September 21, 2023

Historians sometimes have the bad habit of assuming that laws and edicts passed in bygone eras actually meant something. They note a law that prohibits Behavior X, and assume that this somehow suppressed that behavior, without noting that the same government continued to pass similar laws regularly and frequently over the following decades or centuries, suggesting that the original prohibition had little if any effect. In reality, ancient and medieval states were far weaker than we ever assume, and deviant... Read more

September 20, 2023

It’s a fascinating and lovely and disturbing book, and it made me think hard about how to pass on faith and tradition to my children. Read more

September 19, 2023

Enduring violence has long been part of the Christian story—Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:54-60), Paul was beaten numerous times (Acts 21:30-31; 2 Cor. 11:25), and Peter was crucified upside down according to tradition (1 Clement, Letter to Corinthians 5; Tertullian, Prescription against Heretics 36). Indeed, the center of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ, endured horrible punishment and death on a cross, encouraging his followers to ‘take up their cross’ with him (John 16:24). And take up their crosses, they did.... Read more

September 18, 2023

Hi! I am a cultural sociologist on a tour of Texas Megachurches. Check out my first post here. For today’s post, I cover my recent visit to Cornerstone Church in San Antonio. ***************************************************************************************************************** Cornerstone Church, located at Stone Oak Parkway and North Loop 1604 West, is a sprawling complex with a 5,400-seat sanctuary, prayer chapel, gymnasium, classrooms, and a parking lot large enough for shuttle service.  The entire operation boasts two church locations, a K-12 Christian school, a home for... Read more

September 15, 2023

The stories of Christian heroes have long inspired Christian children, including my own. Saint stories are wonderful for teaching little ones about faith during a historical time period, about what it feels like to be a Christian during religious persecution, or how you can live out your faith if your parents are not Christian, or how to face martyrdom joyfully, knowing you will enter the Beatific Vision. There are so many wonderful resources available to teach our children about Christian... Read more

September 14, 2023

I am delighted to announce the publication of my new book, A Storm of Images: Iconoclasm and Religious Reformation in the Byzantine World (Baylor University Press)! Here is the catalog description: In the eighth century, the Byzantine Empire began a campaign to remove or suppress sacred images that depicted Christ, the Virgin, or other holy figures, whether in painting, mosaics, murals, or other media. In some cases, the campaign extended to breaking or wrecking images through what became known as... Read more

September 13, 2023

If you happen to be a Christian in America right now, I have good news and bad news for you. Good news: you’re probably a lot more like a first-century Christian than you had realized. Congratulations! This may be especially gratifying to hear if you are a member of a church that works hard to strip away all the unnecessary modern extras from worship and be just like the earliest Christians. Now for the bad news: you’re probably a lot... Read more

September 12, 2023

Antonio the Negro arrived in Virginia in 1621, which means he witnessed the devastating attacks of Opechancanough upon the Chesapeake settlers during the following year. He narrowly survived these attacks and continued to labor for the Bennett family for a dozen years. Due to his faithful service to the Bennetts, he eventually earned such favor from the family that he obtained a freedman’s status for himself, his wife, and his children, sometime after 1635. No longer known as Antonio the... Read more

September 8, 2023

In the 1980s when I was growing up as a pastor’s daughter in a conservative Christian context, I kept my ear to the ground for the whispers of the adults around me. As a budding scholar of history, I was already tuned in to the rumors of the world, understanding that what is often considered “mere gossip” can contain the most significant insights into human motivations, culture, and emotional experience. Often, what I was hearing was the evaluation of why... Read more

September 7, 2023

I want to announce and celebrate the publication of a really valuable new book, and I say from the outset that I had nothing whatever to do with writing it! My two Baylor colleagues Bruce Longenecker and David Wilhite are the editors of the newly available Cambridge History of Ancient Christianity, which is an indispensable contribution to the study of Christian life and thought in the first three centuries. Here is the publisher’s description: The first three hundred years of... Read more

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