New Books Alert: 2015 Year in Preview, Part One (January-April)

Paul Putz

As we come to the end of another great year for new books in American religious history, it's only appropriate that we pause and reflect. But I've already (kinda) done that over at the ASCH blog. So instead, let's forget for a moment that there are likely scores of books sitting unread on your reading list: it's time for another book preview post. Below I've compiled a list of about 50 new books within the field of American religious history that are set to be released in the first four months of 2015 (I plan on posting two more lists this year, one to cover May-August books, and one for September-December).  Heath Carter has already pointed out that it looks like 2015 will be a banner year for the study of Christianity and capitalism in the United States. As you'll see from browsing the list below, there is plenty of other interesting work waiting to be read as well.

A couple quick points to make before we get to the list. First, I've listed the books in roughly chronological order based on the month of their release date. Second, although I've tried to include as many relevant and interesting titles as I could find, I'm sure that I inadvertently left out some deserving books. Please use the comments to add to this list as needed. Third, those who read through my book lists last year will notice that this post does not include pics of the book covers. I just couldn't justify the time that it took to collect/import/format book cover images for all of these books. But I would like to add a little bit of color to this post, so here are the five books that I am probably most interested in reading (I'd include Kristin Kobes DuMez's book on Katharine Bushnell as well, but alas, I could not find an image of the book cover):

Religious Press and Print Culture: Materiality, Community, and Cultural Work

Elesha Coffman

Last month, I previewed the Religious Press and Print Culture conference at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. Here's a recap of that small but wide-ranging conference, highlighting topics that arose repeatedly in papers on subjects as diverse as fraktur, postbellum African American religious magazines, Moravian missionary networks, and Hinduism Today.

Note the array of waters and (eye)glasses.
1. Materiality matters. The German scholars at the meeting were especially attuned to ways the look and feel of texts affected their reception. Conference organizer Prof. Dr. Oliver Scheiding explained how the use of fraktur instead of Roman type reinforced a sense of community among Germans in early America. Andreas Pietsch found evidence of this phenomenon in a list of books for sale in 1772, on which some titles were listed in fraktur and some were in Roman type, depending on the content and intended audience. Gisela Mettele pointed out that even after print technologies became available, Moravians circulated some reports of their missionary work as handwritten copies. The information in these accounts was for insiders only, and the process of copying and hand-distributing the texts strengthened communal bonds across long distances. Conference participants (myself included) expressed fears that the material aspects of texts would be harder for scholars to appreciate in the dawning age of digital archives.

Interview with Allan Austin 20th Century Quaker Interracial Activism

Karen Johnson

I'm honored to post the first half of an interview with Allan Austin about his book Quaker Brotherhood:Interracial Activism and the American Friends Service Committee, 1917-1950.  In his book, Austin traces Quakers' efforts to pursue what they called "the friendly principle of brotherhood," moving our knowledge of the Quakers' work for racial justice into the twentieth century and demonstrating the fascinating ways that race and religion intersected in the long civil rights movement. If this interview intrigues you, you can check out my post from last month in which I compare and contrast Quaker and Catholic interracial activists.

KJ: What were supporters of the AFSC pursuing?Did their goal change over time?

AA: From the start, Quakers in the AFSC wanted to pursue what one activist identified (in 1925) as “the friendly principle of brotherhood,” and this ideal remained a fairly constant, if vaguely defined, goal as the Service Committee sought out ways to engage interracial reform in the United States. But, in part because the principle was fairly amorphous, AFSC programming tended to move in different directions in fits and starts, especially in the first years.

Early activists rushed ahead with programs grounded in a powerful, if simple, idea: interracial interactions would help people of different racial groups better understand each other and, in the process, rehabilitate racist whites. This kind of thinking resulted in the sponsorship of visiting Japanese college students, who could serve as ambassadors or bridges between American and Japanese citizens, as well as efforts to introduce whites to African Americans (via tours of African American life in Philadelphia or the hiring of an African American speaker to hit the road and meet whites).When these projects lost steam after a few years, the Service Committee boldly struck out in another direction, creating the American Interracial Peace Committee, which ambitiously attempted to conquer racism and war simultaneously.

Religious Historians take on the "Specter of Capitalism"

Heath Carter

Back in 2013 the New York Times declared that "the specter of capitalism"was haunting history departments (you can find my brief response here).  Religious historians are not quite ready to lay this ghost to rest, or so the roster of books forthcoming in 2015 would lead one to believe.  It is shaping up to be another banner year for studies of the tangled relationship of Christianity and capitalism in the modern United States.  Below the fold I've listed some of these books, but please feel free to add more in the comments.

To Be A Mensch: A Tribute to Sacvan Bercovitch (1933-2014)

Laura Arnold Leibman

This past summer during our digital writing group, the topic of the academic mensch arose.  We all knew plenty of people in our field(s) who are brilliant, but so many fewer who are brilliant and kind and generous.  On the sad side, everyone could recount apocryphal stories of academic egos and insecurities and the unintentional trauma their owners induced.  (At the simply amusing end, one of my friends recalled privately how one famous academic had said at a social gathering, "Well, enough about me.  What did you think of my latest book?")  Yet when pressed, each of us could also recall much more fondly the few academic leaders who took an honest interest in people just starting their careers and helped nurture and support those people--even when they weren't their own students and they had "nothing to gain from it."  We cherished those people, even if they seemed all too few and far between.  From early on we had been taught to value brilliance; yet compassion was often overlooked. We noted sadly when people gave bios of "famous academics," whether they were actually a decent person rarely got mentioned. In response, we decided to create an "academic mensch" list to honor the people we saw as true role models: people who shaped their field and made others feel happy to be part of academic life.  At the top of my person "mensch list" was Sacvan Bercovitch, who passed away last week.

Although many people knew him better than I did, I met Saki seemingly by accident when I was a graduate student at UCLA in the mid 1990s.  One of my first academic presentations was a review of the Cambridge History of American Literature, for which Bercovitch was the general editor.  As a fledgling early Americanist, I spoke on the strengths and weaknesses of the first volume and how it was helped to reassess and reshape our field.  Fortunately I had no clue that Bercovitch was going to be in the audience, though he was so utterly gracious afterwards it turns out I wouldn't have had to have worried.  I have since lost the file containing what I said, but it is hard to imagine what I said was earth shattering.  Despite this Bercovitch was warm, asked for a copy of what I had said, and followed up with me later.  He simply cared.  Several years later, when I put together the academic advisory board for American Passages, I decided to aim high, and boldly asked Bercovitch to join us.  He was an obvious choice, both because he was a crucial voice in early American literature, and because the series--like the Cambridge History of American Literature--sought to rethink how we narrate American literature.  Although he had no good reason to remember me, he said he did, and was enthusiastic about the television series. I was continually grateful I had asked him. Throughout the years spent on the project, he was utterly gracious about his time and how he approached the production staff.  Although at least as busy (if not more) than anyone else involved in the project, he gave detailed feedback on each of the various scripts and rough cuts.  Moreover the feedback was consistently productive: it was meant to help us create a better series--rather than show us the error of our ways.  When the board met in person, one would have never known Saki was "important":  he did not throw around his weight or talk over people.  He listened and responded.  I found him to be equally generous in other venues.  When he came to give a talk at Reed College where I work and which he attended freshmen year before joining a kibbutz, he foregrounded the positive in his first year and was clearly excited to revisit his old haunt.  He was utterly charming and unassuming.  He was a mensch.

Although others have spoken at length about Saki's magnificent academic accomplishments and the extremely important way he shaped the field of American literature and American religious history, I wanted to make a special tribute to the ways that he influenced our field as a human being.  Although mensch is sometime translated as "man," it comes from the yiddish for "human being" and means a person of integrity and honor--a mensch is the kind of person we would all like to be on our best days.  While an unmensch is unfriendly, the mensch is friendly even to those to whom there is no clear benefit in being so.  The common mistranslation of mensch as "man" is unhelpful.  Since the term is not gender-specific, women as well as men can be mensches, a point well made by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, "Mensch: A Feminist Response Where There Might Not Need to Be One" in The Jewish Journal.  Women made my mensch list as well (the full list of which I happy to share). Moreover equation of kindness and integrity with "humanness" powerfully suggests something important about what it means to be truly human.

As a tribute to Sacvan Bercovitch as a scholar and human being, I would love it if people would honor his memory by listing other scholars or people who have made our field(s) something exceptional both by the work they produce and the way they encourage and interact with others.  Feel free to share personal stories of kindness.

(May his memory be a blessing) זיכרונו לברכה

The McNeil Center for Early American Studies: CFPs and Fellowships

Sonia Hazard

The McNeil Center is a community of researchers engaged in the study of the histories and cultures (and religions!) of North America in the larger Atlantic world, before 1850. Based at the University of Pennsylvania, the Center sponsors the journal Early American Studies, as well as a number of conferences, dissertation fellowships, seminars, and other events. It's a great place to be an early Americanist.

Various colleagues at the McNeil Center are hosting several upcoming conferences which will interest scholars of early American religion. The first, "Situation Critical!: Critique, Theory, and Early American Studies," is aimed at bringing theoretical and critical provocations to bear on a field which typically prides itself on its empiricism. It's guaranteed to be a fascinating conversation. Religious studies scholars are specifically invited to apply. Abstracts are due by March 1, 2015, and the conference will take place in spring 2016. To download the CFP, click here.

Movers and shakers will want to apply to the graduate student conference, "Bustle and Stir: Movement and Exchange in Early America." The organizers invite graduate students from all disciplines and stages in their programs to discuss themes of dynamism, movement, and encounter in early American social and economic life. This high-velocity conference will be held October 8-10, 2015, and the deadline for abstracts is March 2, 2015. Shortly the CFP and more information will appear on the McNeil Center's conference page.

Finally, the McNeil Center sponsors a vibrant dissertation fellowship program, including one named fellowship designed specifically to support projects in early American religious studies. Fellows stay in residence in Philadelphia for nine months, and participate in the intellectual life of the Center. The deadline is February 2, 2015.

For more you can check out the McNeil Center's website or follow it on facebook.

Christmas Shopping and the Problem of Cheap Textiles

Janine Giordano Drake

I am struck these days by the candidate social problems that have been adopted by large numbers of American Christians as causes for concern, and those which are more often forgotten about. I am glad to see that American clergy are talking openly about race at Christian Century. On the topic of Ferguson, Dr. Leslie Callahan, pastor of St. Paul's Baptist Church in Philadelphia, comments in a terrific interview with Ed Blum,

"If pastors have not developed their own theological imagination and stimulated their own hope for a transformed world and if that imagination and hope are not present as a part of their normal homiletical conversation, their discussion in times of crisis will be shallow and their witness will appear inauthentic to their congregations."

A hundred years ago, this kind of comment might be categorized as typical of the modern, Progressive, Protestant tradition which defended the (Protestant) Church in a moment of great urban distress. Sixty or seventy  or eighty years ago, evangelicals might have dismissed a comment like this as "liberal," and smelling suspiciously of commie ideas. Today, I'm heartened to see large numbers of evangelicals and liberals together wrestling through the realities of systemic racism and the particular ways in which their Christian faith requires a positive response, and awareness, of the problems of worldly injustice. I am struck by this article in Christianity Today, a major evangelical publication, on on How Evangelicals Can Respond to the Ferguson decision. I also liked this article on the question, "Are you my brother's keeper?" in Religion Dispatches. All over the internet and all over churches in the US, I've seen religious communities uniting around the idea that Christ called people to use their lives on earth to become aware of, and redeem, systemic injustice.

Book Review: Kyle T. Bulthuis, Four Steeples over the City Street: Religion and Society in New York's Early Republic Congregations

Christopher Jones

TWEAHIn her 2013 presidential address to the American Society of Church History, Laurie Maffly-Kipp urged society members to consider anew the organization's roots in church history. The historiographical trend to look beyond churches in our search of religion in the near and distant past, she cautioned, ran the risk of obscuring the historical reality of those we study. Far from a desire to return to the predominantly Protestant providentialist narratives of yesteryear, Maffly-Kipp's was a call instead to explore how and why churches mattered, and what role they played in the lives of their adherents. Among other things, she warned, "a failure to acknowledge the power of religious institutions may lead to incomplete historical understandings of the behavior of others, past and present, for whom religious agency was, or is, more integrally tied to the life of organized churches."[1]

I was reminded of Maffly-Kipp's address as I recently read Kyle Bulthuis's Four Steeples over the City Streets: Religion and Society in New York's Early Republic Congregations (New York University Press, 2014). Bulthuis's book, though not written in response to Maffly-Kipp's 2013 address, nevertheless speaks to many of the points she made.[2] Four Steeples is, quite self-consciously, a church history (or church histories), taking as its subject four Protestant congregations—Trinity Episcopal, John Street Methodist, St. Philip's (Black) Episcopal, and Mother Zion (African) Methodist—located just blocks apart in the heart of lower Manhattan, tracing their histories from the late eighteenth century through the first half of the nineteenth. As the author explains in the introduction, "this study draws together several genres of historical inquiry," including social history, religious history, and lived religion. "Church history," he continues, "provides a base and a foil for the work" (5). Four Steeples follows the model of traditional church histories by closely tracing their stories over a period of time; it departs from them in challenging their assumptions and complementing their focus on clergy and theology by granting equal attention to the laity and considering race, class, and gender as lens through which to understand congregational life and the relationship between the churches and the society in which they developed. In doing so, Bulthuis provides one model of what Maffly-Kipp called for when she argued that "religious institutions ... provide a critical vantage on other sorts of loyalties and affiliations, as well as offering pleasures of their own."[3] "Congregants," explains Bulthuis, "paired their religious lives with identities borne of their living and working spaces." And even as those religious identities impacted the way they related to various other aspects of society, they gradually took a backseat to racial and economic concern. As a result, "the churches grew less relevant to the community as a whole" (12).

Oh Chrismukkah Tree, Oh Chrismukkah Tree! (Reprise)

Samira Mehta

Dear all, today is my one year anniversary on the blog. In honor of that event, I bring you a reprise of my first post as a regular blogger here at Religion in American History, on the oh so seasonal topic of Chrismukkah. Almost everything I note below is still true, though Thanksgivukkah will not happen again in our lifetimes, the blog post on Susan Katz Miller's Being Both has appeared on these pages, and (as I discovered on my way home from AAR), Skymall is back to selling the "Star of David Christmas Tree Topper,"though they have dropped the word Christmas and are now suggesting that it is "perfect for both interfaith and non-interfaith households."

Every year, on the plane from AAR to Thanksgiving, I flip through Skymall and I see an advertisement for the “Star of David Christmas Tree Topper,” with the following caption. “Celebrate the warmth and wonder of both Hanukkah and Christmas. Here's the perfect way for interfaith families to celebrate both holidays.” This year, I was not on a plane, but I gather, from the many colleagues I asked to track down the image, neither was the ornament. Perhaps it was missing because this summer Buzzfeed referred to the item as “one of the 30 most insane things for sale in the Skymall Magazine.” Maybe the Talking Smurf Toothbrushes edged it out. Perhaps someone in the Skymall marketing division realized that Thanksgivukkah (covered so well on this blog by Jodi Eichler-Levine) meant that this was not really the year for Chrismukkah ornaments. Regardless of why it was not in the magazine, the Star of David tree topper remains on the Skymall website, and it may not be quite as ridiculous as Buzzfeed would like to think.

The Skymall tree topper is part of a large cadre of trappings in the holiday arsenal of Christian–Jewish interfaith families. For all Chrismukkah will not happen this year, as a result of the calendric twist of fate that brought us Thanksgivukkah, the blended holiday has long been a symbol for the discomfort many feel with interfaith marriage. The idealized happy holiday season has long been seen as particularly fraught for couples coming to their marriages from different traditions. As the intermarriage rate rose through the 1970s and 80s, before coming to rest in the neighborhood of 50%, the question of the “December Dilemma” got featured in newspapers from the Cincinnati Enquirer to the New York Times.  In short, the December dilemma is the question of what the interfaith family is to do about the seasonal festivities that are American Christmas and American Hanukkah.  What, then, is the status of “Chrismukkah” in this world, and what does it mean more broadly for interfaith families and American religious culture?

Nancy Koester on Harriet Beecher Stowe

Jonathan Den Hartog

Earlier this fall I had expressed my hope to host several guests in my "American Religious History" course. I was delighted to set up a visit from Nancy Koester, the author of the recently-published Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life.

Nancy did a fabulous job, and I wanted to make sure she could share some of her insights with the RiAH audience. This interview is the result.

JDH:  For many years, I’ve had on my book-shelf Joan Hedrick’s biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe. What perspective did you seek to add with your biography? 

NK: Joan Hedrick’s 1994 Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life won a Pulitzer Prize.  Her book has been a rich resource for me, but yes, my perspective is different.  I wrote the book as a church historian who has also been a pastor.  And my publisher, Wm. B. Eerdmans Co., wanted a shorter biography of Stowe--it needed to be well researched and substantive, yet inviting to readers who might shy away from a big university press biography.  My book aims for an educated Christian readership and reaches both evangelicals and mainliners.  On the other hand, I was asked to speak to a group called “Dead Feminist’s Society: Salon for Uppity Women,” on Harriet Beecher Stowe and 19th century feminism.

JDH: How would you describe Harriet’s spiritual outlook? What are the major themes in her faith? And, do you think they changed over time?   

NK: Harriet’s spiritual outlook started with her father, Rev. Lyman Beecher, who spent his lifetime combining revival and reform to aim for a godly society.  When Stowe was in her early forties she burned with righteous indignation against slavery.  Her spiritual outlook can be described as conflict and vindication: conflict with evil (slavery) and the vindication (freedom) that must come.  When the powerful are brought low and the lowly are raised up, God is glorified.  This was her theological world, but it shifted when her son Henry died of accidental drowning in 1857.  As far as anyone knew, Henry died unconverted.   Stowe was taught by her father, that those who die unconverted are lost for all eternity.  And now Harriet suffered a double separation: the living from the dead, and the saved from the unsaved.   From that time forward, she struggled with separation even more than with injustice. She was drawn into spiritualism, because it claimed to bridge the gap between the living and the dead.  But spiritualism left her dissatisfied and questioning the integrity of the mediums who claimed to communicate with the Other World. In Christianity, she found strength to face death, and hope of resurrection.  She embraced the Communion of Saints which unites all Christians across space and time.  And she came to believe that one can become a Christian through baptism, nurture, conversion, or combination. 

JDH: I always feel like Calvin Stowe fades into the background when people talk about Harriet. What did you learn about Calvin, and how would you characterize their marriage?   

NK: Harriet eclipsed Calvin, that’s true.  Harriet became a world famous author, but Calvin’s influence was in academia.   A biblical scholar, Calvin taught at Bowdoin and Dartmouth colleges, and Lane and Andover Seminaries.  He had a disciplined intellect, but he also had a wild imagination.  As a child, he  thought he saw ghosts and later in life became a devotee of spiritualism.  Calvin could be moody and depressed.  Harriet told him to stop “cultivating indigo” and get some fresh air and exercise.  
         Their marriage started out in the usual way: Calvin was to be the breadwinner and Harriet the home maker.  But Harriet had always wanted to write.  When Lane Seminary (Calvin’s employer in Cincinnati) fell on hard times and could barely pay his salary, Harriet wrote magazine articles to help pay the bills.  By that time, they had small children.  So  Harriet had to buy time to write, by hiring help. Calvin thought this extravagant, and said Harriet could manage without help… if she could only get herself organized.  To his credit, however, Calvin came to see that Harriet could indeed make money with writing.  More important, she was happier.  Calvin became Harriet’s biggest fan:  “You must be a literary woman,” he urged, telling her to use her own name (not a pseudonym as many women writers did).  In time, Harriet and Calvin developed “a companionate marriage,” nineteenth century parlance for a partnership of equals.   They had would have seven children, six of whom lived to adulthood.   
          When Calvin retired from teaching, the family relied entirely Harriet’s income from writing.  This freed Calvin to finish his one and only book:  Origin and History of the Books of the New Testament, Both the Canonical and the Apocryphal, Designed to Show What the Bible Is Not, What It Is, and How to Use It.  (1867)  Calvin was such a perfectionist that,  without Harriet to push him, he might never have submitted his work for publication.   
          Harriet likewise depended on Calvin.  Though she was raised a Beecher and therefore steeped in Bible and theology, Calvin became her resident expert in Bible, theology, politics and ethics.  “My rabbi” was her term of endearment for Calvin, and with his white whiskers and black cap, he looked the part.  Harriet could transform Calvin’s ideas into vivid stories.  Calvin was a theorist, and Harriet a popularizer.  William B. Allen, in Rethinking Uncle Tom: The Political Philosophy of Harriet Beecher Stowe, identifies Calvin’s views at work in Harriet’s anti-slavery writings.  Take, for example, the idea that the system of slavery is inherently evil, so making personal attacks on slaveholders is not helpful.  Or that a true American patriot—and for that matter a true Christian--will not defend slavery, but seek to abolish it because the system of slavery is bad for everyone.                

JDH: How was Harriet always Lyman Beecher’s daughter? What do you think she carried forward from her father’s Congregational outlook? 

NK: Harriet always loved and respected her father.  By middle age, however, she was pulling away from some of Lyman Beecher’s views (like eternal punishment for the unsaved, or conversion as necessary for salvation).  When Lyman Beecher died in 1863, Harriet was free to join the Episcopal Church.  Her new spiritual home emphasized liturgy rather than doctrine, and the broad Communion of Saints rather than individual conversion.             
         Lyman Beecher saw conversion as necessary for salvation, and conversion was a very particular set of experiences that followed a revival template.   Harriet broadened her views of how people become Christians, yet she never rejected conversion and revivals.  As an old woman writing to her son Charles (a Congregational minister) she made favorable mention of Moody’s revivals, and seemed especially pleased that Moody drew people together across denominational lines.  In her last New England novel (Poganuc People, 1878) Stowe paid loving tribute to her father and the New England of her youth.  And when in old age an enfeebled Harriet could write only a few words, she would copy over and over her father’s motto:  “Trust in the Lord and Do Good.” 

The Ferguson Protests and the Limits of Liberal Multiculturalism

Today's guest post comes from Mark Hulsether, Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Interdisciplinary Program in American Studies Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Mark offers a timely piece that can serve as a model for incorporating current events into classroom.

Mark Hulsether

No doubt most readers are aware of the national call for academic walkouts in support of the Ferguson protests, which largely happened on Monday, December 1. Moreover, as I write tonight, news about the Eric Garner “I Can’t Breathe” protests is breaking, and this seems likely to create pressure for additional action. 

As it happened at my school, the Ferguson walkout was announced to begin during the exact half-hour when I had scheduled an in-class part of a final exam in my survey course on Religion and Society in North America. Also, I had more students in this class who self-identified as having white cops in their families than who identify as African American. Cancelling for a dramatic walkout did not seem to be a promising option, although I did move my exam to a different half hour so that people could leave if they wished.

Mainly I decided to create a “Ferguson option” for the synthetic essay that is the second, take-home, part of my final exam.  My purpose here is to share it in case it might prove useful for others on this blog.  

Since my version of this course is structured by my book, Religion, Culture, and Society in the Twentieth Century United States, the final essay builds on the key terms of my conclusion: it asks students to compare and contrast consensus, pluralist, and counterhegemonic frameworks for thinking about US religion.  However, I suppose that many of our courses have enough overlap in key terms—and that the current moment is urgent enough—that some of these ideas might be a productive starting point for others to build upon.

So, with no further ado, here is the assignment, stripped of logistical matters relevant only for my students.
Take-home Analytical Essay for Final Exam, Religious Studies 233
OPTION B:  The Ferguson Response Option

Goals and framing comments

This alternative option for the RS 233 take-home essay brings the ongoing Ferguson protests (and specifically the call for an academic walkout during our last day of class) into dialogue with our goal of working toward synthesis and closure in this class.  

    Specific rubric for the assignment

Please read the focus sections that are copied below from Hulsether’s Religion Culture and Politics in the Twentieth Century US, and review the book’s surrounding arguments until you clearly understand the selections in context.  If you need background on issues related to Ferguson, I recommend a list compiled by The Atlantic;  Robin D.G. Kelley, “Why We Won’t Wait”;  Tim Wise, “Black Reality and White Denial in America”; and George Lipsitz’s “The Possessive Investment in Whiteness” (American Quarterly 47, no. 3).

Begin by positing that the Ferguson protestors (if presented in their best light as they should be) perceive this moment in similar terms that Hulsether calls an “emergency” in the passage bolded below.  

Respond in three or four pages using these parameters:  (1) describe in your own words how one source from our readings would agree with the perception of an “emergency” and respond to it using specific counterhegemonic religious arguments.  (2) Compare and contrast such an argument to at least one source from our syllabus that would disagree from a consensus and/or multicultural pluralist perspective, using religious arguments.  (3) Introduce at least more source from our syllabus that supports either side.  You must present these positions accurately in their strongest light before moving to criticism—but please (4) offer an assessment of which of the analytical frames (consensus vs. pluralist vs. counterhegemonic) and examples you selected are most persuasive and useful for this case. 

Demonization and Racialization in British North America: Slave Revolts, Devilish Priests, and Infernal Landscapes

Today's guest post comes from Jeffrey Wheatley, a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University. His research explores religious contestation, racialization, the state, and capitalism with a focus on nineteenth-century North America. You can find him on Twitter or message him at jwheatley[at]u.northwestern[dot]edu. Note that an earlier version of this post appeared on the American Society of Church History blog.

Jeffrey Wheatley

Horsmanden's Journal
 (Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History)
The two things that British North Americans feared most in the colonial era were slave revolts and the Catholic Church. Within the colonial imaginary these two threats occasionally coalesced into one. The result was an infernal spectacle that forced colonial anxieties about the basic structures of colonial society to the surface. The soundness of the institution of slavery, emerging conceptions of the public, and the British Protestant beachhead in the overwhelmingly Catholic Americas all came into question.

The colonies were undergoing just such a crisis in the late 1730s and early 1740s. In 1739, a group of slaves in South Carolina rebelled and fled to Florida, where they were promised freedom by the Spanish. Along the way they burned down a number of houses owned by those who were especially cruel. In 1741, colonial officials believed a series of fires in New York City to be a sign of a potentially large-scale slave revolt orchestrated by Catholic priests. In both the Stono Rebellion and the New York Conspiracy, commentators worried that these revolts were but the first step of a larger invasion from Catholic Spain or France. Jill Lepore’s New York Burning (2005) has engaged the difficulties of figuring out what occurred on the ground in New York, but for this rather long post I want to focus on the colonial imaginary, and especially how the language of demons and hell functioned to protect and legitimate the interests of white colonial America.

"Torture as a Factor of Production": Cotton and Capital

Andrew McKee

In the past two semesters I have had the opportunity to take part in two very different courses on capitalism. One course was housed in the always-classy Dodd Hall with Matthew Day, and the other, in the history department at FSU with Alexander Aviña. While differing in book lists (the only overlap was Specters of the Atlantic), and in methodological approach, both courses have prompted me to pay close attention to globalization, economic interests, nation-state creation, and, occasionally, religious studies. In my own research, the weaving together of these historical and historiographic details has been especially productive when thinking about how the influence of capitalist markets loomed large in considerations of empire making and Indian removal in the antebellum America. While these works do not explicitly focus on things “religious,” in my post for today, I want to discuss this focus by referencing three new, and, I think, helpful books on slavery and the ‘Cotton Empire” for teaching and researching (previously discussed at the blog here) at all these different interlocking intersections.

First off, Walter Johnson’s River of Dark Dreams, which encompasses an enormous history of the Mississippi Valley in the first half of the nineteenth century and argues that the systematic creation of a cotton frontier tied to global economy flows created an economic environment that was explosive, lively, and speculative. Johnson’s narrative critiques a vision of the Jeffersonian Republican ideal of the ‘yeoman’ farmer in highlighting the processes in which this vision itself was rooted in speculation, credit, and debt. The south, of which the Mississippi Valley played a defining role, gives Johnson’s narrative a clear focus on the processes by which slave labor and the mono cropping of cotton could and did take hold. Instead of questioning what ‘the South’ was, then, Johnson instead claims to ask, “where southerner’s thought they were going and how they thought they could pull it off in the first place” (16). 

Sutton's Apocalypse

Paul Harvey

Cover: American Apocalypse in HARDCOVERAnother brief intermission break to point you to an excellent interview about an outstanding new book: Daniel Silliman's interview with Matthew Sutton, over at Religion Dispatches, about his brand new book, just now coming out with Harvard University Press, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism. Check it out. It's worth it for the book cover alone. There will be more extensive discussion of the work here in the future, but just as a preview, a brief excerpt from the interview:

My argument in a nutshell is that the apocalyptic theology that developed in the 1880s and 1890s led radical evangelicals to the conclusion that all nations are going to concede their power in the End Times to a totalitarian political leader who is going to be the Antichrist. If you believe you’re living in the last days and you believe you’re moving towards that event, you’re going to be very suspicious and skeptical of anything that seems to undermine individual rights and individual liberties, and anything that is going to give more power to the state.

Check out the interview, and just read the book. 

Mississippi Praying Wins Brewer Prize

Paul Harvey

Just a brief break from our usual action here for a happy announcement.

Back in February, I posted this interview with Carolyn Dupont of Eastern Kentucky University, a friend of the blog and author of the outstanding recent book Mississippi Praying; Southern Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement. I have just learned that Carolyn's book has been named the recipient of the Frank S. and Elizabeth D. Brewer Prize from the American Society of Church History! That award is given out for the best first book in the field of church history in any given year. Congratulations to Carolyn for this award. As someone who had the privilege of reading and commenting on this work in manuscript, and subsequently becoming friends with Carolyn, it's a delight to see her work honored. For those of you going to the 2015 ASCH/AHA meeting in New York City, Carolyn will formally receive the award there. If you didn't get a chance to check out the interview (and the book) before, click above and do so.

On Why You Should Change Your Gluttonous Holiday Ways; Or, Three Things You Should Know About Muscular Christian History, and Don’t

Today's guest post comes from Miles Adam Park, a PhD Candidate at Florida State University. With today's post, Adam continues to contribute material related to muscular Christianity, health and wellness, and gender to RiAH readers.

Miles Adam Park

First thing: Progressive era muscular Christians were multiculturalists.

“Japanese things are in fashion nowadays,” claimed one 1904 periodical. But “where does Japan get her muscle and pluck?” The Japanese are “an intelligent, wholesome people; strong, clean and moral.” Indeed, Americans would be served best “to take a few lessons from them, especially in the thoroughness with which they carry out anything they undertake”; and “this feature of thoroughness is strikingly manifested in their system of physical training [i.e. jiu-jitsu].” With the prevalence of hysteria, dyspepsia, feebleminded overbreeding, excessive whiskey consumption, tobacco poison, spermatorrea, and urban squalor in America, poor American health was in need of alleviation. Muscular Christians needed an exemplary—in martial arts as well as in life—and it was not themselves. With regard to physical culture, in Progressive era America, Japan led the way.

Touted because “a comparatively weak man, if he is thoroughly versed in its mysteries, can easily overcome and kill, if he please, an opponent greatly his superior in strength,” jiu-jitsu was seen as the pinnacle of skillful display, of brains over brawn. Theodore Roosevelt, who trained in different styles of wrestling, boxing, and savate (i.e. a French style of kickboxing), was probably the most vocal and high profile proponent and practitioner of Japanese martial arts; and he was not alone. Muscular Christian health reformers took on the Japanese cause.

“Although men of very small stature,” a 1904 Christian Advocate article exclaimed, the Japanese “are among the strongest in the world.” Fortunately, about a half an hour is “a long enough time to devote to jiu-jitsu,” and, “any boy of fourteen or fifteen who will faithfully practice their system of producing strength will find himself, at the end of a few months, able to cope in the feats of power with the average man of twenty-five, and all this without the dangerous practice of lifting very heavy weights.” Americans could be (and should be more) like the Japanese. The overall point of the article was that the Japanese simply breathe healthier; they have learned to take air better than Americans. An article from the Christian Observer that same year echoed this critique of American health culture, saying that “the Japanese have taught Europeans and Americans a lesson and quenched in some degree the conceit of Caucasian in his superior capacity to do all things.” It went on: “The Japanese are allowed to be among the very strongest people on the earth. They are strong mentally and physically.” And it is their diet “which enables them to develop such hardy frames and such well-balanced and keen brains.” The Japanese ate better. Even their women were better. Japanese women were more physically and mentally robust, less susceptible to hysteria and overwhelming nervousness than their Western counterparts. Not to be confused with the American woman who is easily shaken with a tendency to “rage inwardly at first,” a 1905 article in The Ladies’ Home Journal touted “the wonderful self-control of Japanese women”; it went on: a Japanese woman “is gentle and quiet, takes adversity without grumbling, makes the best of things, and has no nerves.” Better physical strength, better food, better air, better female psyches—all thanks to Japanese physical culture and jiu-jitsu. For further refinement of their gospel of health and fitness, Progressive era muscular Christians looked eastward.

Second and third things:

On my 20th Anniversary at the American Academy of Religion


Arlene Sanchez Walsh

Warren Felt Evans
Twenty years ago I presented my first conference paper at the American Academy of Religion held in Chicago. I presented a fairly good paper on 19th century religious eccentric Warren Felt Evans and his Swedenborgian influences. I love religious eccentrics. I remember walking through some very crowded and stuffy hallways to get to the room where I was supposed to present, my lucky egg nog latte in hand. I also remember that I knew almost nothing about the American Academy of Religion (AAR) or the group that I was about to meet for the first time, a special session on Swedenborg comprised mostly of devotees. I wasn’t nervous so much as wanting to get it over with since it was miserably hot in that hallway.

The point of the story is not to laud my accomplishments at presenting at the AAR while I was a first-year graduate student. Though trumpeting one’s accomplishments is certainly not unknown in this business. The point of the story is that this was the first and last time I presented on 19th century “ American” religion.  My mentor, the director of my dissertation, and for the last 20 years, my oracle/friend, thought my presentation was great. She was very happy that it was accepted, but she also told me that it would probably be the last time it would ever happen.  Why?  Because as a Latina, any hopes I had a breaking into the field of American religious history would have to include talking about, reading about, and eventually writing about my people. My mentor told me the chances of getting a job in American history, religious or otherwise were next to nil unless I wrote about some aspect of Latino/a religious life.  So, with that bit of reality sinking in, I put my 19th-century religion files away.  All my xeroxed copies of Evan’s books, pages and pages of his musings on Swedenborg, Hinduism, Buddhism and hashish, the dude was fun!  All locked away in my file boxes. I would be able to re-visit Evans if and when I received tenure at a respectable institution and then and only then would I be able to pursue what the academy viewed as a “personal” piece. The “one and done” article or monograph on Evans that would only be acceptable once my other work on Latino/a religion established my street cred as a legitimate scholar. My fascination with Evans was a hobby. The academy, my mentor, assured me, would view any product on him coming from me as a hobby, an oddity that detracted from my otherwise strong and rigorous “research agenda.”

Missions, Media, and Global Capitalism: A Review of "The Tailenders" (2005) by Adele Horne

Lauren F. Turek

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Recently, as part of its 2014-15 Religion and Politics Film Series, the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis held a film screening and discussion of The Tailenders (2005) with filmmaker Adele Horne. The documentary follows missionaries from the Global Recordings Network (GRN), an organization founded in Los Angeles in 1939, as they travel to the Solomon Islands, Mexico, and India to produce gospel messages in as-yet-unrecorded languages. According to their website, the GRN has recorded Bible stories in over 6,000 languages. They estimate that there are over 8,000 languages or dialects spoken in the word, more than half of which exist in just eight countries. The Solomon Islands, Mexico, and India are home to 769 different languages. In an effort to spread the gospel to all people in their native languages, GRN travels to remote areas or to migrant worker communities to record Bible messages in these “tailender” languages—some of the last, they claim, to be reached by missionaries and recorded.

Mapping the Western Sephardic Diaspora in the Caribbean

Laura Arnold Leibman

Deep in the Surinamese jungle lies the ruins of what was once the prospering plantation town of Jodensavanne--Jew's Savanne.  Just past the bricks that made up Beracha ve Shalom ("Blessings and Peace") synagogue, are two early cemeteries--one Jewish (below), one African.  Deeper into the forest lies a third cemetery, the Cassipora Jewish cemetery.  All three cemeteries harken back to the sepulchral traditions of ancestral homelands even as they adapted to changes in what it meant to be Jewish. As such they are a good example of both religious continuity and change within American religion.
View of Jewish Cemetery, Photo by L. Leibman 2008
Sephardic Pyramid Stones in 
the Jewish cemetery near Cassipora Creek, Suriname
Historic photo ca. 1860 from the
Jodensavanne Foundation Archives
Whereas the Creole cemetery employs what some have argued are African symbols (below), the Jewish cemetery of nearby Cassipora Creek (right) features pyramid-shaped tombstones that echo those found in the Sephardic cemeteries of London, Amsterdam, Hamburg, as well as medieval Spain.  Indeed though they are separated by a jungle and ocean from their European analogues, Jodensavanne and Cassipora's Jewish cemeteries share many of their key features with Europe's Western Sephardic cemeteries.  Both Cassipora and Jodensavanne's Jewish cemeteries for example feature the striking symbol of the Hand of God, cutting down the tree of life. This symbol can also be found not only in the Western Sephardic cemeteries of London, Amsterdam, and Hamburg, but also in those in Paramaribo, Jamaica, Barbados, and Curaçao.

“Getting” Religion and Saving Sex: Conversations at the Crossing of Evangelical Studies and the History of Sexuality


This is the final essay in our three-day series on Amy Derogatis's new book, Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism.  Heather R. White is a Research Scholar and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the New College of Florida, where she teaches courses in religious studies and gender studies. She was also, most recently, a Coolidge Fellow at Auburn Theological Seminary and a Burke Scholar in Residence at the theological library of Columbia University. Her first book, Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights, is forthcoming from the University of North Carolina Press (her work is featured in a recent must-read article at the Huffington Post).  The review essay Heather mentions below can be found at Notches.

Heather R. White

As the third and final contributor to the discussion about Amy DeRogatis’ Saving Sex, I’d like to situate the book within a simultaneous conversation taking place in the history of sexuality. The publication of Saving Sex coincides with state-of-the-field reflections by historians of sexuality occasioned, most recently, by remarks made by John D’Emilio, who reiterated an ongoing encouragement that historians of sex need to “get” religion. As a consequence, Notches, a history of sexuality blog, is doing some soul searching. They are publishing a state-of-the-field review that identifies important and overlooked work in this field while reiterating D’Emilio’s call for more.

DeRogatis’ Saving Sex is certainly part of the more. This book joins a growing body of scholarship that investigates the fruitful intersections between sexuality and the study of American evangelicalism. That prior work includes ethnographic studies—most notably, Lynne Gerber and Tanya Erzen’s work on ex-gay ministries and Christine Gardener’s recent study of faith-based abstinence ministries. Rebecca Davis’ history of marriage counseling also includes conservative Protestants, and Heather Hendershot’s work on evangelical media also substantially addresses sexuality. And these names are hardly an exhaustive list. Taken together, this scholarship suggests there is now an extensive response to a question posed six years ago by historian Bethany Moreton, “Why is there so much sex in Evangelicalism and why do so few historians care about it?” What is clear: sexuality is a robust area of inquiry in the history and contemporary study of American Evangelicalism.

Amy DeRogatis on Saving Sex

Samira Mehta

In talking to Amy DeRogatis, I wanted her to explore the question of genre and of the role of both teaching and community outreach in Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism. I had spoken with her previously about some of the joys and challenges of writing for a broader audience and wanted to ask her to reflect publicly on those challenges. She was gracious.

What audience did you hope to reach?

My hope is that I reach a wide audience of my peers and the interested general public.  Two aspects of my professional life and my institutional context have shaped me as a scholar and informed my writing of this book.  I have taught at Michigan State University for 16 years and during that time I have primarily worked with undergraduates.  As I wrote this book, I kept them in mind, reflecting on the types of books that work well in my classroom and the lessons I have learned from my students about presenting challenging material and initiating fruitful discussions.  I hope I have written the kind of book that will engage undergraduates and inspire meaningful conversations and further research.  The second important aspect of my professional life is that Michigan State is a land-grant university and outreach to the community is an important part of my job.  Over the years I have devoted a considerable amount of my time to speaking with local religious and non-religious groups, translating my research to interested members of my community.  I’ve enjoyed these opportunities and valued the responses I have received from the general public.  These interactions have made me a better scholar and writer and I hope that I have provided a useful service to my community.  Both of these aspects, that I primarily work with undergraduates and that I have devoted a lot of time to outreach, came into play as I thought about the type of book I wanted to write.  I would like conversations about my book to happen in classrooms and coffee shops.  I hope that I have struck the right balance between addressing some significant scholarly issues about American evangelicalism and sexuality and offering my own unique contribution while at the same time inviting interested non-specialists into the conversation. 

Evangelical Sexuality: From Margin to Center


The following is the first entry of a three-day series on Amy DeRogatis’s new book, Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism (Oxford University Press, 2014).  See also Amy's website for several reviews, including her interview in Emma Green's Atlantic article, "The Warrior Wives of Christianity," which Seth Dowland wrote about a week ago.  Lynne Gerber is a Visiting Researcher at the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Seeking the Straight and Narrow: Weight Loss and Sexual Reorientation in Evangelical America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011). Tomorrow, RIAH's own Samira Mehta interviews Amy about the writing of her book.  On Monday, Heather R. White situates Saving Sex among other new work in the history of religion and sexuality.

Lynne Gerber

Like many American subcultures, evangelicals are stuck in an identity dilemma. On the one hand they identify deeply with American culture, its history and its perceived mission. On the other they are deeply critical of the turns that culture has taken, particularly since the socio-cultural changes of the 1960s. As a result they often seem unable to decide if they represent culture or counter-culture, center or margin. Sexuality is one arena where this dilemma is most vividly felt. Not wanting to be perceived as prudes, evangelicals participate vigorously in American discourse about sex and sexuality, but wanting to take a stand for distinctive Christian beliefs such contributions are also frequently framed as critiques of that discourse. Are Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar of 19 Kids and Counting, for example, counter-cultural for their conservative beliefs and resultant large family? Or does their celebrity, and their willingness to court and profit from such celebrity, make them quintessential Americans?

This tension pervades many of the fascinating sexual projects discussed in Amy DeRogatis’s Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism. The book is a tour of sorts through a carefully selected set of sites in evangelical sexual culture. It begins and ends with two ostensibly similar but critically different versions of purity culture, one prevalent among white evangelicals and the other among African American Christians. In between the book takes us through the explosive market for Christian sex manuals that promise daring novelty while offering standard therapeutic fare, the world of deliverance ministries that use modern biology, as they understand it, to argue for the literal presence of demons in sexual fluids, and many variations on the theme of celebrating reproduction, which seems to frequently be paired with celebrating female submission in marriage, sexual and otherwise. It considers sites that fit squarely within the evangelical mainstream carefully explicating, for example, the range of purity literature aimed at children of different ages, while also attending to those which criticize that mainstream in the hopes of creating a purer Christian culture. DeRogatis is an able guide, making the distinctions between margin and center clear while pointing to some of the continuities between each.

Cushwa Center Grants and Spring Events

With the end of the fall 2014 semester rapidly approaching (yikes!) I want to take this opportunity to publicize some upcoming grant deadlines, calls for papers, and spring events that will be sponsored by the Cushwa Center, so you can mark your calendars now if you're within traveling distance. (If you'd like reminders of these events as they approach, you can either write to us at cushwa -at- and ask to be put on our mailing list, or follow us on Facebook.)

Speaking of traveling distance: if you don't live down the block, but would find research in Notre Dame's extensive archival collections useful for your scholarship, we encourage you to apply for one of our Research Travel Grants, which fund travel to South Bend to work in the Notre Dame University Archives; projects should relate to the study of Catholicism in America. We also administer the Hibernian Research Award, which supports the scholarly study of the Irish American experience. The deadline for all applications is December 31. If you'd like to get a sense of the kinds of projects we sponsor, you might check out our two most recent Q&As: with Suzanne Krebsbach, who came to do research on black Catholics in Charleston, SC, and with Herbie Miller, whose work concerns an 1837 debate between the leader of the Disciples of Christ and the Catholic bishop of Cincinnati.

In other Catholic-centric research grant news, the Mary Nona McGreal OP Center for Dominican Historical Studies at Dominican University is making $2500 research stipends available for essays for an upcoming book project on Dominicans in the 19th and 20th century United States. Deadline for brief proposals is December 1; you can read more about the project here.

If your research on Catholic history has reached a more developed state, please consider submitting a paper or panel proposal to the Spring Meeting of the American Catholic Historical Association, which will be hosted by the Cushwa Center and held at Notre Dame from March 26-28, 2015. You can read more about the conference, and submit a proposal (by January 15) via the above link.

Also on the Cushwa Center's spring docket are two exciting events: first, a lecture on "Art, Architecture, and Liturgical Space in Postwar America" by Gretchen Buggeln of Valparaiso University, on February 23.

And finally, for those of you whose appetites have been whetted by Michael Hammond's recent review on this blog, please plan on joining us at Notre Dame for the Seminar in American Religion on Saturday, April 11, when Grant Wacker will discuss his new book, America's Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation (Belknap Press, 2014). Also commenting will be Richard Bushman, the Gouverneur Morris Professor of History emeritus at Columbia University, and Christian Smith, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame.

We would be delighted to see any of you at any of these events, and please feel free to share the calls for papers and calls for grant applications widely.

Religion in the American West: New Books Update

Paul Putz

The first session of the official, permanent Religion in the American West AAR group will be meeting in a couple days. What better way to celebrate than by highlighting two interesting new books in the field?

The geographic area of focus for the first book would certainly meet with Paul Harvey's approval. In Capture These Indians for the Lord: Indians, Methodists, and Oklahomans, 1844-1939 (University of Arizona Press, 2014), Tash Smith centers his study on Indian Territory/Oklahoma, examining the "interaction and shared history of the Southern Methodist Church's white and Indian members" from 1844 until 1939. His is a book about the complexities and tensions of the missionization process, Missionaries thought of themselves as altruistic even as they sought to obliterate Indian culture; Indians adopted or affiliated with the Christianity of whites even as they used it to protect, preserve, and promote the religious traditions that the white missionaries were seeking to eradicate.

While Smith frames his book to fit in with prominent recent themes in the study of Christian missions and the encounter between Native Americans and European Christians, he also argues for the usefulness of a narrower denominational scope. Just as it is important to "avoid the monolithic or essentialized idea of 'Indians,'" Smith writes, "it is equally important to discern denominational differences...and avoid the larger monolithic terms of 'Christian' and 'Protestant.'" Thus Smith studies one specific denomination, the Southern Methodist Church, and its Indian mission efforts, which were concentrated in Indian Territory/Oklahoma. This specialized focus enables Smith to zero in on what, exactly, the "it" was that Cherokees, Choctaws, Creeks, Chickasaws, Kiowas, and Comanches in Oklahoma used to their own ends: the institutional structures created by the Southern Methodist Church.

Smith's narrative depicts the twists and turns of the Indian Mission Conference, created in 1844 (right before the North/South Methodist split), as it developed over the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. In Smith's telling, Methodist leaders created the IMC with assimilation in mind. They believed that by giving frontier, Indian-dominated territory the status of an official conference, it would encourage Indians (most of whom had been forcibly relocated in the previous couple decades) to live up to the behavioral expectations of white Methodists.

Religious Press and Print Culture Conference

Elesha Coffman

I wrote this post early, because today I am at Johann Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, for a conference on Protestants and the religious press. Logical place for such a conference, don't you think?

The conference, part of a larger project on "Pluralism, Boundary-Making, and Community-Building in North American Religious Periodicals," features a mixture of European and American scholars. Keynotes will be offered by David A. Copeland (Elon University), David Paul Nord (Indiana University), Gisela Mettele (Friedrich Schliller-Universitat, Jena), and Candy Gunther Brown (Indiana).

I was thrilled to be invited to this conference, both because I've never been to Germany and because I thought the organizers were asking really great questions in their conference description:

"How do we best approach religious print matter, what questions can such studies answer, and which new perspectives might they open up? ... What roles play individuals like editors, writers, and financiers in religious print culture? What structures underlie and what networks facilitate the religious press? What can we learn about the internal workings of religious groups? How do religious identities emerge and how are they maintained? How is the religious described and communicated? What strategies are employed to draw boundaries or unite disparate movements? How do different genres function within the context of the religious press? By what strategies are events explained and defined and do they impact the larger culture? What is the interrelation and meaning-exchange between a society and a religious subculture?"

Catholic and Quaker Interracial Activists

Karen Johnson

There's a fantastic body of literature on race and religion in American history for which many of our blog contributors are responsible.  While Americans' faith has both reinforced and torn down racial hierarchies, when historians search for white heroes regarding race, we often cite the Quakers, especially their earlier opposition to slavery.  But little has been written on Quaker efforts for civil rights in the 20th century.  Allan Austin's Quaker Brotherhood: Interracial Activism and the American Friends Service Committee, 1917-1950 fills that void.  Austin traces Quaker-led American Friends Service Committee's various efforts to promote greater equality in the United States.  As I was reading, I became fascinated with the comparisons and contrasts between the AFSC's activism and that of the Catholic interracial activists I study.  I've written more on that below, but first, a brief summary of the history of Quaker-led activism.

Online Reources for the Study of Native American Religions

I'm happy to introduce another one of our new regular contributors: Sarah Dees. Sarah is a lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her dissertation examines the scientific study of Native American religions undertaken by a Smithsonian research office in the late-nineteenth century. In addition to conducting historical and ethnohistorical research on scientific articulations of religious and racial difference, she's interested in questions about the appropriation and commodification of Indigenous spiritual and medical practices. Sarah participates in the research seminar on Religion and U.S. Empire and teaches courses on American and Native American religions. We are happy to have her contributing posts that will reflect these research and teaching areas!

Sarah E. Dees

One of the classes I am teaching this semester focuses on problems in the study of Native American religions. We have examined ways in which colonialism, missionization, and restrictive federal Indian policies have impacted Indigenous religious practices. In guiding students through the process of crafting research papers, I have noticed, first, that many of my students (unsurprisingly) turn to the internet for research, and second, that they have trouble finding sources that reflect Native American perspectives. While I plan to draw on my university’s fantastic teaching museum for next semester’s iteration of the course, I am working to develop a list of online resources on Native American religion, history and culture. And, as November is Native American Heritage Month, I thought I would share a few resources today.

Journal of Southern Religion releases Volume 16

Emily Suzanne Clark

It gives me great pleasure to announce the publication of Volume 16 of the Journal of Southern Religion. Volume 16 features two full-length articles. University of Mississippi Ph.D. student Kari Edwards examines Tennessee's 1973 "Genesis Bill" and creationism in "'Equal Space with Adam and Eve': Tennessee's 'Genesis Bill' of 1973 and the 50th Anniversary of the Scopes Trial." In this article Edwards adds a fascinating chapter to the story of antievolutionism in the South by focusing on the strategies used by creationists in Tennessee. Danforth Center Associate Director Rachel McBride Lindsey explores the activism of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching in her article "'THIS BARBAROUS PRACTICE': Southern Churchwomen and Race in the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, 1930-1942." Even though southern women did not advocate for anti-lynching legislation, Lindsey's article shows us how the ASWPL used education to rally women to the anti-lynching cause. Former JSR Book Review Editor Art Remilard reflects on how he arrived at the project that became Southern Civil Religions: Imaging the Good Society in the Post-Reconstruction Era. All of our research projects can have unexpected starts and take unexpected turns, and Remillard introduces us to how Southern Civil Religions developed. And fourteen book reviews on recent book in the field round out the issue.

The new volume of the JSR can be found at our new url: Editor Doug Thompson of Mercer University writes about the new url and other recent changes at the journal in his editor's note: Technology and the Journal of Southern Religion. This was Doug's first issue as JSR Editor, and clearly, he's off to a good start. With this issue and the move onto the new url and server, web editor Lincoln Mullen will be stepping down. We are grateful for all his work bringing the journal fully into the 21st century. This is the first issue with our new Book Review Editor Carolyn Dupont of Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to welcoming Carolyn to the team, this is also the first issue for the JSR's new copyeditors Charlie McCrary and Adam Brasich, both Ph.D. students in American religious history at Florida State University.

So click on over to and read the new issue. Share your thoughts on twitter. Tweet us your thoughts on the issue at @JSReligion or use the hashtag #southernreligion

Religion and Politics in 21st Century America

Today's guest post is written by Brian Franklin, Associate Director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. In this post Brian recaps the recent Religion and Politics in 21st Century America conference co-sponsored by the Center for Presidential History and the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics. Interested readers will want to stay tuned for more to come out of this conference: C-SPAN will broadcast the conference and there is a forthcoming edited volume in the works. 

Brian Franklin 

On November 6, sixteen scholars and hundreds of Dallas-area residents came together at Southern Methodist University for "Religion and Politics in 21st Century America," a conference featuring a keynote address by Senator John Danforth. The conference was co-sponsored by the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University and the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. Thanks to the editorial leadership of Darren Dochuk and Matthew Sutton, we will soon see the fruit of these presentations in a publication with Oxford University Press.

The limits of time and space prohibit me from doing justice to every presentation from the day. You can view the complete lineup here, and soon, C-SPAN will be broadcasting the conference in its entirety.  For now, allow me to highlight three themes that the stood out amongst the sixteen presentations.

Warrior Wives and Evangelical Gender Norms

Seth Dowland

Over the weekend, The Atlantic published a fascinating piece on the “Warrior Wives” of evangelical Christianity. The title grabbed my attention immediately, as it connected the normally masculine warrior ideal with women. Such a connection is not totally surprising; evangelicals have employed militaristic metaphors for decades, if not centuries. It turns out, as well, that Atlantic editors were merely taking their cues from one of the more popular evangelical women’s blogs, Warrior Wives. But I still found it curious. When is it OK for a woman to be a warrior? How do evangelicals simultaneously hold gender norms that assign men and women to complementary roles alongside a rhetoric that enjoins everyone—man or woman—to fight?

The Atlantic piece rightly placed gender norms at the center of evangelical understandings of marriage and sexuality.  Author Emma Green repeatedly turned to Amy DeRogatis, whose excellent new book Saving Sex shows (among other things) how evangelical women have recast the feminist ideal of empowerment in the realm of sexuality. Women can wield power by withholding sex before marriage and by indulging their husbands’ purportedly stronger sex drives after the wedding day. Chaste evangelical women also claim power by avoiding the “sexually transmitted demons” that plague the unfaithful and the promiscuous.
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