February 13, 2020

Today The Anxious Bench welcomes Erik R. Seeman, Professor of History at the University at Buffalo. Seeman’s publications span many centuries, cultures, and topics, but several of his books analyze the beliefs and rituals that surround death and dying. One of my favorite books in the field of early American history is Seeman’s Death in the New World, which compares the deathways of Native, African, and English cultures. Below Seeman and I discuss his latest book, Speaking with the Dead… Read more

February 12, 2020

The missionaries who spied for the United States Read more

February 11, 2020

According to the General Social Survey, not just evangelicals but growing numbers of Catholics and other Protestants describe themselves as “born again.” It’s not the first time that Christians have used that language to describe different ideas of conversion. Read more

February 10, 2020

“I love to look at the work of God. I love to see the work of God.” One might look for the work of God in many places. Onnie Lee Logan, “granny” midwife who delivered thousands of babies around Mobile, Alabama, before the state outlawed her profession, saw the work of God in the birth of a new human. Logan tells her story in a well known oral history and describes delivering babies as a calling. She recounts praying before… Read more

February 7, 2020

Based on long study of Christian history, I offer a couple of strictly non-scientific impressions and guidelines. The first is that the religion is more consistently weird in its expressions than we usually assume. Also, we can find a remarkable number of long-term continuities and connections, if we remain open to noticing them. And finally, any long-term exploration of such links has to travel a long way outside the familiar world of European Christendom. To illustrate these points, I will… Read more

February 6, 2020

The most important moment of Senator Mitt Romney’s speech yesterday was when he wasn’t actually speaking. That moment arrived near the beginning of his remarks, when he talked about his faith. “As a senator-juror, I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice,” he said. “I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am.” And what followed next was silence. It lasted twelve long seconds. During these twelve seconds, the cameras didn’t offer a… Read more

February 5, 2020

I am not a Methodist—well, not anymore. I grew up in the United Methodist Church (UMC), but have been a member of various other denominations since my college years. So the current debates within the United Methodist Church are not my fight. But they do interest me, both because of my religious history and because I am a religious historian. Most mainline American Protestant denominations have liberalized their stance on same-sex relationships in recent years. The Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA),… Read more

February 4, 2020

In the mid-19th century, Minnesota was part of the American frontier — and the destination of Catholic, Episcopal, Congregational, and other “home missionaries” seeking to convert indigenous persons and white settlers alike. Read more

February 3, 2020

Last year, I wrote several post about the relationship between Judaism and Hellenism, the issue that sparked the Maccabean revolt. The anti-Hellenist rebels won the war, and secured national independence. But that certainly did not mean the end of Greek influence on Jews, and indeed on the emerging Christian movement. In the light of some very recent archaeological finds, we now see just how thoroughly Jews continued to absorb Greek imagery and iconography throughout what we would call the early… Read more

January 31, 2020

Through the years, I have worked on a lot of different topics. Last time, I talked about the Christian History sequence that has occupied my attention for the past two decades. My current work builds firmly on that foundation, but even so, it has taken me into some really unexpected areas. I am almost embarrassed to find how they rewrite so much of what I thought I always knew. My current book project explores the relationship between climate, climate change,… Read more

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