Boosterism -- from New Contributing Editor Matt Sutton!



5 comments

Hello: Today we're pleased to introduce our newest contributing editor, Matt Sutton, formerly of Oakland University, as of this fall Professor of History at Washington State University in Pullman, WA (hey, congratulations on the new gig, Matt!). Most recently, Matt is the author of the widely-acclaimed Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America, recently favorably reviewed in Books and Culture and elsewhere.

Matt stirred up a firestorm with his previous guest post; today he comes not to bury, but to boost! Welcome to Matt.

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Boosting the Booster
Matt Sutton


Ed Blum is a busy guy. He lectures on religion to rooms full of students who spend their weekends running the United States’ largest university drug trafficking ring; soaks up the rays on San Diego’s beautiful beaches; gives interviews to Newsweek; and remains up-to-date on the Gilmore Girls; yet he still finds time to read and promote the latest work in American religious history. I have certainly benefitted from his boosterism. Since he has been such a faithful promoter of my work, I figured I had better put aside my reading on Gog, Magog, and “the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof” (you all know that Ezekiel here is referring to the United States, right?) and pick up Blum’s Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898 and W.E.B. DuBois: American Prophet

These are impressive books—it seems that Ed and I will have to form a mutual admiration society. What I like about Blum’s work is that he is doing much, much more than simply “filling a gap.” Nor is he content with making religion another layer to pile on top of existing work on Reconstruction, American nationalism, and DuBois. Instead, he does what all religious historians aspire to—he makes the compelling case that religion is central to our understanding of the pivotal issues in American history. He makes bold arguments, hunting for the big game, slicing and dicing Bancroft and Pulitzer-Prize winning historians such as Eric Foner and David Levering Lewis. Whether or not Blum is always right (of course, he is always right), he forces his readers to engage with his argument. You cannot ignore him. Blum’s combination of smooth writing, diligent research, and bold argumentation change the ways in which we approach the past, which is a tremendous benefit to all historians of American religion. Now all Ed needs to do is develop some better taste in DVD rentals.

5 comments:

Randall at: May 20, 2008 at 1:28 PM said...

Welcome aboard Matt! Have always enjoyed your posts on here.

Couldn't agree with you more about Ed's work. He's taking the study of race and religion in directions it has not been before.

Here's what Fitz Brundage wrote about _Reforging_ in the Journal of Southern Religion:

"Among the many strengths of Reforging the White Republic is its breadth of research and interpretive vision. Employing an expansive understanding of how religion influenced public debate, Blum draws upon magazines, political cartoons, and travel guides as well as sermons and religious publications. When discussing the reconciliationist stance of the Reconstruction era, for example, Blum moves easily from Henry Beecher's sermons of reunion to his sister Harriet Beecher Stowe's accounts of her experiences in Florida, which led her to revise her ideas about both white and black southerners. In this and other instances, Blum's capacious approach acknowledges the extent to which Protestant ideals and rhetoric informed all realms of public life and debate during the late nineteenth century. At the same time, Blum displays an equally keen eye for the significance that his argument holds for many longstanding historiographical concerns. More than a work of impressive original research, Reforging the White Republic is a valuable synthesis that pulls together topics that religious, cultural, political, and social historians have treated separately in recent years, such as the contested historical memory of the Civil War, the evolution of American nationalism, and the shifting focus of religious reform."
http://jsr.fsu.edu/Volume8/Brundage.htm

See Blum's response w/ regard to larger theological and regional debates.
http://jsr.fsu.edu/Volume8/Blum.response.htm

Phil at: May 20, 2008 at 7:36 PM said...

As someone who has read the bulk of Ed's published work, the depth of research in is remarkable, and the strength of argument is something to be reckoned with. This translates into scholarship--I think we'll see--that is enduring.

And anyone who has witnessed Ed speak or lecture can attest to the fact that his presentation style comports with the energy and verve that comes across through the written word.

So, as we've learned from previous posts, whether it is Wii tennis, Donkey Kong, or scholarship, Ed's the real deal.

Paul Harvey at: May 20, 2008 at 8:00 PM said...

Phil: Don't forget "Space Invaders," and as I'll testify he has a serious post-up game as well.

Edward J Blum at: May 20, 2008 at 9:12 PM said...

This is quite the love feast, guys; thanks! Last I heard, Brundage is busily trying to refute some of the claims I made in Reforging about the first years of Reconstruction. Hopefully the JSR will let me spar with his next book (if it has as much on religion as it appears it will).

Pastor Bob Cornwall at: May 23, 2008 at 8:48 PM said...

Darn, Matt moves from Michigan to Washington State just as I'm getting ready to move there. Anyway, Matt's bio of Aimee is a tour de force! Ed's book on Du Bois, is also wonderful. I got to review both of them -- Matt's for Progressive Christian and Ed's for the Christian Century. Gave both of them thumbs up!

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