Children, Mormons, and Renderings of African American Religion: American Religious History in _Church History_


In the December 2007 (print) issue of Church History, there are three articles on interest for our blog. First is E. Brook Holifield's "Let the Children Come: The Religion of the Protestant Child in Early America." Holifield noted that there have been many quality studies of adult understandings of children, and he, instead, looks to the voices of children and how they understand their religious world views. It is delightful to see how Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Beecher (Stowe), and Charlotte Grimke grappled with religion as younger selves. Drawing from diaries of children, who lived between 1770-1861, he describes their poignant concerns over death, living a good life, and their focus on sermons.

Next, Thomas W. Simpson's "Mormons Study 'Abroad': Brigham Young's Romance with American Higher Education, 1867-1877" examines the how American Mormons were sent to American universities for specialized training in law, medicine, and other fields. Mormons believed that higher education would help them maintain their civilization as well as make non-Mormons envious of their advances.

The third essay, "Urbanization and the End of Black Churches in the Modern World," is by Curtis Evans (two mentions in one day!). This essay tackles the historiographical understandings of African American religion, and Evans argues, "What strikes me about the history of interpretations of African American religion is the way in which interpreters have asserted that peoples of African descent were 'naturally religious,' which meant that their religion was a product of biology and nature rather than of the 'supernatural'" (p.799). Evans presents the fascination of with 'natural' religiosity as well as calls for the end of "the Negro or Black Church as it has been historically constructed" (p. 822)