Saturday, September 20, 2014

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #75

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

Since I did not feel like I had a very productive writing week, I decided to get up early on a Saturday morning and do some more work on Chapter Four before I head off to a soccer game and mow the lawn.

I managed to dump 1380 words into the chapter before leaving my desk for the day.  I am still not happy with my pace, but at least I am moving forward.  Stay tuned.

Friday, September 19, 2014

National Public Radio On "Ba-Dee-Ya"

Check it out here.  Don't let the lyrics get in the way of the groove.

The Bible in the Public Square

Two years ago I spoke at "The Bible in the Public Square," a conference hosted by Duke University.  I blogged about the conference here and here and here and here and here.  My talk was entitled "Does America Have a Biblical Heritage?"

I am happy to announce that my talk was included in a collection of essays from the conference entitled The Bible in the Public Square: Its Enduring Influence in American Life.  The book is edited by conference organizers Mark Chancey, Carol Meyers, and Eric Meyers.

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #74

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

Another slow day on Chapter Four.  For various reasons I have described in previous posts I am really having a hard time making progress on this chapter.  This morning I had to work hard at producing 763 words on the grass roots strategies used by ABS agents to carry out the General Supply.  

Panic mode has not set in yet, but I am falling behind the schedule I proposed.  I had hoped to be writing Chapter Six (on the Civil War) by this point in September.  Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

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.  The Author's Corner with Marc Ferris
2.  Why Reading Matters
3.  How Not to Write an E-mail to Your Professor
4.  The Author's Corner with Grant Wacker 
5.  God and the Declaration of Independence
6.  Sunday Night Odds and Ends--September 14, 2014
7.  The Morality of Football
8.  Most Popular Posts of the Last Week--September 12, 2014
9.  On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #72
10. Thank You Yale University Library

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Image of the Day

The American Historian

I just received my copy of the August 2014 issue of The American Historian, the new publication of the Organization of the American Historians.  It is loaded with a lot of great stuff.  For example:

  • OAH president Patty Limerick discusses the difference between the New Yorker and The American Historian
  • Heather Cox Richardson has a piece on finding time to blog
  • Andrew Huebner wants us to write history with emotion.
  • Joanne Pope Melish critiques the web series Ask a Slave
And there is a lot of there is a lot of other great stuff.  Check it out.

BTW--the cover of my issue has a different cover.  It has a picture of an African-American soldier.

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #73

Richard Varick: ABS President during the 1st General Supply
Want to get some context for this post? Click here.

This morning I had a strong three hour writing session and managed to churn out 1710 words on Chapter Four: "A Bible for Every American Family."  I am now deep into the narrative part of the chapter in which I attempt to offer a blow-by-blow account of the progress of the General Supply.

As I noted in yesterday's post, I am also trying to spend some time looking ahead to future research.  The good folks at the ABS libraries and archives are assembling a list of people that I might want to interview for the project.  Katie is back at UMASS and is finishing up the late 19th century sections of the research. Alyssa continues to work on Eugene Nida and the cultural/religious history of the Good News Bible.

Speaking of the Good News Bible, I am still eager to hear from anyone who remembers encountering this Bible for the first time.  How did this text change the way you read the Bible or thought about the scriptures? 

Simon Newman Compares American and Scottish Independence

Simon Newman of the University of Glasgow, a historian of early American history, offers some nice historical reflections on the similarities and differences between the argument for American independence from Great Britain and Scottish independence from the U.K. Check out his entire piece at The Junto.  Here is a small taste:

American historians generally accept that in 1776 independence was supported by a minority of adult white male voters, with many more either undecided or actively opposed to separation. The Second Continental Congress declared American independence without majority support in their new nation. Greater unanimity in support of American independence developed slowly, in the face of massive and destructive British military operations, and the ever more efficient Patriot militia policing of communities from New Hampshire to Georgia. Similarly in 2014 opinion polls continue to show only a minority in support of Scottish independence. Yet the gap is closing and is now almost within the margin of error. Moreover, these polls are far from reliable since demographically coherent groups of voters are divided by an issue determined by heart as much as head: two people of a similar age, education, religion and so forth are as likely to disagree as agree, making it all but impossible for pollsters to find statistically representative samples.

Although the polls are narrowing independence may well be defeated, but even if it is Scotland and the UK will have been changed by this process. In the event of a “No” vote, both the UK government and the Labour opposition in Westminster have guaranteed greater devolved powers for the Scottish government, with even more control over taxation and expenditure within Scotland than is already the case. This would increase the already considerable differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK in terms of welfare policies, health care, higher education and a raft of other governmental responsibilities.

Something similar was possible, albeit highly unlikely, in America in September 1776, when British Admiral Lord Richard Howe met with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Edward Rutledge. Hoping to prevent a costly and divisive war, Howe promised the representatives of the Continental Congress significant concessions, offering many of the rights colonists had asserted since 1764. Yet even if Congress had agreed, the relationship between Britain and America would have been irrevocably altered, and independence postponed rather than denied. Such may well be the case in Scotland. The debate over independence, and the content and manner of English arguments against it have changed Scotland and its relationship with the UK. If Adams was right, and the American Revolution “was in the minds and hearts of the people” before independence was countenanced and declared, then perhaps a similar revolution has already occurred in Scotland.

I also recommend this piece by British historian Linda Colley.

This Saturday: Springsteen Symposium in Monmouth, NJ

This weekend Monmouth University is hosting a one-day symposium on Bruce Springsteen entitled "Fifty Years of 'Makin’ This Guitar Talk: A Bruce Springsteen Forum."  Here is all you need to know about it:
As a young child in the 1950s, Bruce Springsteen saw Elvis Presley perform on The Ed Sullivan Show, turned towards his mother and said, “I wanna be just…like…that.” It wasn’t until he was a teenager in 1964, however, during the first summer after the British Invasion began to transform U.S. popular culture, that Springsteen took his first serious steps towards a life in music. According to Peter Ames Carlin’s biography BRUCE, that summer he used money earned from painting his aunt’s house to purchase an $18 acoustic guitar, a copy of 100 Greatest American Folk Songs and then “committed himself to mastering the instrument.” Fifty years have passed since that fateful summer, and Bruce Springsteen is now one of popular music’s most beloved, significant and enduring artists.

The Friends and Monmouth University will sponsor a unique Springsteen-themed forum entitled in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Bruce Springsteen’s first major steps towards becoming a professional musician. 

The structure of the forum will be centered around a series of moderated panel discussions on various Springsteen-related topics, allowing the audience to hear from and interact with a variety of authors and scholars. As of this writing, the confirmed panelists who will be in attendance are:

Jim Beviglia, Author, Counting Down Bruce Springsteen: His 100 Finest Songs

Kenneth Campbell, Monmouth University, Author, "Bruce Springsteen, Songs From The Rising, Introduction" to published in Western Civilization in a Global Context: The Modern - Sources and Documents.
Jonathan D. Cohen, University of Virginia, Managing Editor, BOSS: The Bi-Annual Online Journal of Springsteen Studies

Donna M. Dolphin, Monmouth University, Contributor, Bruce Springsteen, Cultural Studies, and the Runaway American Dream and Associate Producer, Asbury Park Musical Memories Part 1

Stan Goldstein, Co-Author, Rock & Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore and Blogger,

Jean Mikle, Co-Author, Rock & Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore and Contributor, Asbury Park Press

Marianne Murawski, Stockton College, Contributor, Bruce Springsteen and the American Soul

Christopher Phillips
, Editor/Publisher, Backstreets Magazine & and Co-Editor, Talk About A Dream: The Essential Interviews of Bruce Springsteen

Shawn Poole, Contributor, Backstreets Magazine &

Holly Cara Price, Contributor, Huffington Post and

Linda K. Randall, Author, Finding Grace in the Concert Hall: Community & Meaning Among Springsteen Fans

Barry Schneier, Photographer, Monmouth University Exhibition – Glory Bound – Photographs by Barry Schneier

Special Group Panel of Authors and Co-Publishers of the forthcoming anthology Trouble In The Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen – Jamez Chang, Jen Conley, Mark Krajnak, James Petersen and Chuck Regan

William I. Wolff, Rowan University, Contributor, BOSS: The Bi-Annual Online Journal of Springsteen Studies

Azzan Yadin-Israel, Rutgers University, Course Designer/Instructor, Bruce Springsteen’s Theology

Panel topics, as well as more authors and scholars, will be announced as they are confirmed. Topics currently under consideration include “Bruce Springsteen’s Evolving Relationship With His Audience(s),” “Springsteen’s Best Songs,” “Springsteen & Live Performance,” “Springsteen & Media Through the Years,” etc.

Panel topics, as well as more authors and scholars, will be announced as they are confirmed. Topics currently under consideration include “Bruce Springsteen’s Evolving Relationship With His Audience(s),” “Springsteen’s Best Songs,” “Springsteen & Live Performance,” “Springsteen & Media Through the Years,” etc.

Among our confirmed panel moderators is broadcaster Tom Cunningham, creator and host of the long-running weekly Springsteen-themed radio program The Bruce Brunch on 105.7 The Hawk (WCHR-FM.)
There will be time and space allotted for authors’ book sales/signings.
The day’s agenda also will include several live performances of Springsteen’s music by students from Monmouth University and Asbury Park, NJ’s Lakehouse Music Academy.
 All ticket-sale proceeds will benefit Monmouth University and Friends of The Bruce Springsteen Special Collection.

Cool, Cool Considerate Men

One of the joys of watching my daughters grow up is the opportunity I have to talk about American history with them.  Both of my daughters are studying U.S. history this semester.  What is even better is that both of them are now studying the American Revolution.  Caroline is taking an 8th grade history course that covers early American history to 1865.  Ally is taking AP United States history. And I am teaching the first half of the U.S. survey.  In other words, we are all roughly at the same place in our courses.

The Stamp Act was part of our dinner discussion tonight. Following dinner Ally and I went out to get an ice-cream cone (Caroline was at church youth group) and ended up discussing John Dickinson's resistance to American independence.  I suggested that she watch/listen to this clip from the movie 1776:

Of course she was one step ahead of me.  She had already seen the movie in her political science class and was using the song as a starting point in her preparation.

This led to a discussion about the amount of work she has to do in her AP U.S. history course.  I told her she might be better off taking the U.S. survey in her freshman year at college.  It would be less work for the same academic credit.  At the same time, her teacher is doing a good job and I am sure that Ally enjoys the challenge.

Send Us Your Stories About the Good News Bible

Have you read the Good News Bible or Good News for Modern Man?  As many of you know, I am writing a history of the American Bible Society and hope to devote a chapter to a cultural history of this Bible.  Do you have a story to tell about the Bible?  Do you remember when it was published (either the Good News for Modern Man New Testament [1966] or the Good News Bible [1976])? If you have stories, remembrances, pictures, etc... please send them along.  I or one of my assistants may want to interview you for the book.

Since I first announced this yesterday the stories and pics have been rolling in, but we could use a lot more.  For example, here are some pics sent to me today by Caryn Riswold, an author, theologian, blogger, and religious professor at Illinois College.

Thanks, Caryn!

Congratulations to the New McNeil Center Fellows

A McNeil Center staple--with a hat tip to Brett Mizelle

Congratulations to the new group of fellows who have converged on Philadelphia this Fall to study early American history at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies and the University of Pennsylvania.  They are:

Barra Postdoctoral Fellow:  Sarah Levine-Gronningsater (Ph.D. University of Chicago).
“Delivering Freedom: Gradual Emancipation, Black Legal Culture, and the Origins of Sectional Crisis in New York, 1759-1870,”

Barra Sabbatical Fellow: David Silverman George Washington University)
“Thundersticks: Firearms and the Transformation of Native America.”

Richard S. Dunn Dissertation Fellow:  Carolyn Roberts, Harvard University

“Surgeon, Fetish Woman, Apothecary, Slave: Transatlantic Medical Cultures, Economies, and Laborers in the British Slave Trade, 1680-1807.” 

Advisory Council Dissertation Fellow:  Demetri D. Debe, University of Minnesota 
"Necessary Connections: Building Black Mobility in the Public Markets of the Greater Caribbean, 1660-1815.” 

Consortium Fellow: Justene Hill, Princeton University
“Felonious Transactions: Slave Economies and Localized Law in South Carolina, 1787-1860.” 

Dissertation Fellow: Max Mishler, New York University 
“Boundaries of Freedom: Abolition, Punishment, and the Atlantic Origins of Mass Incarceration.”

Friends of the MCEAS Fellow: Brendan Gillis, Indiana University

“Conduits of Justice: Magistrates and the British Imperial State, 1732-1834."

Marguerite Bartlett Hamer Dissertation Fellow:  Emily Merrill, University of Pennsylvania “Judging Empire: British Military Courts and the Politics of the Body.”

Andrew W. Mellon Early American Literature and Material Texts Initiative, Short-term EALMT Fellow:  Juliet Sperling, University of Pennsylvania
“Animating Flatness: Seeing Moving Images in American Painting and Mass Visual Culture, 1820-1895.” 

EALMT Dissertation Fellow Kristina Garvin, Ohio State University 
“Past and Future States: The Cultural Work of the Serial in U.S. Literature, 1786-1815.” 

Hamer and EALMT Fellow: Alan NilesUniversity of Pennsylvania 
“Memory, Mourning, and Writing Materials: Forming Memorial Literatures in the Anglophone Atlantic, ca. 1500-1700.” 

EALMT Fellow: Sonia HazardDuke University 
 “Unruly Agencies: The American Tract Society, Religious Choice, and the Materiality of Print, 1825-1865.”

Advisory Council and Carpenter Fellow: Rachel Trocchio, University of California, Berkeley

“The Puritan Sublime”

Consortium Fellow: Christine Croxall, University of Delaware 
“Holy Waters: Religious Conflicts and Commitments in the Mississippi River Valley, 1780-1830.” \

Advisory Council and EALMT Fellow:  Jessica LinkerUniversity of Connecticut 
“‘It is My Wish to Behold Ladies among My Hearers’: Early American Women and Scientific Practice, 1720-1860.”

Barra Dissertation Fellow:  James Hill, College of William and Mary 

“Muskogee Internationalism in an Age of Revolution, 1763-1818"

Barra Fellow in Art and Material Culture: Jamie FordeUniversity of Colorado 
“The Conquest of the Hill of the Sun: Indigenous Domestic Life at Colonial Achiutla, Oaxaca, Mexico.”

Friends of the MCEAS Fellow: Benjamin HicklinUniversity of Michigan 

“‘Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be’?: Experiencing Credit and Debt in the English Atlantic, 1660-1750.” 

Congratulations all!

The Author's Corner with Chas Barfoot

Chas Barfoot teaches philosophy and religious studies at Arizona State University. This interview is based on his new book Aimee Semple McPherson and the Making of Modern Pentecostalism, 1890—1926 (Routledge, 2014).

JF: What led you to write Aimee Semple McPherson and the Making of Modern Pentecostalism, 1890—1926.

CB: It began as a thesis on Women in Pentecostalism for a ThM degree under Harvey Cox. When I arrived in Berkeley in the spring of 1978 I submitted an outline to Harper San Francisco. I didn’t type back then so Richard Quebedeaux, a dear friend and a Harper author typed the outline for me dispensing tips as he typed. One of the editors, the only woman, liked the chapter title and summary on Aimee Semple McPherson. Roy Carlisle from Fuller Seminary had also just come on board to be in charge of Evangelical books and authors. I was all of a 20 something ex-Pentecostal preacher boy who hadn’t published a thing. Clayton Carlson, the founder and publisher was aware of the sensational books on Aimee by Lately Thomas and was very supportive of the project. When I discovered that Aimee’s third husband was alive, and that I had access to his memoirs, Clayton made the decision to go with two volumes, since the research indicated there really were two Aimee’s.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Aimee Semple McPherson and the Making of Modern Pentecostalism, 1890—1926.

CB: My new publisher and editor at Equinox, Janet Joyce, came up with the sub-title after reading the manuscript and was spot on. Aimee Semple McPherson set the tone for modern Pentecostalism with her secular-spirituality and megachurch empire in Los Angeles which also included the founding of an international denomination that is still growing.

JF: Why do we need to read Aimee Semple McPherson and the Making of Modern Pentecostalism, 1890—1926.

CB: Today we recognize that there are Pentecostalisms. Thankfully, Aimee wasn’t written as a dissertation. I let the events unfold and the secrets reveal themselves. The research demanded that I discard the deprivation model I had so prized in my Princeton thesis. It didn’t fit Aimee’s particular brand of Pentecostalism nor the one I grew up in. Eldon Ernst helped me uncover some Baptist clergy correspondence and immediately you could see from the letters that fundamentalism and Pentecostalism were viewed as two separate, competing movements. Both books contain valuable oral histories from people who knew and worked with Aimee. Finally, it is a work on healing, women in religion, religion in the west, and the differences between what Albanese calls extraordinary vs. ordinary religion or mainline vs. marginal religion.

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

CB: When I was under contract with Harper’s Clayton Carlson asked, “What will we call you, a historian?” I said, “That sounds right.” Author, writer would have worked, but In the Biblical tradition one becomes what they are called! I had specialized in the sociology of religion, and now I was working in history and biography and attempting to combine the two disciplines. My affair with history began with a course with Oscar Handlin and I later met his protege William McLoughlin who had written the biography of Billy Sunday. Bill was a wonderful nurturing person who after a lunch with several Heinekens encouraged me to apply to the PhD program in American Civilization at Brown. I could continue to work with Harvey Cox at Harvard he said and with him in History at Brown. I never applied since I had settled back in California but Bill opened the door for me to meet with Roberta Semple Salter, Aimee’s daughter. I’ve often regretted not working with Bill. He, also, viewed my “ministerial training,” as he called it, as a virtue and not a hindrance for a historian of religion. Jim Washington was also very supportive when I was accepted for doctoral work at Union Seminary. “You have,” he said, “a flair for narrative history.” That meant a lot since I was going through a divorce at the time and Jim later published a book on Martin Luther King, Jr. with my editor at Harper’s.

Along with Harvey Cox, whose PhD degree was in the history and philosophy of religion, it was the historians who inspired me the most and opened doors along the way. I sat in on Samuel Haber’s history class at Cal and read the new (at the time) California historians, Al Raboteau and Catherine Albanese. Henry F. May, recently retired, loomed large in Berkeley lore. Kathryn Kish Sklar at UCLA gave me several student papers that turned up a forgotten PR man of Aimee’s.

When I returned to academic life after a twenty year stint as a mainline minister, a vanishing occupation if ever there was, two historians working in the southwest became new mentors: the late Ferenc Szasz at the University of New Mexico and Bob Trennert former head of the History department at Arizona State University. I quickly realized that the history of religions in the southwest was virgin territory.

JF: What is your next project?

CB: I have two projects going on simultaneously: Aimee Semple McPherson, Among the Savage Branches, 1926-1944 (Equinox, 2016) and A.A. Allen’s Miracle Valley and the Search for the Fabulous in the Southwest.

JF: Sounds exciting! Thanks Charles.

Thanks to Megan Piette for facilitating this installment of the Author's Corner

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Headed to SMU in October

I am looking forward to visiting Southern Methodist University next month.  Learn more here.

The Dancing Guard Outside of Buckingham Palace

Gotta love this guy, although he probably just got fired.  Here is a nice commentary on his subtle moves.

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #72

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

Here is today's writing lesson:  If you want to get up early to get some writing done try not to stay up too late watching your daughter play volleyball.  I did not get enough sleep last night and it affected my writing session this morning.  I only managed to string together a couple of good hours and 387 total words. 

I think my work is the strongest when I am writing about the way ideas connect with everyday life. Today I wrote a paragraph about how the ABS understood the General Supply (1829-2813) as part of the progressive advance of Christian history.

I also had a productive meeting today with Alyssa, one of my undergraduate research assistants. Alyssa is doing some preliminary research on Good News for Modern Man (New Testament)  and The Good News Bible (Old and New Testaments).  These books were published by the ABS in the 1966 and 1976 respectively as the first translations to employ "dynamic equivalence." 

Alyssa and I wondered how much space in the book we should devote to the translation theory behind this popular Bible.   Since I am writing for a popular audience I do not want to get too bogged down in theory.  I am actually more interested in the reception of these Bibles by Christian leaders, pastors,and ordinary readers.  How did these Bibles transform the way people read and thought about the Bible?  (When I look at the cover art on Good News For Modern Man I flash back to my childhood CCD classes where we used this Bible).  

We are still VERY early in the process of trying to understand the intellectual and cultural history of the Good News Bible and we COULD USE YOUR HELP.  If any of you are old enough to remember the release of Good News for Modern Man (New Testament) or the entire Good News Bible we would love to hear from you.  Did this publication, which was written in popular and accessible language, change the way you read the Bible?  Do you have any memories or stories related to the Bible?   Contact me at jfea(at)messiah(dot)edu.  I would love to hear your story and perhaps even interview you for the book.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update 71

ABS 1829 Bible is fourth from left.  It was available during the General Supply
Want to get some context for this post? Click here.

After a few false starts I finally managed to start writing Chapter Four of the ABS project.  1179 words later, the chapter is really starting to take shape.  I am finally starting to feel good about it. This chapter is more narrative-driven than the other chapters.  I am trying to give my readers a sense of the General Supply (the attempt to provide a Bible for every American family in two years--1829-1813) as it unfolds over time.  In other words, I want to create some suspense as I chronicle the ABS effort to pull off this enormous feat.  I want my readers to feel the clock ticking.  Will they finish in two years?  How can I make my readers feel the anxiety of the Board of Managers as they receive reports from the field about the progress of the work?

Stay tuned.

Springsteen at 65

Bruce is going to be 65 next week.  Over at History News Network, John W. Johnson of the University of Northern Iowa offers three reasons why American historians should take notice:

1.  Springsteen holds an important place in the history of rock music.
2.  Springsteen addresses historical themes and events in his music.
3.  Springsteen is ubiquitous as a public figure.

Here is a taste of Johnson's piece:

In 1984, Ronald Reagan appropriated the chorus from “Born in the USA” for his upbeat re-election campaign. Springsteen responded by inquiring from the stage: Has the president “actually read” the lyrics to “Born in the USA”? A key stanza features an archetypal veteran expressing some not so optimistic sentiments: “Down in the shadow of the penitentiary/Out by the gas fires of the refinery/I’m ten years burning down the road/Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go.”
During the last few years, hardly a week has gone by without “a Springsteen story” hitting the news. Some examples: 1) Springsteen delivers the keynote address at the South By Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Festival; 2) Springsteen is recognized to receive Kennedy Center Honors; 3) Springsteen stumps for Barack Obama in the final stages of the 2012 presidential campaign; 4) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie claims to have attended more than 100 Springsteen concerts; 5) Fans of The Boss submit more than 2000 videos for possible inclusion in the crowd-sourced film, “Springsteen and I”; 6) Boss: The Biannual Online-Journal of Springsteen Studies publishes its first issue with articles bearing such esoteric titles as “Springsteen as Developmental Therapist: An Autoethnography”; 7) A scrap of paper with Springsteen’s handwritten working lyrics for “Born to Run” sells at a Southeby’s auction for $197,000; and 8) Springsteen stars in a short western, “Hunter of Invisible Game,” reminiscent of John Ford’s “The Searchers.”
Since 2005, long articles on Springsteen and his music have appeared in such serious publications as The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. In 2013, Rolling Stone published Collector’s Edition—Bruce, containing pictures and four decades of Springsteen interviews. Perhaps only Bob Dylan, among American singer-songwriters of the last fifty years, has inspired more book-length studies than Springsteen.
Here’s another rough index of Springsteen’s impact on contemporary popular culture: My impressionistic survey of the music played in the background before and after commercial breaks on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” reveals that Springsteen is by far the most featured artist. Occasionally the hosts and guests on the program even joke about who will be able to claim the privilege of having such Springsteen standards as “Badlands” or “Thunder Road” play over and around their comments.
So . . . love Springsteen or hate him. You just can’t ignore him.
If you’re a historian of recent America, Springsteen should be on your playlist AND in your syllabus. Now eligible for Medicare, Springsteen continues to create, perform, entertain, campaign and provoke.
A very happy 65th birthday, Bruce! Rock on!

I would also add that Springsteen is an important figure in American religious history.  
HT: Tim Lacy

Monday, September 15, 2014

Virtual Office Hours: Fall 2014 - Episode 2

"What is an Evangelical?"

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #70

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

Holes in my research continue to plague Chapter Four of the ABS project.   I wanted to start writing today, but as I began to craft an opening vignette for the chapter I realized that I needed to know more about the historical actor at the center of the vignette.  

Rev. Alexander Proudfit was the minister of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Salem, New York.  He is important to my story because he was the first person to suggest that the ABS should attempt to provide a Bible to every American family over the course of two years (1829-1831).  In order to learn more about him, I turned to John Forsyth's Memoir of the Late Rev. Alexander Proudfit (1846), published shortly after his death.  Forsyth, a former student of Proudfit, provided some quotes from Proudfit's diary and some local context for his mentor's decision to encourage the ABS to pursue the General Supply.

Historical writing takes time.  I spent my entire writing session this morning reading through Forsyth's book so that I could add two or three more sentences to the opening paragraph of Chapter Four.

Let's hope the actual writing of Chapter Four will commence tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

The Author's Corner with Grant Wacker

Grant Wacker is Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Christian History at Duke University Divinity School. This interview is based on his new book, America's Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation (Belknap Press, September, 2014).

JF: What led you to write America's Pastor?

GW: A suggestion from historian Mark Noll that the time is ripe for a fresh look at Billy Graham's relation to broader trends in American culture.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of America's Pastor?

GW: The book argues that Graham's success is at least partly attributable to his extraordinary ability to appropriate trends in the culture and then apply them to his purposes of personal evangelism and moral reform of the nation (and world).

JF: Why do we need to read America's Pastor?

GW: I hope that it supplements the excellent biographical work of William Martin and others with a focus on the relation between Graham and post World War II America.

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

GW: I went to Harvard Divinity School hoping to become a philosopher of religion, but I took a required course from William Hutchison, and found myself hooked for life!

JF: What is your next project?

GW: I am working with Harry Stout at Yale and Laurie Maffly-Kipp at Washington University on a study of American religious history with a clear focus on religion's embeddedness in the wider context of American life. Differently put, we hope to show that the adjective American really counts.

JF: Thanks Grant, sounds exciting!

Thanks to Megan Piette for her work in facilitating this installment of the Author's Corner

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

Bercovitch's The American Jeremiad at 35

Patrick Deneen on Tocqueville on private obsessions

Sam Tanenhaus on Rick Perlstein

Jacques Berlinerblau on secular studies

Brett Rushforth on slavery in New France

Digital History at the University of Georgia

Wesley Hill reviews Charles Marsh, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Hector Tobar reviews Edward Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

Dutch toleration + English energy = Manhattan

The humanities are still alive and kicking

University of Maryland football and the War of 1812

More on revisionism with James Grossman

J.L. of Boston 1775 game has a nice series on the revisions to the AP U.S. history course here and here and here

Some stories from the 9-11 digital archives

The politics of digitization

Church is becoming informal

Saturday, September 13, 2014

How NOT to Write an E-mail to Your Professor

HT: Jonathan Den Hartog via his Facebook page.

Lecture: "Exploring the Founders' Vision: America's Multi-Faith Beginnings"

St. Stephen's Cathedral, Harrisburg, PA
This Sunday I am honored to be presenting the annual September 11 Remembrance Lecture for the Intefaith Alliance of Pennsylvania.

My lecture is titled:  Exploring the Founders' Vision: America's Multi-Faith Beginnings." The lecture will be held at 2pm at St. Stephen's Episcopal Cathedral on 221 North Front Street in Harrisburg, PA.

Following the lecture I will be joining my Messiah College colleague Richard Hughes for a panel discussion.

Click here for more information.  If you are in the Harrisburg area on Sunday afternoon feel free to stop by.  The lecture is open to the public.

Friday, September 12, 2014

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #69

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

Sometimes a historian/writer will sit down to start a chapter and realize that his or her research is lacking on a particular section of that proposed chapter.  This happened to me today. 

I was hoping to start Chapter Four, but as I stared at my computer screen trying to form the opening words of the chapter, I realized I did not have enough research material to support what I had hoped to say in those opening words. 

Needless to say, I did not write a word this morning.  Instead I spent roughly four hours reading through newspaper articles about the General Supply.  In the process I realized that I had never really analyzed the 1829 ABS circular letter announcing the General Supply.  What did the ABS hope to achieve?  What were the theological and political underpinnings behind the ABS attempt to distribute a Bible to every American family?  

I was also amazed to see how much coverage the General Supply received in newspapers across the country.  Does the fact that most of the coverage was very positive say anything about America in the 1820s?  I think it does. 

I hope to finish my newspaper (and some religious periodicals) reading this weekend.  By that point, I hope, I will be able to start writing Chapter Four on Monday morning.  Stay tuned.

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.  Why Reading Matters
2.  Did George Washington Have a Potty Mouth?
3.  Sunday Night Odds and Ends--September 7, 2014
4.  God and the Declaration of Independence
5.  On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #65
6.  The Author's Corner with Charles Edel
7.  In Defense of Revisionism
8.  The Morality of Football
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10. Virtual Office Hours: Fall 2014--Episode 1

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Song of the Day

Can't see nothin' in front of me
Can't see nothin' coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can't feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I've gone
How far I've gone, how high I've climbed
On my back's a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile line

Come on up for the rising
Com on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
Wearin' the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin' down here

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li

Spirits above and behind me
Faces gone, black eyes burnin' bright
May their precious blood forever bind me
Lord as I stand before your fiery light

Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li

I see you Mary in the garden
In the garden of a thousand sighs
There's holy pictures of our children
Dancin' in a sky filled with light
May I feel your arms around me
May I feel your blood mix with mine
A dream of life comes to me
Like a catfish dancin' on the end of the line

Sky of blackness and sorrow (a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life)
Your burnin' wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life (a dream of life)

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #68

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

After a four hour work session this morning I think I am ready to start writing Chapter Four: "A Bible for Every American Family."  This morning I read a few more articles in the anti-benevolent society, anti-ABS periodical The Reformer.  This periodical has helped me to better understand the opposition to the General Supply (1829-1831) and the opposition to the ABS in general.  (See yesterday's post).

I also finished organizing my notes for this chapter and established an outline.  Here is what I have so far:

I.  Early examples of auxiliaries trying to supply everyone in their locales with a Bible

II. Production:  How the ABS Bible House at 72 Nassau Street in New York prepared for the General Supply

III. The role of auxiliaries in the General Supply

IV. Special General Supply agents and their stories

V.  The announcement of the General Supply

VI.  Progress and resistance:  1829

VII:  Progress and resistance: 1830

VIII. Progress and resistance:  1831

IX.  The ABS assesses the General Supply

Writing commences tomorrow morning.

Thank You Yale University Library

The Yale Library has included The Way of Improvement Leads Home in its guide to "Keeping Up with the Field" in U.S. History and American Studies.   Thanks!