North American Religions Series, NYU Press

Paul Harvey

I'm posting below an announcement from New York University Press, about a new series in North American Religions for which the editors are soliciting ideas and manuscripts. Jennifer Hammer, the religion editor there, is coordinating the series; Tracy Fessenden (Arizona State), Laura Levitt, and David Watt (Temple) are serving as series editors. Here is the announcement:

New Series!
North American Religions

In recent years a cadre of industrious, imaginative, and highly intelligent scholars have focused their attention on North American Religions. The books and articles that they have produced have transformed the field. Scholars’ understanding of North Ameri- can Religions is far more subtle, expansive, and interdisciplinary than it was just a couple of decades ago.

North American Religions will build on this momentum. The series will focus primarily, but not exclusively, on religion in the United States in the twentieth and twenty- first centuries.

The editors of the series seek to cultivate books that explore a wide range of topics in intelligent and original ways. We welcome creative, adventuresome, and challenging books that are carefully researched and compellingly written. We wish to further scholarly conversation on such topics as lived religion, popular religious movements, representations of religion in the media, religion and social power, religion and cultural reproduction, religious and governmental institutions, and the relationship between secular and religious practices.

We are interested in working with scholars who start from the premise that religion itself matters even as they pay attention to the cultural, social, and political contexts of religious beliefs and practices. We are open to a wide range of methodologies, including ethnography, historical study, and the close reading of literary and other texts.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS: The majority of books are anticipated to be single- or dual-authored. All works submitted for consideration must be broadly construed and critically engaged, ideally blending theory seamlessly within arguments and supporting interesting contentions with clear evidence. The “big picture” contribution of the work must be clear. Writing must be both accessible and engaging. We anticipate most authors will be situtated within religious studies or in closely related fields such as American studies, cultural studies, or cultural history. A proposal should be at least 6–10 pages in length and should include: A statement of the significance, need, and organization of the work. Its intended readership(s), including particular disciplines, any likely course adoption into specific types of common classes, any likely audience(s) outside the academy, and any relevant organizations/associations whose members may be interested in the work. A brief discussion of the closest 3–5 similar/competing works and how the proposed volume will distinguish itself. An annotated chapter outline with 1–2 paragraphs describing what each chapter will discuss. Ideally 2 or more sample chapters. An indication of the time line for completion and the anticipated length. Typical manuscripts should be roughly 80,000–90,000 words in total. A current copy of the author’s curriculum vitae.

Remember, Remember the 29th of November

Emily Clark

American history contains many anniversaries – some good, some bad, some remembered with parades, some remembered with shame, and some often forgotten. Today, November 29th, marks the 146th year anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, a tragic event in 1864 Kiowa County, Colorado in which some 700 men of the Third Colorado Cavalry under John Chivington surrounded and attacked a village of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. After the gun powder blasts settled, at least 150 Native Americans lay dead.

Of all the locations in the United States National Park Service, the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site is the only one to include the word “massacre” in the title (though the 2005 historic marker called it the “Sand Creek Battle Ground,” picture taken from National Park Service website). Yesterday this piece of American history was brought to my attention by the compelling and engaging book Custerology: The Enduring Legacy of the Indian Wars and George Armstrong Custer (2007) by Emory English professor Michael Elliott. Elliott’s book is an artful blend of ethnographic fieldwork and history of the life of Custer and his spectral-like legacy that looms over the thousands of Americans who are fascinated by his life, military career, and – perhaps most of all – his death. Locating the power of memory and public history of Custer enthusiasts in the land he walked, rode, and lived upon, the memoirs he and his wife left behind, and the immense appeal of the unknowns surrounding his famous death, Elliott deftly explores “Custerology” – or the “historical interpretation and commemoration” of all things Custer – as a site of the inherent and “collective ambivalence” of the relationship between the United States and “the indigenous peoples who have lived within its borders.” To accomplish his task, Elliott interviewed members of the Little Bighorn Associates (a group of American history/Custer aficionados), spent time with Steve Alexander (a living historian of Custer’s life), talked with local Native Americans, and dug deep into the primary sources and existing historiography surrounding Custer. The result is an enjoyable read on a sometimes disheartening, but always fascinating topic.

Established in April of 2007, the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site calls attention to what contemporary National Parks Director Mary Bomar called one of “the tragedies that affect our national consciousness.” About 500 hundred were present at the site’s dedication, including Cheyenne and Arapaho leaders who turned out on April 28th for the ceremony. Typically when I think of America’s National Parks system and religion, my mind conjures images of John Muir sitting near Yosemite’s Cathedral Rocks writing defenses of his beloved landscape or tales from the Park-to-Park Highway’s first “pilgrims” in the 1920s West in search of spiritual rejuvenation (perhaps this due to my love of Ken Burns documentaries). The Indian Wars’ so-called “clash of cultures” elucidates contentious moments of American religious history, and its memorialized sites bring into focus religious intolerance, violence, and resistance. Though not the most lovely way to begin the week, this somber note certainly complicates popular public history narratives of the grand first Thanksgiving between friendly pilgrims and Indians near Plymouth Rock.

Jesus is My Friend

Randall Stephens

Hat tip to my co-author Karl Giberson for pointing me to this great video. If this is not already on-line at Christian Nightmares, it should be. The song and video is proof that reggae is not for everyone.

Pilgrims and the Political Agenda

Today's guest post comes from Jeremy Bangs, a leading expert on 17th-century history, the Pilgrims, and the Plymouth Colony. Bangs follows up a lively discussion in the comments section of an earlier post with more on the 17th-century historical context.

Jeremy Bangs

In our exchange in the comments section Tom van Dyke expresses annoyance at “scholars with a political agenda.” He “found no attempt anywhere to simply tell the story.” But he “did manage to get to Bradford's account ...”

The problem is that William Bradford is the first of the scholars with a political agenda writing about the topic of the Pilgrims’ early experiments with land distribution. Simply telling the story requires a little analysis of the context beyond a mere repetition of the text(s).

The background information about the financial circumstances of the Pilgrims’ colonial enterprise consists of descriptions by Bradford and Edward Winslow, together with business correspondence and contracts incorporated in Bradford’s memoir. From this we know that for the first seven years the colony was mortgaged to the company of investors. All the assets and increase of the colony were to be liquidated at the end of seven years, when the contracted debt was to be paid and the surplus distributed to the investors. Every colonist was counted as having at least one share in the venture because of the colonist’s labor. Some colonists also invested money and thus owned more than one share. Some investors of money did not become colonists but remained in London (and elsewhere). This arrangement meant that in Plymouth Colony there was no private property (not even property in personal labor) until 1627. All property belonged in common to the investors, but as investors the colonists also were co-owners proportional to their shares. This was capitalism, not communalism, and in no way socialism. The Pilgrims had wanted a different arrangement that would have granted them two days per week for private labor, whose profits were to be personal. But in the end their contract did not grant them even this amount of individualism. In setting up the colony people needed to find a way to conform to the total mortgage of their contract. In the first couple of years, rotating land assignments were made, following a medieval custom then practiced in the region from which the leaders came (northern Nottinghamshire and adjacent parts of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire). Dissatisfaction with this system (unfamiliar to some of the colonists) led to the decision to make unchanging assignments of field use after 1623, so that farmers could expect to use the same land from one year to the next; but this did not involve any property in the land, all of which was still to be liquidated at the end of the seven-year term. Thus scholars who identify the early system as a form of capitalist incorporation are correct, and no political agenda is implied by making this observation. Further, the early reports by Winslow and Bradford mention a bounteous harvest the first year. Scarcity the second year was the result of the arrival of thirty-five more colonists who came without supplies – not the result of poor harvests. This plenteousness is also reported in a letter by a visitor to the colony writing in 1621 (William Hilton). Winslow wrote that wheat and Indian corn had grown well, barley not very well, and peas not worth gathering. Bradford comments on a “great store of wild Turkeys, of whih they took many, besides venison, etc.”

Writing around a quarter century later, Bradford gave a different story – the anti-communalist version that has attracted the attention of Libertarians and others who fantasize about the Pilgrims’ discovering capitalism after experimenting with communalism. Tom quotes from that description. What is Bradford’s agenda, that inspired him to misrepresent the economic circumstances of the past? (As I have commented in my article, “A Level Look at Land Allotments, 1623”) Bradford wrote that part while confronting the social unrest arising from the actions of Samuel Gorton, John Lilburne, and the Levellers. Gorton had been troublesome in Plymouth before causing serious unrest in Rhode Island, where his opposition to taking oaths in court or as part of legal business contracts was abhorrent to representatives of established government. Gorton in New England and the Levellers in England preached a far-reaching equality that was thought to threaten society's stability by abolishing what Bradford and many others thought were divinely ordained differences of social standing and responsibility expressed in wise government. In the mid-1640's, Bradford used his recollection of this administrative shift (regarding land use) as the base upon which he could construct a propagandistic comment aimed at the social circumstances of the later period. In 1646 it was important to oppose Gorton and the Levellers' threat from England, important to consider that practical experience of human nature had disproved idealistic theory — "the vanity of that conceit of Plato and other ancients, applauded by some of later times; — that the taking away of property, and bringing in community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing, as if they were wiser than God." Bradford ends his memoirs by noting that Edward Winslow had been sent to England in 1646 to defend New England against complaints of mistreatment lodged in London by Samuel Gorton.

Recent writers who emphasize the year 1623 rather than 1621 when writing about the Pilgrims’ thanksgiving have made a choice that is obviously driven by a political agenda. And simply telling the story is not what concerns them.

Catskills, History, Jewish Food, and Circumcision

For those who missed it . . . Joseph Berger, "No Need to Kvetch, Yiddish Lives On in Catskills," NYT, November 25 2010.

KERHONKSON, N.Y. — In a chilled and snow-shrouded Catskills landscape, hundreds of people get together every December to try to breathe some warmth into a dying culture.

For almost a week at a hotel here, organizers immerse the group, which calls itself KlezKamp, in Yiddish and the folkways of the Eastern Europeans who spoke that language until Hitler extinguished their communities. Classes are offered in Yiddish conversation, humor and literature; in klezmer — the sometimes plaintive, sometimes mischievous folk music that has experienced an astonishing comeback — and in the snaking, coiling, hand-clapping dances animated by those melodies.>>>

See also:

Barney Zwartz, "Website a 'treasure chest' of Yiddish migrant history," The Age, November 22, 2010.

Linda Morel, "Schmaltzy history: A Nostalgic Look at Fats for Frying Latkes," Jewish Times of South Jersey, November 26, 2010.

"Battle of the Bris: A Move to Outlaw Circumcision in San Francisco," TIME, November 22, 2010.

American as Pumpkin Pie

Paul Harvey

A big shout out to all of you who stop by here, lurk, send me emails, comment (snarkily or otherwise), introduce yourself at conferences to talk about the blog, and send me your suggested topics and contributions. Thanks, one and all.

And while we're on Thanksgiving, here is Heather Cox Richardson's brief exploration of the origins of the holiday during the Civil War; and the American Historical Association blog provides a plethora of fun links about the history of the holiday to follow and read/listen to. One of the links there takes you to American as Pumpkin Pie: A History of Thanksgiving, from the radio program Backstory; one of the interviewees there, Anne Blue Wills of Davidson College, talks about material from her article "Pilgrims and Progress: How Magazines Made Thanksgiving," which discusses the origins of the national holiday before the Civil War in Sarah Hale's efforts through the pages of Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine.

Commie Pinko Pilgrims and Peaceful (?) Puritans

Paul Harvey

A little Thanksgiving history blogging for you. I hadn't quite realized how much of a cottage industry peddling the anachronistic "Socialist Pilgrims" thesis had become, but this piece from the New York Times explores the spread of this myth. I was shocked -- SHOCKED -- to learn how much of a role Glenn Beck and his historical henchman W. Cleon Skousen have played in marketing this story, My favorite part: the time when Rush Limbaugh added in the bit about how they grew organic vegetables, after they had learned that capitalism worked and produced an abundance which they could share with the Indians.

In "Peace, Love, and Puritanism," David Hall, of Harvard Divinity School, defends the Puritans against generations of Hawthornian and Menckenian scorn (and adds that, yes, wild turkeys probably appeared on the original menu). He writes:

Why does it matter whether we get the Puritans right or not? The simple answer is that it matters because our civil society depends, as theirs did, on linking an ethics of the common good with the uses of power. In our society, liberty has become deeply problematic: more a matter of entitlement than of obligation to the whole. Everywhere, we see power abused, the common good scanted. Getting the Puritans right won’t change what we eat on Thanksgiving, but it might change what we can be thankful for and how we imagine a better America.

Historiann has no problem with Hall's conclusion, but points out some of the darker underside to the history of feasting and fasting in America -- in particular, its long connection to war and tribalism:

Both fasts and feasts were opportunities to reaffirm tribalism, of a world view of us versus them. The history of fasting and feasting in the English communities of New England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries should be written in blood–both blood in the sense of kinship ties, and in the sense of the shedding of outsiders’ blood in war.

The history of fasting and feasting is "more complicated and much darker than Americans would like to remember," she reminds us. Reading the many pages on this subject in George C. Rable's God's Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War, reinforces this point. About every five pages, it seems, someone from North or South is calling for a fast day, or preaching a fast day sermon. There was a lot of ostensible bowing, scraping, and humility, but ultimately it was all about killing. With all these fast days during the war, it's a wonder anyone ever ate.

John Fea reflects on what he would teach about the original Thanksgiving here, at his new column over at Patheos, and what it meant for the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, who both had been through some brutal times, to share a brief celebration together. I hope your celebration goes well.

From Prize-Winning Dissertation to...

Today I received a copy of Darren Dochuk's long-awaited From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism (Norton).

The book's release date is December 13, just in time to find its places under the Christmas trees of RiAH blog readers.

Winner of the Allan Nevins Prize as a dissertation, Darren's book is an erudite and persuasive account of how southern evangelical migrants transformed California's culture and politics.

"Rather than an invention of Falwell and Robertson's Religious Right," he argues, "evangelicalism's politicization was a product of an earlier time made possible by an earlier generation, a generation that came of age on the West Coast during Roosevelt's time, not Reagan's." Until recent years, historians have paid relatively little attention to what one might call the pre-history of the Religious Right. That, however, is no longer the case, as books ranging from Lisa McGirr's Suburban Warriors, Dan Williams's God's Own Party to Bethany Moreton's To Serve God and Wal-Mart all provide careful analysis of how evangelicals gradually came to embrace conservative politics and free-market capitalism. Darren's book is a thorough culmination of this trend.

From Bible Belt to Sunbelt explores the religious and political interchange between the South and Southern California from the 1930s through 1980. "Jeffersonian Democratic" migrants quickly opposed California's version of the New Deal Coalition, constructed their own subculture of schools and organizations, and eventually helped propel Ronald Reagan to the presidency.

Several aspects of Darren's book thoroughly impress me. First, he very sensitively -- without a trace of scholarly condescension -- includes the voices of "plain folk," many of whom he interviewed for the book. Second, Darren mines untapped and rich veins of archival sources. Few historians have visited both the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the Pat Boone Headquarters. He also gained access to the private records of many southern California churches. Finally, the book benefits greatly from Darren's clear and eloquent prose. Both specialists and students will find From Bible Belt to Sunbelt engaging and thought-provoking.

Buy it, read it, assign it.

The Religious Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage: New Book from Columbia

Paul Harvey

I have yet to take a look at this new volume, but it will surely be of interest to many of you, so I"m pasting in below information from this new book's website:

Between a Man and a Woman?
Why Conservatives Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

Ludiger H. Viefhues-Bailey

Read the Table of Contents.

Ludger Viefhues-Bailey alights on a profound theological conundrum: in today's conservative Christian movement, both sexes are called upon to be at once assertive and submissive, masculine and feminine, not only within the home but also within the church, society, and the state. Therefore the arguments of conservative Christians against same-sex marriage involve more than literal readings of the Bible or nostalgia for simple gender roles.

Focusing primarily on texts produced by Focus on the Family, a leading media and ministry organization informing conservative Christian culture, Viefhues-Bailey identifies two distinct ideas of male homosexuality: gender-disturbed and passive; and oversexed, strongly masculine, and aggressive. These homosexualities enable a complex ideal of Christian masculinity in which men are encouraged to be assertive toward the world while also being submissive toward God and family. This web of sexual contradiction influences the flow of power between the sexes and within the state. It joins notions of sexual equality to claims of "natural" difference, establishing a fraught basis for respectable romantic marriage. Heterosexual union is then treated as emblematic of, if not essential to, the success of American political life-yet far from creating gender stability, these tensions produce an endless striving for balance. Viefhues-Bailey's final, brilliant move is to connect the desire for stability to the conservative Christian movement's strategies of political power.

"To understand Christian rhetoric around sexuality, you have to listen through the clanging speeches without falling under their compulsions to repeat. Ludger Viefhues-Bailey can do this and then some." - Mark D. Jordan, Harvard Divinity School

We're No. 1! Colorado Springs Leads in Religion (or Not) and in Defunding NPR Nazis

Paul Harvey

Men's Health magazine, noted for its scholarship in American religious studies, recently rated the top 100 "holiest cities in America." Result: Colorado Springs rated first on the list. I'm very glad to be first in something. Here's a brief excerpt:

While it's true that Colorado, at 5,980 feet above sea level, is closer to heaven than even the Mile High City, we used a different set of numbers to divine our findings. We scoured the U.S. Census and the yellow pages ( for places of worship per capita. Then we tallied up religious organizations (U.S. Census) and the number of volunteers who support these groups . . . Finally, we considered the amount of money donated to religious organizations . . . and spent on religious books.

Most religious

1. Colorado Springs, CO
2. Greensboro, NC
3. Oklahoma City, OK4. Wichita, KS
5. Indianapolis, IN
6. Jacksonville, FL7. Portland, OR
8. Birmingham, AL9. Charlotte, NC
10. Little Rock, AR

The fact that Portland appeared at #7, even though Oregon consistently appears down towards the bottom of most professional surveys conducted by ARIS and others, immediately made me question the methodology here. And in doing so, here's a counter-survey that I found, from our own local paper (based on figures from 2000, admittedly, but still):

A quick run through the data seems to contradict the idea that El Paso County is a highly religious place. The 2000 survey found El Paso County was home to 222,490 people who claim an affiliation with some religion. That was 43 percent of the population. The rate in Denver, meanwhile, is 64 percent.

So, either we're No. 1, or we don't even hold a candle to Denver. Take your pick.

One area where we indisputably lead the nation is in the great national jihad to defund the "Nazis" at National Public Radio ("Nazis" being the term Roger Ailes of Fox News, evidencing its usual fair and balanced presentation, used to refer to NPR; Ailes is President of Fox News).
Leading the great national jihad is our local representative Douglas Lamborn, previously unknown to the public at large but known locally for protecting every piece of military spending pork, no matter how many Defense Secretaries insist that they be cut, and vowing to protect Medicare against the encroaching monstrosity of "socialized medicine" and "Obamacare" -- and etc. You get the idea.
Here's a hilarious cartoon about Lamborn's jihad, from Denver's Westword.

For years Lamborn has sponsored bill to defund completely National Public Radio; the combination of the Juan Williams incident and the recent elections have given this bill a very good chance of approval next year. Our local paper the Colorado Springs Independent covers the story here.

How ironic I should come upon this story, or combination of stories, after listening to a really thoughtful and intelligent program on my local public radio station KRCC this morning featuring a panel discussion from various locals (the religion reporter at the Colorado Springs Gazette, a college chaplain, and some others) on the influence of evangelicalism in Colorado Springs. Besides the panel discussion, the program also features a reporter visiting a local mosque here in the Springs, and another report from the tough lives experienced by those who feel called to the little town of Crestone, Colorado, in an area which houses a striking diversity of religious communities from a Carmelite Monastery to various Zen Buddhist groups. Ethereal spirituality, as the piece makes clear, is a challenge when you're trying to make it through the bitter winters and swarms of spring mosquitoes in that remote corner of SW Colorado.

I was thinking about the particular recent attacks on NPR further tonight in relationship to this commentary by Guy Raz at the end of today's All Things Considered -- a short, arrestingly beautiful piece that showed NPR at its best. Here's hoping the piece goes viral.

Raz was reflecting on Roger Ailes, the Fox News executive who recently said the following:

"They are, of course, Nazis," Ailes said of NPR. "They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don't want any other point of view."

[Yes, Ailes since issued the ritual obligatory apology. So what; it's obvious he meant what he said in the first place].

Let's leave aside the complete historical malapropism of the idiocracy here ("left wing of Nazism," etc.). What moved me was Raz's short oral essay "inspired" (or whatever the term should be) by Ailes's grotesque comments. Raz began by reflecting on his great-grandfather Abraham Reiss, who didn't make it out of Europe before the real Nazis got to him, and then further on what it meant for him to hear "Nazi" used in reference to his network.

That word, Nazi, means something. We are all free to use it as we please. It's our right, of course. But when its use is stripped of any of its real meaning, I just ask you to remember the story of Abraham Reiss.

Colorado Springs -- whether we're first or not in religious adherence,you can thank us for taking the lead in the great national jihad to defund the left-wing Nazis at NPR.

P.S.: While you're at it, check out the piece right before Raz's essay, which is about the growing number and influence of Israeli jazz musicians in New York. I heard one of them, the fantastic bassist Omer Avital, about 10 years ago, and still smile when I think of him ferociously attacking his instrument all night at Small's, with the Jason Lindner band. One of the most astonishing nights of music I've heard in my life; and, for me, a spiritual experience. So here's to you, Omer. My local public radio station, the great and wonderful KRCC, plays your music on occasion, and I heard a tune of yours one time, quite unexpectedly, on the tiny station KZRA in Alamosa, Colorado, one of many rural public stations which have taken root thanks to indispensable public subsidies to bring one-of-a-kind programming to the hinterlands of places such as SW Colorado and NW New Mexico. Congressman Lamborn, check it out sometime, you might like it.

Surprising or Otherwise Interesting Primary Sources, X: The Radical Right

Randall Stephens

I've just completed reading Darren Dochuk's marvelous new book, From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism. (My review of it will appear in Books & Culture.) His account--filled with insight into anti-communist crusaders, anti-New Dealers, Okie and Arkie folk-preachers, suburban warriors, and pro-business conservatives--is as lively as it is illuminating.

One section in particular--dealing with the John Birch Society and all sorts of anti-communist Cassandras from the Eisenhower and Kennedy years--made me wonder about the political divide in the early 1960s and the growing political chasm of today. To make a point about the bigger national trends, Dochuk quotes a passage from a JFK speech on the radical right.

So, here I pair some lines from that speech with the words of the religious right leader Billy James Hargis, an angry Christian cold warrior and baroque conspiracy theorist. An interesting contrast. (I wonder if JFK ever weighed in directly on Hargis?)

Billy James Hargis, The Facts about Communism and Our Churches (Tulsa: Christian Crusade, 1962).

Those who do not believe in the traditional American system of government began efforts many years ago to work through religious groups for destruction of our free enterprise system. One of the most influential ministers in the early days of the drive to change the direction of American Protestant churches was Dr. Walter Rauschenbusch. . . . [Hargis goes on to savage that progressive, early-twentieth century figure.] (127)

The decline of true Christianity, due primarily to years of insidious attacks from within by unbelieving clergymen, is one of a number of reasons for the enthusiastic optimism of communist conspirators in the United States today. . . . (149)

Ministers of the gospel who actively oppose the international communist conspiracy and try to bring to light the facts about its operations, receive complaints periodically concerning their activities on the ground that they are meddling in politics. We have received numerous such complaints verbally and in writing during the years of our fight against this satanic conspiracy to destroy our nation. Many Christian pastors and laymen have been convinced that it is wrong for Christians to expose or oppose the communist conspiracy in any way. (212)

John F. Kennedy, Hollywood Palladium, November 18, 1961.

In the most critical periods of our nation's history, there have always been those fringes of our society who have sought to escape their own responsibility by finding a simple solution, an appealing slogan, or a convenient scapegoat.

Financial crises could be explained by the presence of too many immigrants or too few greenbacks.

War could be attributed to munitions makers or international bankers.

Peace conferences failed because we were duped by the British or tricked by the French or deceived by the Russians. . . .

Now we are face to face once again with a period of heightened peril. The risks are great, the burdens heavy, the problems incapable of swift or lasting solution. And under the strains and frustrations imposed by constant tension and harassment, the discordant voices of extremism are heard once again in the land. Men who are unwilling to face up to the danger from without are convinced that the real danger comes from within. They look suspiciously at their neighbors and their leaders. They call for a 'man on horseback' because they do not trust the people. They find treason in our finest churches, in our highest court, and even in the treatment of our water. They equate the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the welfare state with socialism, and socialism with communism. They object quite rightly to politics' intruding on the military -- but they are anxious for the military to engage in politics.

Holy Jumpers, Batman!

Paul Harvey

One more review of interest from Choice for you. For whatever reason, I had never heard of (or maybe I just forgot about) the Metropolitan Church Association, but they seem to fit into the kinds of cantankerous enthusiasts that Randall wrote about so memorably in his book The Fire Spreads. Anyway, perhaps some of you will want to check out this fun-looking book, below:

Kostlevy, William. Holy jumpers: evangelicals and radicals in Progressive Era America. Oxford, 2010. 240p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780195377842, $65.00. Reviewed in 2010dec CHOICE.
Based on extensive archival research, Holy Jumpers presents a significant study of the Metropolitan Church Association (MCA; "Burning Bush"), a radical faction of the holiness movement. Kostlevy (Tabor College) balances the MCA's utopian vision with its fanaticism and disruptive strategies, revealing a story of conflict in pursuit of harmony. Rejecting the conservatism of the National Holiness Association, the MCA embraced a faith for the new world of the 20th century that included holiness, communalism, premillennialism, and faith healing. Kostlevy commendably situates the MCA within other radical expressions of the Progressive Era, including populism and the Industrial Workers of the World. Known for their demonstrative worship characterized by extreme physical exercises, MCA adherents fostered divisions within families and communities, and frequently provoked violence and legal action. Using modern media with sensational content, the MCA censured and rejected almost all other denominations. Most importantly, the MCA played a decisive role in the Azusa Street Revival of 1906-1909 and the emergence of Pentecostalism. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers. -- B. W. Hamilton, Northeastern Seminary

Heavenly Merchandize

Paul Harvey

Earlier we have blogged about Mark Valeri's Heavenly Merchandize: How Religion Shaped Commerce in Puritan America. Below I'm reprinting a review from Choice on this book, which should interest a number of you. Below the review is a snip from the book's website, which has some more information on the contents.

Valeri, Mark
. Heavenly merchandize: how religion shaped commerce in Puritan America. Princeton, 2010. 337p index afp; ISBN 9780691143590, $35.00. Reviewed in 2010dec CHOICE.
Historians surveying the first century of Massachusetts Bay's settlement often describe how colonists in 1630 understood themselves as part of a gemeinschaft, or community based on personal relationships where commitment to the larger social good outweighed individual self-interest. By 1730, the gemeinshaft had become a gesellschaft, or society where rational self-interest trumped communal commitments; relationships, based on the impersonal forces of a market system, were more distant. Valeri (Union Theological Seminary/Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Virginia) avoids such oversimplification, but his exhaustively researched, densely structured book provides a marvelously thick description of just such a transition. Against the conventional assumption that commitment to market values came at the expense of religion, however, Valeri argues that religion actively fostered that commitment. Concentrating on Boston, he demonstrates how prominent preachers provided a vocabulary--drawn largely from British economic theorists--that allowed successful merchants to understand their pursuit of profit, and eventually even the trade in slaves, as a moral imperative. A "postpuritan religiosity" "preceded, and therefore helped to make possible, the full fruition of a market order in early America." Students of early New England will find this indispensable; it should also appeal to anyone interested in the relationship between religion and the larger culture. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers. -- L. B. Tipson Jr., Washington College
from the book's website):

Heavenly Merchandize offers a critical reexamination of religion's role in the creation of a market economy in early America. Focusing on the economic culture of New England, it views commerce through the eyes of four generations of Boston merchants, drawing upon their personal letters, diaries, business records, and sermon notes to reveal how merchants built a modern form of exchange out of profound transitions in the puritan understanding of discipline, providence, and the meaning of New England.

Mark Valeri traces the careers of men like Robert Keayne, a London immigrant punished by his church for aggressive business practices; John Hull, a silversmith-turned-trader who helped to establish commercial networks in the West Indies; and Hugh Hall, one of New England's first slave traders. He explores how Boston ministers reconstituted their moral languages over the course of a century, from a scriptural discourse against many market practices to a providential worldview that justified England's commercial hegemony and legitimated the market as a divine construct. Valeri moves beyond simplistic readings that reduce commercial activity to secular mind-sets, and refutes the popular notion of an inherent affinity between puritanism and capitalism. He shows how changing ideas about what it meant to be pious and puritan informed the business practices of Boston's merchants, who filled their private notebooks with meditations on scripture and the natural order, founded and led churches, and inscribed spiritual reflections in their letters and diaries.

Unprecedented in scope and rich with insights, Heavenly Merchandize illuminates the history behind the continuing American dilemma over morality and the marketplace.

CFP: The King James Bible and the World It Made

Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion

Invites you to a conference celebrating the

The King James Bible and the World It Made, 1611-2011

April 7-9, 2011

Baylor University

Click Here for Call for Papers, due December 31, 2010 (this has been extended from the original November 15th deadline)

King James 2011

In 1611, England issued its official translation of the complete Bible, a masterful work that laid the foundation for an emerging Christian culture in the English-speaking world. At the time, it was not obvious that the new translation would have the impact that it did, but it was soon clear that the King James Bible would overcome its competitors, as it provided a magnificent new standard by which all later works would be judged. It would indelibly mark the literature and culture of England, America, and all regions across the globe touched by Britain’s empire. From small rural churches to great halls of power, the ideas and words of the King James Version helped form a new culture rooted in the Bible: the modern culture of the English-speaking world.

To celebrate and reflect upon the incomparable influence of the King James Bible, Baylor University will host “The King James Bible and the World It Made, 1611-2011,” on April 7-9, 2011. Organized by Baylor’s Institute for Click for Call for Papers due December 31, 2010 (this has been extended from the original November 15th deadline)
Call for Papers King James 2011

The year 2011 marks the four hundredth anniversary of one of the landmark events in the history of Christianity: the publication of the King James Bible.

Studies of Religion, this conference will be one of the preeminent international events recognizing this auspicious moment in the history of Anglo-American and world Christianity. It will assemble distinguished scholars from around the globe to consider the history and ramifications of the Bible in English.

Major conference themes will include the way that the King James Bible created a common literary and religious culture in the English-speaking world; the significance of vernacular translation for Christian growth and development; and the challenges posed by recent declines in biblical literacy and the end of the King James’s dominance as the Bible translation for English-speaking Christians.

Confirmed Speakers Include:

Robert Alter (University of California, Berkeley)

David Bebbington (University of Stirling)

Philip Jenkins (Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion)

Laura Knoppers (Penn State University)

Alister E. McGrath (Kings College, London)

Mark Noll (University of Notre Dame)

Lamin Sanneh (Yale University)

N.T. Wright (University of St. Andrews)

Look Back in Anger: The 1960s and Evangelical Conservatives

Paul Harvey

I meant earlier (but neglected to) call your attention to this piece by my fellow blogmeister Randall Stephens: "Look Back in Anger: The 1960s and Evangelical Conservatives," posted over at the blog of the Historical Society. Head over and check it out; here's a short bit:

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Christianity Today, the chief magazine of American evangelicalism, published article after article on the terrors of the Left and the end of Christian civilization. Their world, so it seemed, was crumbling around them. (See Darren Dochuk's From Bible Belt to Sunbelt and Dan Williams recent God's Own Party for excellent insight into these and earlier developments.) The 1970s bestselling work of nonfiction, Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth, wove an evangelical end-times drama out of the explosive issues of the age. (Though Jesus People wore beads and Roman sandals and grew their hair "all long and shaggy," as Merle Haggard put it. . . ).

Continue reading here.

Daily Demonstrators

Paul Harvey

Here's an unexpected and interesting new work that came to my attention lately: Tobin Miller Shearer, Daily Demonstrators: The Civil Rights Movement in Mennonite Homes and Sanctuaries (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010).

The civil rights movement, as Shearer shows in minute detail in this volume, took place not just on the streets of the well-known campaigns, but in homes and church sanctuaries, where Mennonite “daily demonstrators” “strode through sanctuaries and loped through living rooms.” A series of narrative chapters cover topics as diverse as Mennonite “fresh air” programs to provide experiences in the countryside to black kids, interracial marriages among black-white Mennonite couples and the trials they faced from suspicious co-religionists, attempts to create interracial Mennonite congregations and the struggles those churches encountered, and the work of the well-known black historian Vincent Harding, a Mennonite convert who sought to guide the church towards more worldly “engagement” and less separation from sin so as to confront apartheid in America directly (but who eventually moved out of the Mennonite church in frustration). Throughout the book, the author usefully explores the paradox of separation and nonconformity to the world, which made some churchpeople unwilling to confront discrimination in their own religious world while pushing others to confront discrimination directly and forcefully. Mennonite separation thus had a “conflicted history,” explored in loving detail in this book. Overall, the work provides a most compelling look at how this particular Anabaptist tradition confronted the most central moral issue of American history within its own confines and traditions but at the same time engaging, tentatively and times and robustly at other times, the larger social world. The civil rights movement for Mennonites was defined by "inside agitators," and the struggles within homes and sanctuaries should take as central a place as those outside of them, Shearer concludes.

Here's some more on the book from the JHU website:

The Mennonites, with their long tradition of peaceful protest and commitment to equality, were castigated by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. for not showing up on the streets to support the civil rights movement. Daily Demonstrators shows how the civil rights movement played out in Mennonite homes and churches from the 1940s through the 1960s.

In the first book to bring together Mennonite religious history and civil rights movement history, Tobin Miller Shearer discusses how the civil rights movement challenged Mennonites to explore whether they, within their own church, were truly as committed to racial tolerance and equality as they might like to believe. Shearer shows the surprising role of children in overcoming the racial stereotypes of white adults. Reflecting the transformation taking place in the nation as a whole, Mennonites had to go through their own civil rights struggle before they came to accept interracial marriages and integrated congregations.

Based on oral history interviews, photographs, letters, minutes, diaries, and journals of white and African—American Mennonites, this fascinating book further illuminates the role of race in modern American religion

National Museum of American Jewish History

Randall Stephens

David O'Reilly has an interesting piece on the opening exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish History: "Chronicling Lives More than Religion," Philadelphia Inquirer, November 14, 2010. (The new museum is open to the public on Nov 28.) O'Reilly interviews deputy curator Josh Perelman and describes some of the highlights ranging from the 17th to the 20th century.

. . . After entering on Market Street, visitors are invited to start their tour on the fourth floor, in the year 1654, and descend through time, floor by floor, to the present, inspecting more than a thousand artifacts along the way.

A great majority of the items are secular - immigration documents from Ellis Island, a sewing machine, the upright piano at which the Russian-born, agnostic, but ethnically Jewish Berlin penned such tunes as "White Christmas," "Easter Parade," and "God Bless America."

But here, too, are examples of the Torah scrolls, bibles, prayer books, menus, candlesticks, kiddush cups, bat mitzvah dresses, and yarmulkes that have helped sustain Judaism in America for three and a half centuries.

"I think we did a pretty good job," said Perelman.

The tour begins with artifacts of Jewish life in the colonies. Here, behind glass, is a 1737 Torah from Savannah, Georgia; a plain, bronze menorah, or liturgical candelabrum; a circumcision kit; the wooden top of a Torah ark from Lancaster County; the bible of the Gomez family - New York mill owners who had fled the Spanish Inquisition; and the handwritten "subscription list" of donors who, in 1728, created America's first synagogue, Shearith Israel, in New York City.>>>

Southern Cultures Announcement and CFP

Paul Harvey

The following announcement from the journal Southern Cultures will be of interest to some of you here:

Southern Cultures, the award-winning quarterly from UNC's Center for the Study of the American South, has added several more essays and features to the section of our website that focuses of American religion, including content from our brand new issue. We'd also like to remind scholars of religion in the South--and related topics--that we're interested in your

Over 58,000 readers in classrooms in over 60 countries have viewed our content online. To read our material on religion, please visit here. You'll also find our submission guidelines, content on other subject areas, and more information about our latest issue here.

I would just add that cruising through the journal's most popular articles and pieces from the last decade yields a lot of fun reading, including Michael Butler's "Sin, Salvation, and Southern Rock."

Historians and Books vs. Journal Articles

Chris Beneke, a contributor to RiAH, has written an interesting piece on history publishing and gauging scholarly output. (I just posted it at the HS blog.) Beneke zeroes in on the significance of book publishing vs journal publishing and asks some questions about how historians could or should measure the
weight of their work.

Chris Beneke, "The Journal Standard," The Historical Society, November 15, 2010

Historians are people of the book. We write piles of them—monographs, textbooks, and edited books, strictly academic books and books intended (usually with no foundation in reality) for the bestseller list. Some of our better books are histories of the book; some of our better historians are historians of the book. We cherish books dearly, not least for their narrative artistry. But we also value their utility within the academic world. At research universities and colleges with research aspirations, after all, the scholarly book serves as the elusive ticket to the vastly overrated world of the tenured, Associate Professor, and later to invitations to speak, comment, and publish still more books. . . .

In short, historians are producing, recognizing, and even celebrating work that runs sharply against the grain of research in other disciplines. To put it in the bluntest terms, we have a Book Standard; they have a Journal Standard. It’s not that we don’t value that other form of scholarly currency. We just don’t value it quite as much.>>>
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