December 16, 2019

It’s not your average out-of-office message: gone on pilgrimage, won’t be checking email. Recently I wrote about Timothy Egan’s new book, A Pilgrimage to Eternity,  before myself walking a piece of the Via Francigena with twenty-some twenty-somethings studying at Gordon-in-Orvieto.  The students from Gordon College and other church-related institutions are mostly Protestant, making sense of the aesthetics and thoughtways of places heavily shaped by Roman Catholicism. The curriculum from time to time includes a pilgrimage, led by Swiss artist Marie-Dominique… Read more

December 15, 2019

I wrote a post last week about the British general election, and what it means for the idea of nationality and Britishness. Is that British idea vanishing, just like other identities that I grew up knowing about, such as Yugoslav, or Soviet, or Czechoslovak? Looking at the actual UK election results, the answer still seems to be yes, probably. The story suggests just how rapidly beliefs and concepts that seem inevitable and even eternal can change utterly: forever changes. In… Read more

December 14, 2019

The Anxious Bench-ers share some of the books that they read in 2019. Read more

December 13, 2019

Scholars differ on the exact birthdate of Jesus of Nazareth, though a fair consensus holds that it was not in the year 1. Many favor a date in or around 4BC, and for the sake of argument, let us take that as accurate. If so, the birth occurred during or near a truly dreadful time in the history of what was already a troubled and turbulent land. Although these events are familiar to scholars, they are not at all well… Read more

December 12, 2019

Today, December 12, is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and in honor of La Virgen, Mexicans and Mexican Americans will be gathering to celebrate mass, recite novenas, make music, dance, and march in the streets. But the reality is that devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe is not limited to this day only—La Virgen is such a central figure in Mexican cultural and religious life that she is present and powerful every day. This is especially true… Read more

December 11, 2019

I belong to an all-female super-hero-movie-viewing group. Imagine my delight, then, when the trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 dropped this weekend. I was also thrilled for a second reason: I make a big deal out of 1984 in my American history survey course, and I use video clips to do it. I relish adding a new one! But it got me thinking: why set this movie in 1984? Director Patty Jenkins has said she chose the mid-1980s because that decade… Read more

December 10, 2019

Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, answers questions about Fairness for All, a proposed law that seeks to reconcile religious freedom and LGBT rights. Read more

December 9, 2019

We may presently be witnessing the death of a nation that has existed for some centuries, namely Great Britain or the United Kingdom. Such a disappearance – which historically is far from unusual –  is a fascinating and disturbing phenomenon, which is profoundly informative about issues of identity, and even the construction of the self. In a religious sense, it is instructive for just where we place our ultimate loyalty – of how we define ourselves. The theme also has… Read more

December 6, 2019

I have recently been writing about a truly odd text called the Gospel of Barnabas, which purports to be a secret gospel revealed to the early Christian figure of that name. The more I get into it, the more intriguing ideas and insights I find. Today I want to explore one truly weird story from the Old Testament. The story really does exist, it really is canonical, but it raises all sorts of difficult questions that really are not addressed… Read more

December 5, 2019

In December of 1620, the Mayflower Pilgrims began to die. Eighteenth-century Boston minister Thomas Prince informs: Dec 4 Dies Edward Thompson, Servant of Mr White the first that Dies since their arrival. Dec 6 Dies Jasper, a Boy of Mr. Carver’s: Dec 7. Dorothy, Wife to Mr. William Bradford: Dec. 8 James Chilton.[1] Jasper More was a bastard child, who along with his three siblings was taken in by Pilgrim families. James Chilton was most likely the oldest Mayflower passenger…. Read more

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