June 30, 2020

I was about to start this post with the phrase, “As usual,” since I habitually use my last Anxious Bench post in June or my first in July to share some highlights from the first half of the year. But there’s not much “As usual” about 2020. Unlike recent years, our most popular posts weren’t necessarily analyses of evangelicalism, politics, and gender—though those topics aren’t absent from the list. Instead, this half-year of COVID-19 and George Floyd found our still-growing readership… Read more

June 29, 2020

On April 10, the Wall Street Journal reported on the digging of mass graves on Hart Island, New York, for bodies of the truly down and out, many homeless, not claimed at the morgue. Victims of the coronavirus, these people surely did not anticipate dying alone, un-mourned for, by a disease possibly originating with bats in Wuhan, China. This and a steady cascade of other grim stories and statistics concentrate the mind on an age-old question: how can a good,… Read more

June 26, 2020

I have been posting about how American poetry can serve as a rich primary source for historians, and especially for those approaching religious themes. Exhibit A in this story is Herman Melville’s 1876 epic Clarel, which is extraordinarily useful for anyone interested in the spectrum of American religion in the nineteenth century. For reasons I will explain, this blogpost is a sadly inadequate introduction to the work, or rather, an encouragement to go make your own discoveries. I hope this… Read more

June 25, 2020

As an Asian American who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, I don’t remember seeing many American kids who looked like me on television, in film, or in books. There was Margaret Cho’s character on the short-lived show, All-American Girl–I think I saw every episode, but there was only one season. There was Trini Kwan on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. (“Of course she was the Yellow Ranger,” my Asian American studies colleague wryly noted.) And there was Claudia Kishi… Read more

June 24, 2020

This week most major Texas cities implemented ordinances requiring masking in public. My germaphobic Texan heart is happy. Last week, by contrast, huge swaths of my fellow Texans remained unmasked in indoor public spaces. Yet COVID-19 case numbers, percent positive test results, and hospitalizations were all skyrocketing across my beloved state (they still are).  Reflecting on this phenomenon—and my emotional responses to it—led me to a deeper understanding of the relationship between individual and systemic sin — and my own… Read more

June 23, 2020

Today I’m delighted to introduce the newest member of The Anxious Bench: Daniel K. Williams teaches American history at the University of West Georgia and is the author of several books on religion and politics, including The Election of the Evangelical: Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and the Presidential Contest of 1976 (University Press of Kansas, 2020). For his first post, Dan considers why their view of American history helps explain why white evangelicals respond differently to the debates over abortion and racism. This year, millions… Read more

June 22, 2020

Often, stories of martyrs and saints are so reworked over time that they become outrageously improbable, and it becomes all but impossible to excavate to find what really happened. That’s doubly unfortunate, because some unquestionably genuine stories are so powerful in their own right that they need not the slightest additional coloring. I offer the story of English saint John Fisher (1469-1535), the legendarily holy Bishop of Rochester under Henry VIII. He was a noted scholar, with a magnificent library…. Read more

June 19, 2020

Many of the events in the Christian liturgical year coincide with older seasonal celebrations, which the church absorbed and consecrated. We think of Christmas (Midwinter), Easter (Spring) and All Saints/All Souls (the beginning of Winter). Sadly, Western churches at least have forgotten what was once one of the greatest of these parallel commemorations, which almost amounted to a second Christmas. Somewhere along the line, we forgot St. John the Baptist – whose feast we commemorate next week. For the early… Read more

June 18, 2020

Two months ago, Lincoln Mullen (my colleague at George Mason University) and I created pandemicreligion.org, a digital archive dedicated to collecting materials about American congregations during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been, to say the least, an unusual and challenging stretch of time for the vast majority of American religious communities. Nearly all congregations in the country suspended in-person services in March. While some have resumed services, in most instances worship and other congregational activities have not simply gone back… Read more

June 17, 2020

How global experiences have pushed American evangelicals toward Pentecostal sensibilities Read more

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