Tag Archives: Protestantism

Harriet Tubman, in movie and real life, guided by faith in fight for freedom

1 Nov

(RNS) — “God don’t mean people to own people.”

That simple statement, uttered by Cynthia Erivo in the title role of “Harriet,” a new movie about Harriet Tubman, reveals a truth long known by scholars of the woman dubbed “Moses.”

Tubman’s lived religion has been well recorded and used to explain how in 1849 a Maryland 20-something slave (her exact birthdate is not known) set out for the North to freedom, then over the next 10 years helped dozens of others gain liberty from enslavement. She embraced faith instead of fear, said Kate Clifford Larson, a historical consultant for the movie.

“It gave her confidence to do the things that she did,” said Larson.

So begins Adelle M. Banks’ report on Harriet Tubman and her faith, in life and in the new film. You may read the entire Religion News Service story here.

The Impossible, Necessary History of the Hymnal

13 Aug

Phillips, The Hymnal

Historian Chris Gehrz provides a fascinating review of a new book, The Hymnal, by Christopher N. Phillips. You may read the review here.

The Day Christian Fundamentalism Was Born

26 May

For many Americans, it was thrilling to be alive in 1919. The end of World War I had brought hundreds of thousands of soldiers home. Cars were rolling off the assembly lines. New forms of music, like jazz, were driving people to dance. And science was in the ascendant, after helping the war effort. Women, having done so much on the home front, were ready to claim the vote, and African-Americans were eager to enjoy full citizenship, at long last. In a word, life was dazzlingly modern.

But for many other Americans, modernity was exactly the problem. As many parts of the country were experimenting with new ideas and beliefs, a powerful counterrevolution was forming in some of the nation’s largest churches and Bible institutes. A group of Christian leaders, anxious about the chaos that seemed to be enveloping the globe, recalibrated the faith and gave it a new urgency. They knew that the time was right for a revolution in American Christianity. In its own way, this new movement — fundamentalism — was every bit as important as the modernity it seemingly resisted, with remarkable determination.

Historian Matthew Avery Sutton suggests that 100 years ago, fundamentalist Protestantism was born. While the specific year and occasion are subject to debate, Sutton adeptly and concisely describes the concerns of fundamentalists and points out some ongoing impacts. You can read the rest of his New York Times op-ed here.

Church Ladies and Grassroots Political Religion

16 Apr

A large group of women carry many signs, including a large banner that reads "The Women's Wave Rises: 2019 Women's March on Washington."

Following the excitement of the 2017 Women’s March, many white suburban women in swing districts revitalized the Democratic Party from the ground up. In their research in several swing states, historian Lara Putnam and political scientist Theda Skocpol looked past the massive one-day demonstration to find that college-educated and middle-aged women had returned home to invest in local Democratic politics. Motivated in part in opposition to the 52% of white women who voted for Trump, “middle America’s mothers and grandmothers,” some of whom had been Republicans and independents, formed local chapters of Indivisible, attended town halls, and volunteered for campaigns for the 2018 election. Many of these new activists invoked a shared gender identity, in this case informed by a distaste for Trump’s “brand of male authority.” Yet as critics of the Putnam and Skocpol report have noted, liberal white feminists have often advanced their causes by drawing on white supremacy instead of battling it. Many newly politicized white women have had to reckon with their racial privilege as they have worked alongside African American women and men and others who have been traditionally part of the Democratic base. In their relational organizing, and in their confrontation with their racial privilege, the experiences of today’s white women political activists resemble those of the United Council of Church Women (UCCW) in the mid-twentieth century.

So begins Gale Kenny’s concise essay on some of the recent history of white Protestant women’s political activism. You may read the rest of her OAH Process post here.

Protestant Missionaries of the 19th Century and Democracy

22 Dec

The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries

For many of our contemporaries, no one sums up missionaries of an earlier era like Nathan Price. The patriarch in Barbara Kingsolver’s 1998 novel, The Poisonwood Bible, Price tries to baptize new Congolese Christians in a river filled with crocodiles. He proclaims Tata Jesus is bangala!, thinking he is saying, “Jesus is beloved.” In fact, the phrase means, “Jesus is poisonwood.” Despite being corrected many times, Price repeats the phrase until his death—Kingsolver’s none-too-subtle metaphor for the culturally insensitive folly of modern missions.

So begins a fascinating report at Christianity Today about new research by sociologist  Robert Woodberry which firmly establishes a major positive impact on various nations in the world by 19th-century Protestant missionaries. You may read Andrea Palpant Dilley’s full story here.

When George H. W. Bush played the religion card: 1988

3 Dec

George H.W. Bush was not one to wear his religion on his sleeve. But to gain the Republican presidential nomination, he felt he had to.

A New England Episcopalian, Bush was raised listening to his devout mother read from the Book of Common Prayer. Like other upper class class WASPS raised in the mid-20th century, he was a regular churchgoer.

But beyond checking a denominational box and invoking the Deity on the appropriate ceremonial occasions, Bush did not make his religion part of his political life.

Until 1988, that is.

So begins Mark Silk’s report at Religion News Service on religion in the late former President Bush’s 1988 campaign. You may read the entire report here.

The Religious World Changed in 1968, but Not in the Ways We Think

6 Aug
Media and academics in the late 1960s stressed the trends they did because they approved of them. They wanted a progressive, secular-leaning, ecumenical future, and wrote as if it was inevitable.

Media and academics in the late 1960s stressed the trends they did because they approved of them. They wanted a progressive, secular-leaning, ecumenical future, and wrote as if it was inevitable.

In recent months I have been lecturing and teaching quite a bit on key anniversaries – on the centennial of the end of First World War, but also on that other tumultuous year, 1968.

The religious aspects of 1968 are not quite as legendary as other events and trends of that year, but they are extraordinarily significant.

Re-examining them today, what is perhaps most striking is the gulf that separates contemporary perceptions of key trends from later views. What we see at the time is very different from what later generations will recognize as the truly important developments.

So begins a brief essay at Australian Broadcasting Religion & Ethics by historian Philip Jenkins. You may read the entire fascinating piece here.

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