February 25, 2021

I appreciate Jeff Polet’s point about the problems of talking about an American Founding: A political “founding” is artisanship, and the artists are typically tyrants, for violence is the means of such fashioning. Many of history’s great “founders” have the reputation of being tyrants. One of the central problems for political thinking, therefore, is whether a just regime can ever result from unjust origins—namely, the application of violence in accordance with the vision of one person. This problem forms a… Read more

February 4, 2021

Many have faulted former President Trump’s 1776 Commission for not being historical and not even including any historians among its ranks. This misses the forest for the trees. Whatever someone thinks of the Commission’s report and the way it uses the Founding to understand American history, the way historical scientists and historical amateurs tell the narrative of American history matters to creating a shared identity and sense of meaning for people living in the U.S. If you locate the origins… Read more

January 15, 2021

During the era of Trump, lots of evangelical thought leaders have indicated they are not like the born-again Protestants who voted for the president or even like those pastors and religious leaders who comprise Trump’s circle of spiritual advisors. Since the protests and riots in Washington, D.C. last week, many of those same thought leaders are telling anyone who will listen that they are not like those Trump supporters on the mall. For added measure, the good, sensible evangelicals are… Read more

January 13, 2021

Presbyterians and Puritans used to matter. Today, they rarely make the news. Baptists and Mormons are more numerous and more important than those older British Protestants. What follows is an excerpt of a review of David D. Hall’s, The Puritans, a terrific book that should not any modern day Presbyterian or Puritan (think Congregationalist) pine for days of significance: Historians of the Reformation in the English-speaking world struggle to juggle Puritanism and Presbyterianism in the development of British and American… Read more

December 23, 2020

Remember how bad the environment was? The leaders of the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Audubon /Society, Izaak Walton League, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and other environmental organizations likewise understood that their memberships would swell in the face of dramatic bad news. To broadcast reassuring, upbeat stories of environmental progress — of which there could have been plenty after 1970 — would have been to diminish the sense of crisis on which they thrived They had an incentive to encourage… Read more

December 11, 2020

H. L. Mencken thought that English Protestants used a different vocabulary from their fellow communicants in the United States (from The American Language): the English have an ecclesiastical vocabulary with which we are almost unacquainted, and it is in daily use, for the church bulks large in public affairs over there. Such terms as vicar, canon, verger, prebendary, primate, curate, nonconformist, dissenter, convocation, minster, chapter, crypt, living, presentation, glebe, benefice, locum tenens, suffragan, almoner, dean and pluralist are to be… Read more

December 4, 2020

David French doesn’t want you to confuse him with evangelical Protestants who do not receive positive coverage in the media. That likely explains why he can be critical of John MacArthur and defend Anthony Raphael Warnock. Back in October of 2019 French showed off his bona fides with readers of The Dispatch by taking Beth Moore’s side over John MacArthur. For those who don’t have seven minutes to spare, it features Christian pastor and teacher John MacArthur playing a form… Read more

November 24, 2020

Massimo Faggioli makes it seem that Joe Biden will bring a new or better set of conditions for Pope Francis’ relationship to American Catholics. On the one hand, Biden brings stability and restores diplomatic channels in contrast to the frosty relationship between Francis and the Trump administration: Trump’s victory in November stunned the Vatican, but it didn’t flinch. Rather, it adhered to old diplomatic adages: “Never close a door” and “make yourself predictable.” Of course, this was not to be… Read more

November 20, 2020

I did not know it was acceptable to otherize another group but John Fea does so by bringing up a recent sociological study of white and black evangelicals. (“Stigmatize” once worked verbally before “otherize” became a way to stigmatize “stigmatize.”) Once upon a time, some historians, like R. Laurence Moore, saw the value of outsiders resisting the dominant culture in America. Such resistance was not deviant or sectarian but basic to being American. (Think, in contrast, to the way many… Read more

October 28, 2020

By now everyone knows about virtue signaling, the way to show you are good, decent, righteous, and just by having the good, decent, righteous, and just take on any given news story. A recent example is the hue and cry over Justin Turner testing positive during the last game of the World Series only to return to the field to participate in the celebrations. To condemn Turner’s selfishness is to show that you are properly and morally worried about the… Read more

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