September 11, 2012

The happy news came this weekend that long-imprisoned Iranian Christian convert and pastor Youcef Nadarkhani had been freed from prison. I found out on Twitter, a fact that highlights one of the most fascinating aspects of this story. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have already played a role in an array of social protest movements. The #TweetforYoucef campaign by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) must be regarded as one of the most successful social media… Read more

September 10, 2012

I recently remarked on the concentration of important religious sites in upstate New York, the famous Burned Over District. I mentioned just a couple of these evocative places, from a large list of possible candidates – Palmyra, Seneca Falls, Hydesville. One of my favorites, though, is Oneida, which is just seventy miles from Seneca Falls. Oneida recalls America’s long history of communes and religious settlements – if you want to be rude, call them “cult compounds.” It beautifully illustrates the… Read more

September 9, 2012

Fortunately not by handcart. For any of our readers in Utah (and their friends), I’m going to be in the Beehive State this week talking about Brigham Young in Logan, Provo, and Salt Lake City. Tuesday, Sept. 11: Utah State University, Old Main Room 225, 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13: Brigham Young University, Varsity Theatre, 11:00.   Thursday, Sept. 13: Benchmark Books, Salt Lake City. For details on the above talks, see (still working out a few kinks on the website)…. Read more

September 7, 2012

You can learn a lot about a society by what it remembers, but even more by what it forgets. If you have the slightest interest in American religious history, then it’s difficult to find a more evocative landscape than the burned-over district of western New York state. In the early and mid-nineteenth century, this was the seedbed of many explosive movements, of Mormonism, Adventism, Spiritualism, Utopianism, of new forms of Revivalism. Older Shaker communities now counted Fourier Socialists among their… Read more

September 6, 2012

Over the years, I’ve experimented with several ways to introduce students to the topic of Mormonism: either South Park or the song “All-American Prophet” from the Book of Mormon: The Musical, Joseph Smith’s First Vision, sections of the Helen Whitney documentary The Mormons, as well as several excellent short introductions (namely Matt Bowman’s The Mormon People and Richard Bushman’s Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction). Now there’s one more great option: Joanna Brooks’s The Book of Mormon Girl: Memoir of an… Read more

September 5, 2012

It has been a long week and creativity is lacking, so please forgive me for the cross-post today.  The following post was published on September 4, 2012 at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  –JF We almost didn’t see Bruce Springsteen in Philadelphia on Sunday night. I have spent the last couple of weeks battling something akin to bronchitis and the members of my family were not feeling well either.  On Saturday I thought about trying to put the tickets… Read more

September 4, 2012

One of the most peculiar moments of the Republican National Convention — at least among those that did not involve an empty chair — was Mike Huckabee’s proclamation that Barack Obama was a “self-professed evangelical.” Mollie Hemingway at GetReligion (now housed at Patheos) registered puzzlement at that statement, a feeling I certainly share. A couple months ago, the Anxious Bench’s John Turner asked “What Is Evangelicalism?”, generating an interesting discussion not only about the meaning of the term ‘evangelical,’ but about its uses in the media and pop… Read more

September 3, 2012

This summer our family traveled to southern California, a first trip to San Diego.  Our children clambered through tide pools on Point Loma peninsula at the Cabrillo monument.  This National Park honors Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to alight in 1542 on the west coast of what is now the United States of America. It’s a gorgeous place, blue Pacific vistas on both sides, the city to the east and sailboats, surfers, and an occasional sea-lion sighting to the… Read more

September 2, 2012

A very warm welcome to the newest additions to our Anxious Bench roster of bloggers, Agnes Howard and Tal Howard of Gordon College! They’ll begin posting soon. Here are their bios: Agnes R. Howard teaches history at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, specializing in early America, particularly colonial New England.  She holds a PhD from the University of Virginia. She has spent time in Washington, DC, working in the office of Vice President Dan Quayle and for the journal, The Public Interest.  The birth of three… Read more

August 31, 2012

Following the recent untimely death of Marvin Meyer, I have been thinking of a dear friend who was his close contemporary, and who died at an even earlier age. This was Bill Petersen, who taught New Testament and Early Christianity at Penn State until his death in 2006, at age 56, and who was probably the greatest scholar I have ever known personally in any discipline. He also believed firmly that his particular academic area – New Testament and Early… Read more

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