The early weeks of the Trump presidency have been dominated by discussions of the ethics and propriety of his immigration policies. But Americans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries faced a flood of immigration that makes today’s issues look modest in comparison. Between 1877 and 1890 alone, a total of 6.3 million new arrivals entered the United States. Even more would arrive before the coming of World War I. The total American population in 1900 was just over 72 million, so the..
Eugene Peterson (b. 1932), writing in Books & Culture and reflecting back to the early 1960s:
Although I had been a pastor for a couple of years, I had little interest in theology. It was worse than that. My experience of theology was contaminated by adolescent polemics and hairsplitting apologetics. When I arrived at my university, my first impression was that the students most interested in religion were mostly interested in arguing. Theological discussions always seemed to set off a combativ..
Since Frederick Douglass is in the news these days—with President Trump calling him “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice”—I thought I’d share a haunting paragraph from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, written in 1845, sixteen years before the Civil War began.
It is a beautiful expression of the horrific hypocrisy of some antebellum churches:
I . . . hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, crad..
Ronald Numbers grew up as the son of a fundamentalist Seventh-Day Adventist minister, attending Adventist schools and being taught young-earth creationism until adulthood, where he lost his faith and became an agnostic. Today he is perhaps the world’s leading scholar on the history of the relationship between science and religion.
If you were to ask Professor Numbers for the “greatest myth” about the historical relationship between science and religion, he would respond that it’s the idea the t..
In the era of the American Revolution, intellectual topics like seashell fossils, the Genesis flood, and the age of the earth were all the rage. In December 1778, as the British prepared an invasion of Savannah, Georgia, seniors at Yale College held a debate on whether the flood had been global, or just restricted to the ancient Middle East. Writers associated with the “American Enlightenment,” not least Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, speculated for decades over what the discovery of co..
The “eugenics” movement, which sought to protect and improve hereditary racial stock, was phenomenally popular in early 20th century America, and it has an important connection to today’s pro-abortion movement. Thomas C. Leonard explains eugenics in his 2016 book Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era:
“Eugenics” derives from the Greek for “well born” and describes the movement to improve human heredity by the social control of human breeding. The con..
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, symbolically inaugurated by Martin Luther’s 95 Theses in 1517. There are many events scheduled in Europe and America to commemorate the Reformation. [It is the theme of The Gospel Coalition’s national conference in April, and the topic of a major Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning conference in October.]
I asked several historians for suggestions on the best books on the Reformation, ones that were seriou..
Douglas Sweeney—Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought, Chair of the Department, and Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School—has published widely on Edwards, early modern Protestant thought, and the history of evangelicalism. In 2015 Oxford University Press published his long-awaited Edwards the Exegete Biblical Interpretation and Anglo-Protestant Culture on the Edge of the Enlightenment. He kindly answered some questions about the..
In today’s post, I am interviewing historian Paul Harvey of the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs. Dr. Harvey is one of America’s most distinguished historians of religion and race, and is the author of the new book Bounds of Their Habitation: Race and Religion in American History.
[TK] The intersections between race and religion in America have inspired everything from courageous moral reform movements to the most loathsome kinds of bigotry. Why have racial and religious issues been so..
If Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Had a Dream” speech (August 28, 1963) was the visionary sermon of the Civil Rights Movement, his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was its epistolatory defense.
On April 12, 1963—Good Friday—an open letter had appeared in the Birmingham, Alabama, newspaper issuing “A Call for Unity” and protesting the recent Civil Rights demonstrations in Birmingham.
The eclectic group of eight white clergymen from Alabama who wrote and signed the letter—two Episcopalians and two Met..