Friday, August 2, 2013

American Religious History Roundup

From Life magazine, May 18, 1959.
Jennifer Schuessler, "A Religious Legacy, With Its Leftward Tilt, Is Reconsidered," New York Times, July 23, 2013 (Got a shout out in this piece about another blog I help edit, Religion in American History. Hooray!)

For decades the dominant story of postwar American religious history has been the triumph of evangelical Christians. . . . But now a growing cadre of historians of religion are reconsidering the legacy of those faded establishment Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians, tracing their enduring influence on the movements for human rights and racial justice, the growing “spiritual but not religious” demographic and even the shaded moral realism of Barack Obama — a liberal Protestant par excellence, some of these academics say.>>>

James P. Byrd, "Was the American Revolution a holy war?" Washington Post, July 6, 2013

Holy war can seem like something that happened long ago or that happens far away — the Crusades of medieval Europe, for example, or jihadists fighting secular forces today. But since their country’s founding, Americans have often thought of their wars as sacred, even when the primary objectives have been political.

This began with the American Revolution. When colonists declared their independence on July 4, 1776, religious conviction inspired them. . . .>>>

Brantley Gasaway, "American Civil Religion: Never Leave the Country Without It (a photo essay on God, liberty, and democracy in the American passport)," Religion in American History blog, July 26, 2013

As I recently discovered when I renewed my passport, the State Department completely redesigned the American passport in 2007. Our post-9/11 world necessitated this update, as the new passport contains security features that include a computer chip with the owner's digital image and biographical information. Yet the State Department not only incorporated new technology. It also replaced the bland interior pages that had faint state seals in the background with striking images and quotations in support of the passport's theme: "American Icon.">>>

Paul Waldman, "Christian Identity Politics on Fox," American Prospect, July 29, 2013

I try, with only partial success, to avoid spending too much time on the "A conservative said something offensive!" patrol. First, there are plenty of other people doing it, so it isn't as if the world won't hear about it if I don't remark on the outrage du jour. But second—and more importantly—most of the time there isn't much interesting to say about Rush Limbaugh's latest bit of race-baiting or Bill O'Reilly's latest spittle-flecked rant or Louie Gohmert's latest expectoration of numbskullery.>>>

Randall Stephens, "High Holy Rollers: A Review Essay," Wilson Quarterly (Summer 2013)

They are as ubiquitous on the American landscape as the split-level home or McDonalds drive-through. Churches with epic names like World Overcomers, Victory International, and Word of Faith International Christian Center are visible from highways throughout the country. Christian television networks Daystar, TBN, and CBN air preachers such as Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and T. D. Jakes, who promise the spiritual and material rewards of faith. Their books—with titles like Become a Better You and Can You Stand to Be Blessed?—are sold in Walmart stores.>>>

1 comment:

Dan Allosso said...

I'm late to this party, but it seems to be ongoing, so I'll comment on the James Byrd Washington Post article.

He asks the wrong question. Certainly the Revolution was a religious war for some people. Just as certainly it was NOT for many others. And for a small group of anticlerical people, it was a rebellion against both established political and religious institutions. Byrd's article provoked nearly 500 comments, so there's interest in this issue. Interestingly, the top comments deal with Byrd's credentials as a historian (he's apparently a professor of religion, not history).

As historians, shouldn't we be trying to reframe the question? Something like this: "For whom was the Revolution a holy war?" And (for grad students) what does the historiography of the "holy war" thesis look like? What does it say about privileging one group's interpretation over others and calling that point of view "American History?"