February 15, 2019

Alan Cross has to assert several times that in arguing for Christian involvement in politics, he is not advocating theocracy. But the question is how, once you uphold the Bible as a standard for even some parts of social life, you stop from applying biblical morality to everything? Is it possible to have only some of the Bible, to cut out the pieces we don’t like, the way Thomas Jefferson did? Cross, to be clear, was arguing against Jerry Falwell,… Read more

February 12, 2019

We might not have apotheosized the POTUS. We might have regarded them as real life human being full of flaws and not always serving the interests of the country. We might have even looked at Lincoln the way H. L. Mencken did: Some time ago a publisher told me that there are four kinds of books that seldom, if ever, lose money in the United States—first, murder stories; secondly, novels in which the heroine is forcibly overcome by the hero;… Read more

February 6, 2019

One of the best books never read was Garry Wills’ Politics and Catholic Freedom. This was a 1964 book, written during the Second Vatican Council, that tried to put papal encyclicals in historical perspective. How binding were they? How many were there? What status did they have in the church’s teaching authority? These questions in some ways became obsolete once the bishops in Rome decided to update the church and gave the green light to the main assumptions of modern… Read more

January 30, 2019

Some evangelical (ambivalently so) historians, like David Swartz, admire politicians like Jimmy Carter and Mark Hatfield for being evangelical and avoiding being conservative (as conservatism is understood or misunderstood). Most people know Carter, the man who made born-again politics famous even before Jerry Falwell. Hatfield, though, suffers the fate of most politicians in America who do not become POTUS. In his day, the 1960s and 1970s, he was a prominent U.S. Senator from Oregon who was also a liberal within… Read more

January 29, 2019

A stray book review in need of a home landed in my in-box. Evangelicals in the United States who are both awake and asleep might want to ponder its implications, not to mention the lessons that those who observe evangelicals (historians and journalists) could learn: Lydia Bean, The politics of evangelical identity: Local churches and partisan divides in the United States and Canada (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2014), xviii+316 pp. One of the most striking statistics coming out of the last… Read more

January 25, 2019

I would have thought that the recent scandals among Rome’s bishops would diminish some of the communion’s appeal. To make matters worse, Charlotte Allen, observed how quickly Rome’s clergy abandoned the Covington, Kentucky high school students who lit Twitter for almost a week: The long-term takeaway from the sorry incident isn’t the complicity of the mainstream media in broadcasting a lie after failing in their basic journalistic duty to do some reporting (we all know the media are primed to… Read more

January 21, 2019

Over the weekend one of the prominent New York neo-conservative intellectuals, the sociologist, Nathan Glazer died. He was 95. He was a mensch. He is also one of the most likable subjects in the fascinating documentary about the neo-cons, Arguing the World, a film that features Glazer, Irving Kristol, Daniel Howe, and Daniel Bell. One of his famous essays, “The Limits of Social Policy,” came out almost 50 years ago. It still captures some of the basic dynamics of our… Read more

January 16, 2019

I, just like John Fea, thought the Bruce Springsteen Broadway show was terrific, and I am not all that big a Boss fan. John saw the show in person. Hillsdale doesn’t pay as well as Messiah so I had to wait for it on Netflix. But it was a highlight of between-semester viewing. It showed what a great lyricist Springsteen is. I wonder if the E Street Band went for too big a sound, one that competed with the song’s… Read more

January 11, 2019

How’s that for click-bait? But if you thought today’s universities was filled either with secularist lefties or party-going sporting-event spectators, you haven’t been reading. First, from the authors of a new book about religion on campuses: Public and nonsectarian private universities are some of the most religiously diverse places in America. Since the ’60s, they have witnessed an increase in the sheer variety of religious activity, reflecting the rise of campus evangelicalism, the revitalization of Jewish student life, a surge… Read more

January 10, 2019

By now the debate about evangelicalism has petered out. (For background, see these posts.) But something remains to be said, at least from that quarter of the Protestant world where church membership matters more than a burning in your bosom. That something has to do with church membership, the ministry of pastors (and other officers), and the standards that set one denomination apart from another. John Fea concluded that all the historical evidence and the seasoned judgments of other historians… Read more

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