March 8, 2021

Amid the onslaught of horrifying news about the winter surge in California, one story weighs particularly heavy on my heart: three members of the same family, all Filipino American nurses, all dead of Covid-19 within a month of one another. First the mother passed away, and then the father died a week later. Their son was intubated but eventually succumbed to the disease in late January. I knew about this family not because their deaths had made the news, but… Read more

March 5, 2021

Some parts of the Bible raise a lot of questions and debates, and indeed are often cited as the detonators that drive people away from their faith. I offer an an unusual example, which offers quite a few challenges. Quite seriously, think of this as a Lenten exercise, comparable to the historical themes Chris Gehrz discussed here recently. I had a friend (now deceased) who in his college years had lost his conservative Christian faith, and in fact became quite… Read more

March 4, 2021

Today we welcome Elesha Coffman back to the Anxious Bench. Elesha is associate professor of history at Baylor University and editor of Fides et Historia, the journal of the Conference on Faith and History.     When Tim Larsen invited me to write on Margaret Mead for the Oxford Spiritual Lives series, the first thing I did was look Mead up on Google. The name rang no bells for me. If I had been a bit older, though, and more… Read more

March 3, 2021

I wrote last month about my new course on the United States in Global Perspective that I am teaching through the lens of Science, Technology, and Medicine. What I didn’t mention is that all the books for the course were written by women. Weirdly, this is a total coincidence. I just picked particularly readable books on the topic–that also raise important ethical questions. But it’s perfect for women’s history month! So, without further ado, if you are looking for a… Read more

March 2, 2021

As he both teaches a class on World War II and observes the season of Lent, Chris has started to see history itself as a spiritual discipline that helps us contemplate sin, mortality, and the seeming absence of God. Read more

March 1, 2021

March 1 is the feast of David, the early medieval bishop and missionary who became patron saint of Wales. We actually know strikingly little of David apart from that date, of March 1, but I’m going to suggest that represents a good deal in its own right. And I will use that fact to make a general point that I hope people don’t find too solemn or grim. It does fit the Lenten season. Through the Middle Ages, Christians cultivated… Read more

February 26, 2021

I recently read a column that impressed me, in a source that Anxious Bench readers might not know. Anything by Joel Kotkin is going to be significant. He now turns his attention to issues facing American Judaism, and in so many ways, what he says speaks to the concerns of Christian congregations, especially mainliners and Catholics. The work gets to issues of the current state of religion during and after the present virus crisis, a theme on which I have… Read more

February 25, 2021

What’s the most disliked religion in the contemporary United States? Until recently, “Islam” would have been the runaway answer to this question. Back in 2002, less than half of Americans held favorable views of Muslims, compared to the nearly three-quarters who had favorable views of “[some] Protestants,” “Catholics,” and “Jews.” In 2017, half of Americans asserted that Islam is “not part of mainstream American society.” In the mid-to-late nineteenth-century, Mormons were almost universally disliked by other Americans.  The Latter-day Saints… Read more

February 24, 2021

My Ph.D. dissertation advisor taught at Brown University for thirty-three years.  Two of the other professors for whom I TA’ed in my graduate years were probably at Brown for even longer.  And some of the younger faculty, who had been at Brown for only a few years when I arrived at the university in 1999, are still there more than two decades later, and will almost certainly stay until their retirement. This, of course, is not unique to Brown, and… Read more

February 23, 2021

  Today we are pleased to welcome former Anxious Bench blogger Tim Gloege back to the blog.      I started listening to Rush Limbaugh at the beginning of his national radio career in the late 1980s.  I was in high school, raised in a white evangelical community and part of Reagan’s conservative wave. I lived in Minneapolis, which identifies as a progressive town, despite its ongoing failures of racial justice (a story for another time). I was convinced that… Read more




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