December 30, 2012

If it didn’t exist, you couldn’t invent the New York Times. Today’s paper has an interesting and fair-minded piece by Amy O’Leary about various emerging church ventures in big cities, and how they are trying new tactics to reach younger markets. All fair enough. The title of the article, though, is a jaw dropping Building Congregations Around Art Galleries and Cafes as Spirituality Wanes. Excuse me? The evidence for said waning appears to be the recent Pew report about the… Read more

December 28, 2012

I have just read Rupert Shortt’s impressive new book Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack. I should explain that I got my copy direct from the UK, and I don’t know exactly when it will be available officially on this side of the Atlantic. Very soon, I hope, as it is just an excellent study of anti-Christian persecution around the world. Really, it’s a splendidly rich and informative book, and very up-to-the moment in its coverage. It has been favorably reviewed… Read more

December 26, 2012

Leon Wieseltier is the literary editor of The New Republic.  If you do not read him regularly you should.  Sometimes Wieseltier will make you angry, but he will always make you think. In the December 31 issue of the magazine he extolls the virtue of a college education while at the same time attacking the “uncollege” movement.  Led by author Dale J. Stephens, the leaders of this movement are telling promising young high school students to avoid college and pursue… Read more

December 25, 2012

In December 1739, the great evangelist George Whitefield was completing a treacherous overland trip from Maryland to South Carolina, and he stopped for Christmas in New Bern (“Newborn”), a relatively new parish in North Carolina, which was also one of the newer southern colonies. He had already seen phenomenal crowds attend his outdoor meetings in England, and now he stood at the threshold of America’s Great Awakening, too. How did Whitefield (who is the subject of my latest book project) spend… Read more

December 24, 2012

As this posting falls on December 24 it seems virtually impossible to make it a workaday one rather than a seasonal theme.  The relationship between work days and Christmas was handled memorably in the early years of colonial America by the governor of Plymouth, William Bradford.  His band of Pilgrims being low church and high principled, Bradford records in Of Plymouth Plantation his unwillingness to give laborers the day off:  On the day called Chrismasday, the Govr calmd them out… Read more

December 23, 2012

A few things online that caught my attention this week: Professors:  Stop the gloom and doom Dan Richter reviews Bernard Bailyn, The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675.  Graham Hodges reviews it here. Fall 2012 Cushwa Center Newsletter Is the life of the mind billable? Robert George reviews Akhil Reed Amar, America’s Unwritten Constitution.  And a podcast. Read more here Read more

December 21, 2012

Most modern readers find it hard to identify with ancient or medieval saints’ lives, written at times  when people had such very different expectations of sanctity. We may or may not believe that Saint X healed lepers or foretold dynastic changes, but it’s hard to identify with the situations. What do the concerns of those early readers have to do with us? Well, here’s an exception. It’s called the Life of Severinus, and it tells the story of how a… Read more

December 20, 2012

There is a very useful but very sobering chart partway through James H. Smylie’s A Brief History of the Presbyterians. It documents the various strands that became American Presbyterianism and the many schisms that emerged from those stands (some of which later merged back into the larger Presbyterian churches): the Old School and the New School, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (and the Second Cumberland Presbyterian Church), the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Bible Presbyterian Church, and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, to… Read more

December 19, 2012

From the Fox News Archives–Christmas Eve, 2010–JF “Dad, why do people who are not Christians still celebrate Christmas?” This is the kind of insightful question that can only come from the mouth of a nine-year-old. My daughter wonders why people who do not attend church still have Christmas trees, bake Christmas cookies, put colored lights on their houses, go to Christmas parties, and give gifts on December 25. To phrase her question differently, she wants to know how Christmas—the birth… Read more

December 18, 2012

From the Patheos archive: ‘Tis the season to argue about religion. Or more specifically, to feud about whether to say Merry Christmas or Seasons Greetings…to call it a Christmas Village or a Holiday Village…or to allow a crèche or menorah to stand on public property. What would Americans at the time of our nation’s founding think about all this? They would have been perplexed. Perplexed, first, at the ways that we fuss about the public role of religion. As I… Read more




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