Thursday, October 30, 2014

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update 94

Did the Second Great Awakening exist?
Want to get some context for this post? Click here.

We are pressing on.  I got in a good three hour writing session this morning in which I churned out about 1000 words on Chapter Five.  Today I was writing about the connection between the distribution of ABS Bibles and the triggering of the revivals of the so-called "Second Great Awakening."

Recently I got an e-mail from a scholar who asked me if I could recommend the best synthesis of the Second Great Awakening.  I had to admit that I do not know of such a survey--probably because the revivals were scattered geographically and spread out over time.  I found it interesting that few books on religion or reform in the early republic or antebellum period even use the term "Second Great Awakening."  For example, Mark Noll, in his magisterial America's God, only mentions the phrase twice and those two mentions suggest that the phrase is largely unhelpful and should probably not be used.  Here are those two passages:

p.181: To the extent that the United States ever experienced a Second Great Awakening, Methodist expansion was it.  In charting the rise of a much more evangelical America, historians have probably given too much attention to highly visible revival meetings, yet they too played an important part."  

p.565: "[The Second Great Awakening is] an imprecise term that is usually taken to refer to a series of revivals managed by Presbtyerians and Congregationalists (from the 1790s? from the early 1800s? into the 1830s?) that brought great numbers into the American churches.  If used at all, it should feature the less publicized efforts of Methodists and Baptists who did most of the work in churching and civilizing the American populace between the War for Independence and the Civil War."

Hardly a ringing endorsement from the current dean of American religious historians.

How Are Christian Colleges Doing on the Diversity Scale?

Belhaven University
With the exception of a few schools in or around major U.S. cities or in California, not very well. 

Over at the Pietist Schoolman, Chris Gehrz reports on our largely white Christian colleges and how they compare to other colleges and universities.

By the way, I seriously think a Christian college should hire Gehrz as a provost.  He is wise, a proven academic leader, understands the mission of Christian colleges, and seems to love producing these careful studies of Christian colleges and universities.  And, of course, we need more historian-administrators.

Here are the most diverse Christian colleges (members of the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities) in the United States:

Nyack College (NY) (74.1%)
Houston Baptist University (TX) (65.5%)
Belhaven University (MS) (58.9%)
University of the Southwest (NM) (51.2%)
Warner University (FL) (50.4%)
Fresno Pacific University (CA) (46.5%)
California Baptist University (CA) (44.0%)
Vanguard University (CA) (43.8%)
Hope International University (CA) (40.4%)
Biola University (CA) (39.6%)

Here are the least diverse Christian colleges in the United States

Waynesburg University (PA) (5.2%)
College of the Ozarks (MO) (5.5%)
Huntington University (IN)  (5.9%)
Cedarville University (OH) (6.4%)
Dordt College (IA) (6.4%)
Asbury University (KY) (6.5%)
Hannibal-LaGrange University (MO)) (7.7%)
Houghton College (NY) (7.9%)
King University (TN) (7.9%)
Southwest Baptist (MO) (8.2%)

Heretical Evangelicals

What would B.B. Warfield think?
Yesterday in my History of American Evangelicalism course at Messiah College we spent some time talking about the doctrine of biblical inerrancy as formulated by Princeton Seminary's "Old School" theologians in the late 19th century. The Old School Presbyterians were confessionalists.  Although they certainly thought Christians should live a life of piety and be active in living out the gospel in the world, in the end they believed that one could not be a Christian unless he or she conformed to the orthodoxy of the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Piety and activism stemmed from correct doctrines.  A person could not claim to be following Jesus if such a journey resulted in the affirmation of unorthodox theological commitments.

One of my students asked me if there were still any Old School Presbyterians around today.  I pointed him to my favorite Old School website, among others.

I thought a lot about what we discussed yesterday in class as I read a recent survey, conducted by LifeWay Research, on the theological beliefs of contemporary evangelicals.  According to this survey:
  • Nearly all evangelical Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the deity of Christ, the sovereignty of God, and the inspiration of the Bible.
  • 31% of evangelicals believe that God the Father is more "divine" that Jesus.  This is the theological heresy of Arianism.
  • 58% of evangelical Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is a "force," not a "personal being." This is a form of Arianism callePneumatomachianism.
  • 71% of evangelical Christians believe that people seek God first and then God responds with His grace.  56% of evangelical Christian believe that human beings have a role to play in their own salvation.  Some might say that this is a form of the heresy of Pelagianism.
Read Keith Emmert''s article on the survey at Christianity Today's website.  

Want to learn more about ancient heresies?  Check out Harold O.J. Brown's Heresies (Doubleday, 1984).  When I was in divinity school I took all of my theology courses with Brown.  He was the first Harvard graduate (B.A., M.Div, Ph.D) I ever met.  We affectionately called him "The Juice" (because of his middle initials).

It seems a lot of evangelicals are heretics.  And I am not sure many of them care.

The Decaying Ruins of PTL

Most of you know the story of PTL (Praise the Lord) ministries, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker's television ministry that collapsed under a sex scandal and subsequent revelations of accounting fraud. Jim ended up in jail.  He and Tammy Faye got divorced.  Tammy Faye started making appearances on television reality shows.  Jim remarried and returned to television, albeit briefly. Tammy Faye also remarried.  She passed away in 2007.

I recently learned that University of Missouri historian John Wigger is writing a book about the whole thing.

One of the pieces of the PTL empire was Heritage USA, a Christian theme park in South Carolina. Have you even wondered what happened to this complex?  Emily Johnson has.  Over at Religion & Politics she has a very interesting essay about the "ruins" of PTL.  (Time also did a piece on the ruins back in 2011).

Johnson teaches religion at the University of Tennessee.  Here is a taste of her piece:

To see what remains of the park today, interested explorers can take exit 90 off I-77 in South Carolina. Driving southeast on Carrowinds Boulevard for a mile, you will pass subdivisions and townhouses that have sprouted up on much of Heritage USA’s former 2,300 acres, courtesy of a local real estate developer. Pass by the refurbished golf course and stop a moment to notice the brass-capped pyramid that once held PTL’s main offices as well as the PTL World Outreach Center. It is now the U.S. headquarters of Welsh textile company Laura Ashley, a fully owned subsidiary of the Malaysian MUI Group.

You will eventually come to a crumbling parking lot, with the still-unfinished Heritage Grand Towers ahead of you and the remains of Heritage USA on your left, bordered by a chain-link fence and overgrown with weeds. If you peer through the fence, you can see the lake that sat at the center of the park and you can make out the island on which the Heritage USA waterpark stood. You are unfortunately too late to see the fiberglass “King’s Castle” that had become emblematic of the park’s excesses. Intended by Jim Bakker to be the world’s largest Wendy’s restaurant, it was eventually repurposed as a go-cart track but was demolished last year. 

The Author's Corner with Catherine McNeur

Catherine McNeur is Assistant Professor of Environmental History and Public History at Portland State University. This interview is based on her new book, Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City (Harvard University Press, November 2014).

JF: What led you to write Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City?

CM: Before I got started on Taming Manhattan, I had read a passing reference to New York’s hog riots in the early nineteenth century. I was amused by the fact that pigs freely sauntered through the streets, let alone that they were the cause of riots. My reaction, I’ve come to realize, reflects that like many others I make assumptions about what belongs in a city and what doesn’t. As I began to look into these riots and several other environmental battles, I found that the nineteenth century was a moment where these lines between urban and rural were being drawn. The act of drawing those lines legally and culturally was highly contentious because many stood to lose quite a lot as the municipal government pushed livestock and agriculture out of the city and made it harder to earn a living from urban land.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City?

CM: As cities such as New York transformed beyond recognition from the influx of immigrants and the construction of new buildings, residents found in the urban environment a way to seize control of the seemingly uncontrollable city. While the battles that erupted over the use of the urban environment often led to a tamer, cleaner, and more regulated city, they also amplified environmental injustices and economic disparities.

JF: Why do we need to read Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City?

CM: Nowadays there’s a lot of talk about how to make cities sustainable. Taming Manhattan shows us that “sustainability” meant something completely different in the nineteenth century and will likely mean something completely different in years to come. Today keeping backyard chickens or rooftop beehives is trendy and acceptable by a range of different people and municipalities. You can even buy a $100,000 chicken coop from Nieman Marcus if you were so inclined. However, 150 years ago it was far from fashionable to keep livestock or tend a garden and wealthier New Yorkers actively tried to bring about the death or urban agriculture. In their eyes, getting rid of local food sources would make the city healthier and more sustainable. What we need to remember is that attempts to improve cities usually come with significant social costs that we often overlook.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

CM: I actually majored in urban design rather than history when I was an undergrad. One of the courses I took for that major, though, focused on the architectural history of New York City. Each week the professor led us on walking tours through a different neighborhood, discussing the specific histories of buildings and communities. Having grown up around New York, I was used to the city and its built environment. In fact, it seemed like more of a backdrop than anything else. This class, however, opened my eyes up to the wealth of stories about people, politics, economics, and environments that led to something as simple as the design of a city block. As I got further into that major, I researched the work of an architect in the early republic. I fell in love with the detective work necessary in the archives and there’s been no turning back since.

JF: What is your next project?

CM: Taming Manhattan involves New Yorkers fighting over sizable animals, like sows among other things. For my next project, I’m interested in looking at how early Americans reacted to much smaller creatures from amoeba to insects and what that meant for the way they understood their own bodies and environments. While today we see a budding respect for bacteria as people increasingly embrace probiotics and newspapers report on the importance “good bacteria,” the fear of tiny things has yet to go away. I’m interested in seeing how nineteenth-century Americans confronted these fears.

JF: Good stuff, thanks Catherine!

And thanks to Megan Piette for facilitating this installment of The Author's Corner

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bear Fight in Rockaway, New Jersey

This is only a few miles from where I grew up.

It's FDR's Country, We're Just Living In It

Each red dot represents a New Deal project.  Learn more at Cal-Berkeley's "The Living New Deal" website.

Gilder-Lehrman Institute National History Teacher of the Year

It is not our own Kevin Wagner, but congratulations to Michelle Anderson of John Glenn High School!

Congratulations to Michele Anderson of John Glenn High School,
the 2014 National History Teacher of the Year!
HISTORY® and The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History are pleased to
announce that Westland, Michigan high school teacher Michele Anderson has been

Her work with students has drawn the attention and acclaim of the Her work with
students has drawn the attention and acclaim of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the
Library of Congress. In 2013, she received the Michigan Historical Commission's "John B.
Swainson Award" for her efforts to preserve the memory of Michigan's defense workers
and World War II veterans through student-led oral history interview projects with
World War II and Korean War veterans.

Please join HISTORY® and The Gilder Lehrman Institute in wishing Michele congratulations on a richly deserved award!

Do you have a teacher you'd like to nominate for the 2015 award? The nomination process is quick, easy, and free. Nominate a teacher today.

About The National History Teacher of the Year Award
The National History Teacher of the Year Award, started in 2004, highlights the crucial importance of history education by honoring exceptional American history teachers from elementary school through high school. 
In addition to the national award, HISTORY® and Gilder Lehrman annually recognize a first-rate history teacher in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the Department of Defense Schools, and U.S. Territories. Each state winner receives $1,000, an archive of books and resources from Gilder Lehrman and HISTORY® for their school's library, and becomes a finalist for the national award.

To learn more about the National History Teacher of the Year award and view a list of previous national and state winners, please click here.

Serendipity in the Archives

Last week the Messiah College History Department hosted Philip Deloria of the University of Michigan for our annual American Democracy Lecture.  Deloria was very gracious with his time. Not only did he deliver an evening lecture to about 350 students, faculty, and community members, but he also agreed to lead a few classes.

One of those classes was our Sophomore "Historical Methods" course.  In this course we teach students how to produce a first-rate historical research paper on a topic of their choice.  In the course of the conversation in the class he visited, Deloria discussed how historians work in the archives.  All historians hope to have a moment of serendipity when they enter the archives. ("Serendipity is defined by Webster as "luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for").They want to find a document that no other historian before them has seen or considered. Or they want to have an "aha" moment in which they encounter a document or series of documents that can be interpreted in a way that reshapes or fundamentally changes the way we have long understood the historic subject matter at hand.

Sometimes these serendipitous moments happen by sheer luck (or providence, depending on your theology). We find something we never expected to find that totally transforms the way we think about our project.  But most of the time, as Deloria told our students, serendipitous moments in the archives or with primary sources happen because we are prepared.  In other words, these kinds of moments usually happen not because we simply got lucky, but because we have done the necessary secondary reading and we understanding the historiography of the particular subject.  When this happens--when we are prepared to do historical research-- we are more prone to find things that are useful, if not groundbreaking, for our work.  We begin to look at primary sources or archival material in a new way.

Deloria's remarks reinforced what we have been trying to teach our history majors about writing a research paper.  A good piece of historical scholarship--even an undergraduate piece of scholarship--must always be forged out of a regular and ongoing conversation between the secondary literature and the primary/archival material.  The more one reads and prepares before encountering the primary material, the more likely that such an serendipitous moment might occur.

I think this is an important reminder for both students and the seasoned historical researcher.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #93

Want to get some context for this post? Click here.

I have always been a more traditional writer when it comes to location.  I wrote or edited my last four books from the desk in my home office or from the kitchen table in my aunt's lake house in the north woods of New Hampshire. (I don't like to write in my Messiah College office--too many distractions).

As I write my current book on the American Bible Society I am finding that I need more variety in my writing spaces. For example, I wrote most of the book proposal on a New Jersey Transit commuter train and in a booth at a New Jersey McDonalds. I wrote a good deal of the first two chapters in at least three different Panera Bread restaurants scattered across New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Lately I have been writing in a local diner.  

Having said that, in a few days I will probably be back in my home office, working on my new desktop computer.  (I still need to take it out of the box and set it up).

Today I spent a few hours in the diner and a few hours in the Messiah College library. My work on Chapter Five continues.  I am trying something new with this chapter.  This morning I dumped all of my primary research, in the order it will appear in the chapter, into a Word document that I called "Chapter Five."  I am then going to craft my prose around the primary material, eliminating whatever quotes and notes are not needed.  We will see how it goes.  

I wrote 600 words this morning and think I set myself up for about double or triple that number tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

Teaching Evangelicals About The Recent History of Evangelicals and the Bible

Carl F.H. Henry was a defender of biblical inerrancy
As some of you know, I am teaching a Sunday School class at West Shore Evangelical Free Church on the last fifty years of American evangelical history.   Last Sunday I devoted the class to evangelicals and the Bible.  I only had fifty minutes to discuss this very complex subject.  And as a historian, not a theologian, I focused on explaining the way various positions on biblical authority emerged in particular historical contexts.

David Bebbington has argued that "biblicism," or the belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and thus has authority over a Christian's life, is a fundamental tenet of evangelical faith. With this in mind, I suggested that evangelicals have come to embrace four different views of the Bible over the last fifty years.

1.  Dictation:  The idea that God dictated his Word to the biblical writers and they merely copied it down as scribes.  This view has been rather rare in post-1960s evangelicalism, but it was championed by some fundamentalists such as John R. Rice.  The dictation theory of Biblical revelation has also been connected to those fundamentalist churches who believe that the King James Version is the only divinely inspired translation of the Bible.

2.  Inerrancy:  I introduced this position on the Bible by pointing the class to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978).

3.  Infallibility:  The idea that the Bible is inspired and without error in its central message of salvation through Jesus Christ, but does contain errors in the areas of science and history.  I spent some time discussing the controversy over Biblical authority in the 1960s at Fuller Seminary and the way that Harold Lindsell's book The Battle for the Bible fueled these flames of controversy.

4.  Neo-Orthodoxy:  There are some evangelicals who have embraced Karl Barth's vision of Biblical revelation.  Here I referenced Phil Thorne's book Evangelicalism and Karl Barth: His Reception in North American Evangelical Theology.  I mentioned Thorne for two reasons.  First, his book is the best thing I have read on Barth's influence on evangelicalism.  Second, Thorne is the former pastor of the West Shore Evangelical Free Church.

We had a good discussion about these various views.  I honestly don't know where the members of this class stand on these approaches to biblical authority, but I have a hunch that most of them believe in inerrancy.  What I appreciated most was the way that many members of the class stressed the importance of charity when it comes to assessing fellow evangelicals who might disagree with them on these questions of biblical authority.

Next week's class will focus on evangelical youth culture.

Monday, October 27, 2014

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #92

Want to get some context for this post? Click here.

I am starting to make some progress again on the ABS project.  More on that tomorrow.  Today I want to reflect a bit on my journey toward landing a publisher for the book.  (I signed a contract today with Oxford University Press).

If you have been reading along with these updates, you know I spent a lot of time back in August crafting my book proposal.  I sent it off to literary agents, university presses, and trade presses (including Christian trade presses) that do not require a literary agent.  Here is what happened:

1.  Most literary agents turned me down.  The story of the ABS was interesting, but not interesting enough, they thought, for a trade book.

2.  One literary agent was interested until I told her that I had sent the book out to some universities presses that had trade divisions.  She did not feel comfortable selling a book to publishers who I had already contacted with the proposal.  I learned a good lesson here.  Literary agents want the exclusive right to pitch a proposal.

3.  Two Christian publishers were interested in the book and offered me very attractive deals.   These were both Christian trade presses and thus were not required to send the proposal out for review.

4.  An academic press with a trade division also made me a very attractive offer.  They sent the proposal out for review very quickly and came back with a contract.

5. A very well-respected Ivy League university press was ready to offer me a contract, but they did not think that they would be able to put the book through the review process and  prepare the book for publication in time to meet my May 2016 publication date.  Yet this press really wanted the book and wanted to include it in a new series geared toward popular audiences.  They suggested sending my chapters out for review as I completed them.

6.  Several other university presses wanted the book, but they could just not meet the timetable or my desired price point.

In the end, Oxford and one of the Christian presses made the best offers.  Oxford sent the proposal out for review and I got three very positive responses from referees who clearly knew a lot about the history of the ABS.  Oxford promised to keep the price point low (under $30.00), agreed to publish it as a trade book, allowed me to have some extra images, and promised to make sure the book would be published in May 2016 in time for the ABS's 200th anniversary celebration.  

The Christian press made a similar offer and even offered a 12-page glossy insert for images. 

In the end, I went with Oxford because I wanted the book to appeal to both Christian and non-Christian audiences.  The Christian press mentioned above made a great offer, but I thought that if I accepted the offer it would limit my readership.

Stay tuned for further posts on securing a publisher.  

Virtual Office Hours: Fall 2014 - Episode 8

Thoughts on Christine Heyrman's Southern Cross
Part III

Why Are Democrats Doing So Well in the South?

Mitch McConnell needs evangelicals to win in Kentucky
Over at The Atlantic, Robert P. Jones of the Public Religion Research Institution has made a very interesting observation about evangelicals and the mid-term elections in the South.  Jones argues that the five closest Senate races in the region (Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Kentucky)  have one thing in common: the proportion of white evangelical Protestants has dropped significantly.  Here is a taste:

Two forces account for the declining proportions of white evangelical and mainline Protestants: the growth of non-black ethnic minorities and, perhaps surprisingly, the growth of the religiously unaffiliated across the South. Notably, each of these growing constituencies leans decidedly toward Democratic candidates. For example, in 2007, the religiously unaffiliated constituted 12 percent each of the populations of Kentucky and North Carolina. By 2013, the percentage of unaffiliated Kentuckians had jumped nine points to 21 percent, and the percentage of unaffiliated North Carolinians had jumped to 17 percent. While increases in the proportions of the religiously unaffiliated in Arkansas, Georgia, and Louisiana fall short of statistical significance, the patterns all point in the same direction.

So what does this mean for the 2014 elections? Certainly, events on the ground are still paramount; the campaign machines and peculiarities of candidates matter. And in low-turnout elections such as the midterms, the real weight of these demographic and religious shifts will not yet be fully felt at the ballot box. White evangelical Protestants have a strong turnout record, while non-black ethnic minorities and particularly the religiously unaffiliated are much less likely to vote. PRRI’s pre-election American Values Survey found that while two-thirds (65 percent) of white evangelical Protestants report that they were absolutely certain to vote in the November elections, less than half (45 percent) of the religiously unaffiliated report this kind of certainty. But the underlying trends indicate that at least one reason why there are a number of close elections across the South is the declining dominance of white evangelical Protestants, the most stalwart of GOP supporters.

Historians of the South:  Feel free to chime in.

Marketing Historical Societies By Changing Their Names

In April I wrote a post about my visit to, the former Lancaster (PA) Historical Society. Lancaster.Org is both a website and a "brick and mortar" county historical society.  It is one example of the way that state and county historical societies are re-branding themselves with new names.  The Ohio Historical Society is now the Ohio History Connection.  The Colorado Historical Society is now History Colorado.

Here is a taste of a New York Times article discussing this recent trend:

In June, the Chester County Historical Society in Pennsylvania announced a grant-funded
project to examine the marketing of its name as well as the names of its buildings and other spaces. “For years, we have been hearing — mostly anecdotally — that our name hindered our ability to reach new audiences,” Robert Lukens, the president, said.

The society would simply like to get the word out to a greater variety of people about all the historical stuff it has, like one of the youngest images of Frederick Douglass that he gave to Susan B. Anthony and a rifle that was used on Robert Peary’s expedition to the Arctic in his quest for the North Pole

“We need to change the image of our organization,” Mr. Lukens said. “We want to make sure that the excitement that our programs and our collection bring to people is accurately reflected in what we call ourselves.”

In addition to trying to bolster its annual attendance of 32,000 — the society would like to break 40,000 in two years — the organization is experimenting with programs like “History on Tap,” where speakers discuss historic topics at local bars and restaurants. The website promoted a recent one at Molly Maguire’s Irish Restaurant and Pub, noting that the event would “provide a brief history of the Irish in Phoenixville starting from the first immigrants in the 1810s to boxing in the 1950s.”

Perhaps academic institutions could learn a lesson here.  How might we re-brand the humanities so that they are more attractive to perspective students?  What about "The Human Experience Connection?"

The Author's Corner with Jean Soderlund

Jean Soderlund is Professor of History at Lehigh University. This interview is based on her new book, Lenape Country: Delaware Valley Society Before William Penn (University of Penn Press, 2014).

JF: What led you to write Lenape Country: Delaware Valley Society Before William Penn?

JS: My goals in writing the book evolved over time as I researched and thought about the project. The plan initially was to write about the Lenapes in New Jersey because colonial historians focused primarily on Pennsylvania and suggested that all the surviving Lenapes—called Delawares by the Europeans during the eighteenth century—moved west. I knew that a sizable number of Lenapes remained in New Jersey and wanted to tell their story. With research I learned that the Native people had a significant impact on the development of the Delaware Valley, so that became the larger focus of my book.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Lenape Country: Delaware Valley Society Before William Penn?

JS: During the seventeenth century, Lenapes controlled the Delaware Valley, limiting settlement and allying with the Susquehannocks, Swedes, Finns, and other Europeans against heavy-handed Dutch and English authority. In the process, the Lenapes and these colonists interacted on the basis of personal liberty, religious freedom, decentralized government, trade, and peaceful resolution of conflict, thus creating the cultural platform on which Delaware Valley society grew.

JF: Why do we need to read Lenape Country: Delaware Valley Society Before William Penn?

JS: Colonial scholars typically begin their histories of other colonies such as Virginia and Massachusetts in the early seventeenth century but start the history of Pennsylvania in 1681 with William Penn. My book uncovers the history of the Delaware Valley in the seventeenth century—one that is quite different from the Chesapeake and New England because the Natives retained control. When the Dutch attempted to establish large-scale plantation agriculture at Swanendael in 1631, the Lenapes killed all its residents and demolished the colony, discouraging expansive settlement for more than fifty years.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

JS: I always loved history, and wanted to be a teacher and writer since I was a teenager. My career has been varied: I taught high school and community college; served as an associate editor of the Papers of William Penn and as an archivist; and since 1988 have taught colonial American history at the university level. My primary interest has been relations between people of different ethnicity, economic status, and gender. Peace and justice remain central issues in our society: we can understand society today only if we first learn about the past.

JF: What is your next project?

JS: I’ve started a project on West New Jersey, which was divided from East New Jersey until 1702 when the two unified as New Jersey, but has remained separate—it could be argued even to the present—culturally and economically. West New Jersey was Lenape country in the seventeenth century and remained the homeland of many Natives as late as the 1750s. Its decentralized government, ethnic relations, and pinelands created a society and economy quite different from other colonies, even Pennsylvania. I want to write a history of West Jersey that includes the Lenapes as well as the colonists.

JF: Can't wait to read it, thanks Jean!

And thanks to Megan Piette for facilitating this installment of The Author's Corner

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

The White Houses's first website

How to write a sentence

Jonathan Yardley reviews Laura Auricchio, The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered

Place vs. empire

Ph.Ds in history are worse of all?

The Salem Witch Trials and language

Harvey Kaye reviews Richard Brookhiser's new biography of Lincoln

Why you should review books


Slavery at the University of South Carolina

The 1990s in American religious history

Jill Lepore, Wonder Woman, and feminism

Billy Joel at The Garden

NASA recordings

Writer's block

An archive of vintage advertisements from The New York Times

Mark Driscoll and Bill Clinton

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Watch History Pedagogy Guru Lendol Calder Do 100 Pushups...

and discuss how the Augustana College History Department trains history teachers.

Song of the Day

Yesterday in my History of Evangelicalism course we discussed the influence of the Holiness movement on American fundamentalism.  Like the holiness preachers of the late nineteenth century, early twentieth century fundamentalists often talked about the "victorious Christian life" that could come to true believers who relied upon the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome personal sin.

Here "Victory in Jesus" by George Beverly Shea.  Some of you may know him as Billy Graham's music director.

Quote of the Day

From James Grossman, Executive Director of the American Historical Association, quoted in Sandhya Kambhampati's article "Measuring Humanities Degrees Misses Much of Their Value."  (HT: Peter Powers)
I don’t see why we are fixated on the single category of income as a measure of success...If humanities majors tend to become teachers, social workers, clergy, does that mean they are less successful than money managers or engineers?...Instead of assuming these humanities majors are less successful, we ought to be thanking them for being willing to make financial sacrifices in their careers to provide our communities with essential resources....

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #91

Want to get some context for this post? Click here

It has been a horrible writing week--absolutely horrible.  As I have written in previous posts I have been too busy with other personal and professional responsibilities to work on the ABS project, but I will also admit that I have been low on motivation this past week.  Chapter Five is requiring a lot of outside reading and it is really slowing me down. 

The week is over and it was a bust.  But I can't have many more weeks like this if I want to finish the book.  Here's hoping I can get it together next week.  Two new developments just might help.

First, I bought a new computer.  My current home computer is about four years old.  I hope the new hardware might give me a jump start.

Second, I have finally landed a publisher for this book.  On Monday I will be signing a contract agreement with Oxford University Press.  The folks at Oxford have met all of my demands for this book.  They have agreed to a low price-point (it will be a trade book) and will be able to have the book out in time for the May 2016 200th anniversary celebration. (Assuming I can deliver by May 1, 2015) Needless to say I am thrilled with this offer!  And now that I have a publisher in place I will try to do a few more posts about the entire process of securing one.  Stay tuned.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Virtual Office Hours: Fall 2014 - Episode 7

Thoughts on Christine Heyrman's Southern Cross
Part II

Most Popular Posts of the Last Week

Here are the most popular posts of the last week at The Way of Improvement Leads Home:

1.  Sunday Night Odds and Ends--October 19, 2014
2.  L.D. Burnett on "Secular Academic Homiletics"
3.  John Wilsey is on Fire
4.  The Author's Corner with Lindsay O'Neill
5.  William Lloyd Garrison Did Not Like the U.S. Constitution
6.  AHA Prize Winners
7.  The Author's Corner with Amy DeRogatis
8.  God and the Declaration of Independence
9.  Keeping Up With Work on Capitalism and Religion
10. Introducing the "Benjamin Franklin's World" Podcast

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich Describes Her Journey From Mormon Motherhood to the Halls of Harvard

I love reading biographies and autobiographies of historians and other academics.  I have been teaching Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's movie (based on her Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same title) "A Midwife's Tale" for probably fifteen years.  It works very well with students taking the United States history survey course.  I have also used Ulrich's Good Wives several times in my colonial America course.  She is one of my favorite historians.

I was thus pleased to see this interview with Ulrich at The Harvard Gazette.  Over the course of the interview she describes her unorthodox journey into the profession and how she conceived of several of her books.  Here is a taste:

UNH had just hired faculty members specializing in early American history. That’s why I majored in early American history — because the best faculty were in that field. So it was Darrett Rutman and Charlie Clark: both former journalists who really cared about writing. They really encouraged me. They were both really terrific, really wonderful. But of course I couldn’t have done it, wouldn’t have done it, if I hadn’t had my women’s network — still in Boston, a lot of them. It was a very close network of good friends, and we continued to work on feminist stuff. Claudia Bushman got a Ph.D. at BU about the same time I was at UNH.
Q: What was that transition like in those days, from literature to history?
A: Charlie had an American studies degree, rather than a straight history degree. He had studied with Carl Bridenbaugh at Brown. Darrett was a hard-core social scientist in his approach to history, but a writer. The two of them really emphasized the literary side of history — history as writing — [but] their methodologies were totally different. Charlie was interested in historical literature and narrative, and he did more intellectual history. Darrett did a lot more quantification and social history. I really think working with the two of them made it possible for me to do what I did. I really got good training in social history and lots of nourishing in terms of writing history. It was a nice combination.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Image of the Day: Jesus Promise Seeds

My colleague Devin Manzullo-Thomas recently taped this package to my office door.  I hope to bring it to my history of American evangelicalism class this week as an example of the kind of Christian kitsch that evangelicalism produces.  I am sure you can buy your own bag of these Jesus promise seeds at a Christian bookstore/giftstore near you!

Keeping Up With Work on Capitalism and Religion

Over at the blog of the American Society of Church History, Northwestern graduate student Jeffrey Wheatley has a useful historiographical post on some recent scholarship at the intersection of American religious history and the history of capitalism.  Here is a taste:

Not to be left behind, scholars of Christianity and religion generally have also been especially interested in business, wealth, and trade. This interest, of course, is not unprecedented, but I want to list some of the more recent works for this post. Bethany Moreton’s To Serve God and Wal-Mart, which was noted in The New York Times article, explores the rise of “Wal-Mart Moms” and the political impact of their faith in God and market. Kathryn Lofton has already given us Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon, which explores the relationship between modern American religiosity and consumerism. She is also working on a project that does something similar with the financial practices at the Goldman Sachs Group. Thomas Rzeznik’s Church and Estate revels in the Gilded Age by looking at the intersection of religious claims and business practices among the Philadelphia elite. Christopher Cantwell’s essay over at Religion & Politics sketches out some of the links between big capitalism and big Christianity in Illinois.

AHA Prize Winners

The American Historical Association has announced its 2014 prize winners.  Here are a few of them that caught my eye:

The William and Edwyna Gilbert Award for the best article on teaching history goes to Lendol Calder (Augustana College), “The Stories We Tell,” OAH Magazine of History 27, no. 3 (2013): 5–8 

The James A. Rawley Prize for the integration of Atlantic worlds before the 20th century goes to Aaron Spencer Fogleman (Northern Illinois University), Two Troubled Souls: An Eighteenth-Century Couple’s Spiritual Journey in the Atlantic World (University of North Carolina Press, 2013) 

The Wesley-Logan Prize in African diaspora history goes to Jacob S. Dorman (University of Kansas), Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions (Oxford University Press, 2013) 

The Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History to a freely available new media project goes to "Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict, 1854–1865" (Kansas City Public Library) 


The Author's Corner with Amy DeRogatis

Amy DeRogatis is Associate Professor of Religion and American Culture at Michigan State University. This interview is based on her new book, Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism (Oxford University Press, November 2014)

JF: What led you to write Saving Sex?

AD: My interest in this topic began with a question by an undergraduate in my Religion and Gender class at Michigan State University. In the course we had been reading a book that discussed some ritual practices around marital sexuality in Orthodox Judaism. One student raised her hand and asked, “Where do Christians go to read about the proper ways to have sex?” I made a quick reply about evangelicals publishing lots of material about how not to have sex and returned to the topic of discussion. The question stuck with me and after class I ran a few Internet searches. I was unable to find any secondary material, such as a scholarly article that surveyed and analyzed the literature. I did eventually find lots of primary sources, and many of them were in Special Collections in the Main Library at MSU. This began a long process of reading many types of prescriptive literature about sex written by and aimed towards American evangelicals.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Saving Sex?

AD: In Saving Sex I argue that rather than denying the sexual body, evangelical sex writers present distinct visions of how sexual acts and rituals can be productive for individual and world salvation. Talking about sexuality allows evangelicals to carve an identity for themselves that sets them apart from secular American culture, even as they fervently embrace many aspects of that same culture.

JF: Why do we need to read Saving Sex?

AD: No one needs to read Saving Sex. If you decide to read it you will learn about some of the most popular evangelical writers and speakers on sexuality and some of the most pressing topics regarding evangelical sexuality and salvation. If you have ever wondered about chastity balls, why some evangelical youth make courting lists, what marital sexual practices are believed to be sanctioned by God, why illicit sexual practices might invite demonic forces, or why contraception is rejected in some evangelical circles, then this book will be of interest to you.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

AD: I didn’t. I earned a PhD in the Department of Religious Studies at UNC-CH. My field is American religious history. I think of myself as primarily a religious studies scholar rather than a historian. I do, however, examine religious texts, groups, rituals, etc. within a historical framework. I didn’t have a moment when I decided to become an American historian, but I did realize that I wanted to study religion in combination with history, literature, art, and architecture when I spent a college year in Seville, Spain and wrote a research paper on the Jewish community in Seville prior to the Reconquest. After I returned for my last year at college I came to understand that my academic interests revolved around questions of religious identity. During that year I became interested in religious movements in the United States, and focused on that area of study when I attended Harvard Divinity School. The rest is history!

JF: What is your next project?

AD: In my next project I have returned to the nineteenth century the time period of my first book Moral Geography: Maps, Missionaries and the American Frontier. The book, Mormon King, will tell the story of the Mormon prophet James Jesse Strang who claimed to be the rightful successor to Joseph Smith. Strang saw and spoke with angels, found golden plates with new scripture, and received a highly contested letter of appointment from Joseph Smith. He eventually convinced over 12,000 people of his rightful position and led 2500 people to Beaver Island in Lake Michigan where he established a kingdom. While on Beaver Island, he crowned himself king, built a temple, established the Law of the Lord, and instituted plural marriage. He petitioned the Michigan State Legislature in Lansing to shift voting lines based on changed demographics and was subsequently elected to the Michigan House of Representatives two times. This may be the only time in U.S. history that a crowned monarch has also served in a state legislature. For many reasons he angered gentiles living on Beaver Island, Mackinac Island, and what is now Charlevoix in Northern Michigan. A few disaffected followers, with the implicit support of gentiles and the federal government, assassinated him in 1856. Within a few weeks, all of his followers were forcibly removed from the island and their land and property repossessed by the mob that pushed them out at gunpoint. 

I plan to examine Strang in the context of succession claims among the Latter-day Saints, and in relation to other millennial groups in Michigan and the Great Lakes region. I am interested in both the daily practices prescribed by Strang for how saints dressed, worked, ate, worshipped, and married as well as his larger theological views of the place of the gathered saints on Beaver Island for the spreading of the kingdom of God to the world. There are still Strang descendants living in Michigan, and I have had the opportunity to interview his great, granddaughter who descends from the youngest child of Strang’s first plural wife. Besides being a fascinating American religious history subject, for me, it has the added benefit of local significance.

JF: Thanks Amy, sounds intriguing.

And thanks to Megan Piette for facilitating this installment of The Author's Corner

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Introducing the "Benjamin Franklin's World" Podcast

Are you looking for a good podcast to listen to as you drive, run, or just sit at your desk?  Are you an early American history buff?  If you answered yes to both of these questions then you just might like Liz Covart's new podcast, "Benjamin Franklin's World."   Learn more about it here.

So far Liz has done six podcasts.  Each podcast includes four segments:

1. Modern Day Discovery: An occasional segment where I share information about news or events from our present-day.
2. Guest Interview: This segment stands as the centerpiece of the show. It is where I interview an historian who has conducted (or is conducting) fascinating research about important episodes and people in early American history.
On occasion, I replace this segment with a captivating story from my own historical research.
3. Time Warp: The post-interview segment where I ask my guest a hypothetical history question about what might have been if something had occurred, or someone had acted, differently.
4. Ask the Historian: The segment where I answer your questions about early American history.
So far Liz has interviewed James Green, Cornelia King, and Richard Newman of the Library Company of Philadelphia, and historians Thomas Foster and Jeanne Abrams.

A Busy Week in the Messiah College History Department

Philip Deloria will deliver the 2014 American Democracy Lecture
We in the Messiah College History Department try to give our students an array of opportunities to learn outside of the classroom.  Last Spring our students studying digital history and Pennsylvania history spent a lot of time doing archival research.  This semester the students in our public archaeology course are hard at work studying a farm connected with a nineteenth-century Anabaptist group known as the "Bermudian Brethren" and uncovering an eighteenth-century Lutheran church building that has been buried for 250 years in the congregation's graveyard.  Several students continue to work on our Digital Harrisburg Project while others provide research support for an array of faculty research projects.  We have put a new Public History concentration in place and have been working as well on a new concentration in "Administrative Studies."  In the past few years our students have interned at historical sites all over the mid-Atlantic.  It has been a fun ride.  I like to think that we are hard at work in creating a new kind of undergraduate history department.
In addition to all of our regular extra-curricular activity, the next few weeks will be particularly busy in the Messiah College History Department.  We are very excited to announce (or re-announce) the following events:
On Thursday, October 23, 2014, Philip Deloria will be on campus to deliver the American Democracy Lecture, the most important lecture in the life of the department.  I am sure many of you know Deloria's work. He is a professor of history and administrator at the University of Michigan and a scholar of native American history.  His talk "American Indians in the American Cultural Imagination" promises to be an excellent talk. Learn more about it here.  Also check out the Facebook "event" page.
Tibebe Eshete
On Thursday, October 30, we will hold our annual "Faith and History" lecture.  This year's lecturer is Tibebe Eshete, our new visiting lecturer in African history and the author of the definitive work on the evangelical movement in Ethiopia.  In the 1970s Tibebe was a young Ethiopian Marxist who was active in the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie.  His talk will describe his journey from Marxism to Christian faith and his understanding of the historian's vocation. The lecture will be held in Boyer Hall room 335 at 4pm. If you are in the area feel free to stop by.  It should be a good one.
Finally, on November 4 the History Department will sponsor its annual "Career and Graduate School" event.  This year we will focus on careers. Our speakers will be two Messiah College history alums who have gone on to do amazing things with their degrees.  Beth Baggett was a Messiah College history major who currently works as an executive in the New York City fashion industry.  Caitlin Babcock, another Messiah history alum, works for a non-profit organization focused on the assimilation of new immigrants.  It should be a great afternoon.  Stay tuned for more information.  If you ever wondered what you can do with a history major you need to be at this event.
We continue to try to make the Messiah College History Department an intellectually vibrant place that merges a classic liberal arts history education with the kind of experiential learning that allows our students to build their resumes and develop transferable skills that will be useful in the marketplace.