers (or to each other).  … [Read more...]

An American Religion

In Tampa a few weeks ago twenty thousand Republicans bowed their heads and listened solemnly to the Mormon Ken Hutchins offer a prayer.  They applauded a string of Mormons who stood to bear witness to Mitt Romney’s service in his Mormon congregation.  Historically speaking, this was remarkable.  A century and a half ago, after all, this same party’s convention denounced Mormonism for being as barbaric as slavery.  … [Read more...]

What It Means to Be Christian

So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. Acts 11:22-26And those who did belong to the church were faithful; yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come.- Alma 46:15, The Book of Mormon Here are some ways Americans of one religious stripe … [Read more...]

A Review of the Cover of Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven: A story of violent faith.

Under the Banner of Heaven (Doubleday, 2003)

Author’s note: Yes, I’ve read the book.Canaan Mountain is almost unbearably symbolic. … [Read more...]

Why Is It So Hard to Figure Out What Mormons Believe?

The leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has spent far more time than it would like recently tamping down small pestilences of embarrassment spewed forth from its lay membership.  Recently in the Washington Post a professor of religion at Brigham Young University, which the church owns, uttered a series of remarkably garish and disturbingly convoluted theories in explanation of why his church did not ordain men of African descent to its priesthood until 1978.  Before the … [Read more...]

A Peculiar People

For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth. - Deuteronomy 14:2 (KJV)But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. - 1 Peter 2:9 (KJV)There are still those who regard us as a peculiar people. Let us accept that as a … [Read more...]