August 16, 2019

I suggested that witchcraft beliefs were actually much slower to decline in the West than we commonly think, and that this has implications for how we assess the impact of Enlightenment modernity. In the US, witchcraft was still a common idea for many rural dwellers through much of the nineteenth century, to the growing mockery of educated urbanites. But what did those urbanites themselves believe? Back in 2000, I published the book Mystics and Messiahs, about new and fringe religions… Read more

August 14, 2019

Several years ago, I wrote a post about the way that early modern Christians understood pelicans as a symbol of God’s mercy. I’m reposting my original piece below, drawing from the Anxious Bench archives. I’ve been reflecting on the piece recently. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the symbol of the rooster in early Christianity. And I noticed that my fellow blogger Chris Gehrz remembered my post when watching a documentary this past spring. Perhaps a reminder that Christians sometimes try… Read more

August 14, 2019

David interviews his mother Phyllis Miller Swartz about her just-released memoir Read more

August 13, 2019

Chris finds that a recent book helps bring to life not just the history of hymnals, but the histories of reading, of women in the church, and of childhood. Read more

August 12, 2019

Sedona, Arizona, is full of vortexes, as they call them locally, spots where the earth is supposed swirl out life-force energy. “Find out what a vortex is and how it can help you,” the town’s promotional literature invites. My husband and I learned this when we, this summer, had time to make a day trip. One can’t help but think: what is it with us, with Americans, that the way this luxe locale gilds its lily is to promise the… Read more

August 9, 2019

I have two themes today: one about the history of witchcraft; and another about an illustration of media ignorance of religion that has even stunned me. Through the years I have written on the history of witchcraft, in many aspects – the historical realities, but also the popular culture elements, and the abundant mythologies. Recently I have been intrigued by one question, namely how and when classic witchcraft persecutions faded and ceased in North America. The answer is: a great… Read more

August 8, 2019

Today we welcome Otis W. Pickett and his colleague Brian Franklin as they share their thoughts on a history panel held at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. Otis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Political Science at Mississippi College. Brian Franklin is Associate Director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. Photo Credit to Rev. Jeff Jordan.  Historians have long engaged in spirited discussions about the ways in which we… Read more

August 7, 2019

A country church burned to the ground last week.  Flames billowed over its wooden spires in a scene reminiscent of Notre Dame. But while stone defended the Parisian cathedral, the timber walls of the Church of the Visitation in Westphalia, Texas, didn’t stand a chance. Winds blustered that morning, fanning the fire and ensuring total destruction. I only visited the church once. It was pure chance. My son plays football, and one of games last year was played on a muddy… Read more

August 6, 2019

How Baptists, Lutherans, Quakers, and other Christians are drawing on American religious history to make the case against Christian nationalism. Read more

August 5, 2019

Actually seeing a new book in print is a nerve-racking experience. Dare you open it, or will you see a typo? Oh Lord… But with that caveat, I am delighted to announce the appearance of my new book, Rethinking a Nation: The United States in the 21st Century (Macmillan/Red Globe). That’s a wide-ranging history of the US since 2000 – political, cultural, social, economic.As a period in American history, the years since 2000 have been at least comparable to any… Read more

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