17 Apr

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election (and since) many tried to answer the question, “Why would evangelicals support him?” According to the Pew Research Center 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump, an astonishing margin given Trump’s lack of church involvement and his, um, complicated personal history. But few solid analyses have come from within the movement itself. Instead, most pundits have either treated evangelicalism as an oddity or revealed their own personal alienation from the movement.

Messiah College historian John Fea has earned the right to author a book on this topic. His research focuses on American Christianity, including his nuanced, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? that book put the lie to David Barton’s Christian nationalist mythology, and his critiques of evangelical writer Eric Metaxas, which earned a blocking on Twitter. Fea’s blog, “The Way of Improvement Leads Home,” enjoys wide appreciation. I consider John a friendly and admired acquaintance.

So begins Greg Carey’s friendly-yet-critical review of my friend John Fea’s new book Believe Me. You may read the entire review (at Religion Dispatches) here.


Wanted: Volunteers who like history … and can read cursive

9 Apr

One of the hazards of transcribing historical documents is that you never know when you might suddenly find yourself in the middle of a battle.

“I was typing these notes about what seemed like a routine day [on an aircraft carrier],” says Colleen Crook, a retired teacher. “But then the Japanese attacked … and there was a strafing incident and people died and it was very dramatic.”

Ms. Crook, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, is a volunteer with the US National Archives. Programs like the one she’s part of can be found at libraries, archives, and other institutions across the United States, as groups push to digitize documents so they can be available to the public online. The keyboard work of these “citizen archivists” helps organizations complete projects that otherwise would not have been possible – and in return brings people closer to history.

So begins Molly Driscoll’s report on volunteers in transcribing historical documents. You may read the rest of her report here.

Celebrating a medieval ‘Miracle of Amsterdam’ in city better known for its vices

9 Apr

AMSTERDAM (RNS) — Several thousand faithful braved below-freezing wind chills on a recent weekend night and filed quietly through the streets of a city more typically known for its red-light district vices than for its religiosity.

The hourlong Stille Omgang, or “silent walk,” held every year on a Saturday night around midnight a couple weeks before Easter, commemorates a medieval miracle and a post-Reformation time when Catholics were forbidden from displaying their faith publicly.

It’s a subdued ritual that stands in contrast to the extravagant processions found in other countries with a rich Catholic heritage.

So begins Menachem Wecker’s report on a Catholic ritual in contemporary Netherlands. You may read the rest of his report here.

Review of Robert J. Cook‘s “Civil War Memories, Contesting the Past Since 1865”

9 Apr

The current fight over removing Confederate monuments and the disturbing popularity for waving confederate flags at white supremacist rallies has attracted tremendous news media attention. The public demonstration of support for the Confederacy is not a new phenomenon, however, but rather the latest skirmish in a 150-year old struggle between competing “historical memories” about the Civil War, according to a new book by historian Robert J. Cook, Civil War Memories, Contesting the Past Since 1865.

According to Cook, a professor of history at the University of Sussex in Great Britain, and the author of two previous books on the Civil War, “As one would expect of such a divisive event, no single ‘memory’ of the Civil War has ever existed.”

So begins James Thornton Harris’ fascinating review of Cook’s Civil War Memories. You may read the rest of the review here.

Tales of the Doomed Franklin Expedition Long Ignored the Inuit Side, But “The Terror” Flips the Script

7 Apr


In 1845, Arctic veteran Sir John Franklin departed Britain in command of two ships, the HMS Terror and Erebus, to seek the fabled Northwest Passage in the Arctic. They were last seen by Europeans in Baffin Bay, off the coast of Greenland. Then both ships disappeared, seemingly swallowed by the ice and never heard from again, at least not from the explorers themselves.

Those looking for the true story, however, have almost always had access to one primary source: Inuit oral histories, more specifically the accounts of the Netsilik Inuit. As early as 1854, just six years after the expedition was declared lost, a Hudson’s Bay fur trader named John Rae talked to Inuk men he met about the fate of the Expedition.

So begins Kate Eschner’s report on the new AMS series “The Terror”. You may read the rest of her piece here.

The Beloved Classic Novel “The Little Prince” Turns 75 Years Old

4 Apr

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Though reviewers were initially confused about who, exactly, French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s had written The Little Prince for, readers of all ages embraced the young boy from Asteroid B-612 when it hit stores 75 years ago this week. The highly imaginative novella about a young, intergalactic traveler, spent two weeks on The New York Times’ best-seller list and went through at least three printings by December of that year. Though it only arrived in France after World War II, The Little Prince made it to Poland, Germany and Italy before the decade was up.

So begins Sam Spengler’s concise account of the background for The Little Prince. You may read the rest of her piece at here.

A History of Cannabis in the American West: An Interview

4 Apr

Nick Johnson has written Grass Roots: A History of Cannabis in the American West, published by Oregon State University Press. At Blog West, Johnson offers a concise summary of his book in an interview here.

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