June 16, 2020

Chris argues that it’s not “erasing history” to remove Confederate commemoration from public spaces. Instead, it offers Americans a second chance at realizing an “emancipationist vision” of Civil War memory. Read more

June 15, 2020

After church when I was a little my siblings and I would file down to the One World Room and eat doughnuts whiling away time when my mother talked to her friends at coffee hour. Plenty of time for consumption of a staggering lot of doughnuts, eaten under the watchful eye of the UN assemblies and migrant farmworkers illustrated on the walls behind us. To clarify: this was the late 1970s, church was Cornell Catholic Community, meeting on a college… Read more

June 12, 2020

I have been posting about using American poetry as primary historical sources, and last time, I talked about Wallace Stevens’s Sunday Morning. That appeared in 1915, in an era of extraordinary social, religious and political ferment. Today I’ll discuss another work from that same year, which is famous as a name, but when you actually explore it, it offers some treasures for the historian. I am referring to Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950), and his Spoon River Anthology, which endlessly repays… Read more

June 11, 2020

In a little over a week, my new book Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation will find its way into the world. When I started the project, I couldn’t have imagined the world it would be launching into. Now, with the release date quickly approaching, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on the winding history of the book itself. The project’s origins go back to around 2004 or 2005, my… Read more

June 10, 2020

I am so pleased to welcome back Lynneth Miller Renberg. Lynneth is an assistant professor of history at Anderson University in Anderson, SC. She teaches a range of courses, including classes on medieval Europe, Europe in the Reformation, and the history of women in the church. She is currently working on a monograph on dance, sacrilege, and gender in late medieval England and an edited collection on the tale of the cursed dancing carolers. Among the many pandemic-related memes that my students… Read more

June 9, 2020

Chris considers what the inconsistent response of Martin Luther to violent rebellion in the 16th century might mean for American Christians wrestling with social change in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Read more

June 8, 2020

I recently posted about using poetry as a source for studying American history, and religious history – or rather, why you are making a mistake if you don’t include certain really significant landmark works. Here is a prime example. In 1915, Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) published Sunday Morning, one of the greatest of Modernist writings in English, and among the most important American poems of the century. (It appeared in part in 1915, but not in full until 1923). It is… Read more

June 5, 2020

The Anxious Bench focuses on the study of history, and particularly the history of religion and religions. I want to talk about what strikes me as a really major and valuable source for that study, but which is often neglected. I am a great believer in the use of literature to illustrate strictly contemporary attitudes, in a way that is critical for social or cultural history. I have blogged here often on particular novels, including some American classics. But I… Read more

June 4, 2020

They were rude, their words were crude. Occasionally, a few went nude. The Quakers reached New England in July 1656. Ann Austin and Mary Fisher arrived from Barbados and were promptly arrested. Their persecutors “stripped them stark naked, not missing head nor feet, searching betwixt their toes, and amongst their hair, tewing [pulling] and abusing their bodies more than modesty can mention.” (This is not I meant by “a few went nude.” Several Quakers went naked in imitation of the… Read more

June 3, 2020

What makes us think that this week’s version of white evangelical “racial reconciliation” will be any different? Read more

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