Saturday, November 21, 2015

John Wilsey Checks in From the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting

John Wilsey teaches history and philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas.  John's most recent book is American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Ideal.  He blogs at To Breathe Your Free Air We are thrilled to have him writing for The Way of Improvement Leads Home this weekend from the floor of the American Academy of Religion meeting in Atlanta.   Here is his first dispatch:

Atlanta is my hometown, so it is great to be surrounded by familiar sights and surroundings. I asked my wife to marry me 19 years ago at the top of the Marriott Marquis, just across from the Hyatt Regency where the book displays are located (she gave me an unequivocal yes, by the way).

No conference can really begin until you secure the coveted and ubiquitous “tote.” Upon checking in, everyone was directed to a separate kiosk to receive their tote—this one sponsored by Baylor University Press. It’s actually a pretty nice bag as these things go. Often, the tote is nothing more than a glorified grocery sack.

I started this morning over at the book displays. I admit I had a bit of a selfish motive—I wanted to make sure that my own books were displayed at the Wipf & Stock and InterVarsity tables. But I also wanted to see what cool new titles were out. So in my first dispatch, I’ll give you a quick look at what I found.

Of course, the book displays at AARSBL are overwhelming to say the least. There’s no way to sum up the experience of walking through the displays in one telling. Suffice it to say that the book display is worth the flight from Houston on its own. And I may have to write more than one post on the book displays, because there is much to be excited about.

So a couple of books I noticed—

While at the Eerdmans table, I came across Rick Kennedy’s The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather. I’m particularly excited to read this one, because any book with the description saying “sets the record straight” gets my attention. Hopefully it will be as provocative as it sounds. I also picked up Jack Mulder’s What Does It Mean to be Catholic?  Mulder is an adult convert to Catholicism, which makes the book all the more compelling. The blurbs from Scott Hahn, Peter Kreeft, and Caroline Simon give the it credibility.

At the WJK table, Paul D. Hanson’s A Political History of the Bible in America caught my eye. Hanson treats the subject from the colonial period through contemporary times.

Moving over to the Wipf & Stock table, I was impressed by the size and scope of the display. It was huge—larger than in other years, at least as it seemed to me. Mark R. Teasdale’s Methodist Evangelism, American Salvation: The Home Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1860-1920 looked good, as did The Soul of a Nation: America as a Tradition of Inquiry and Nationhood, by Christopher R. Altieri.

More later. I’ll be heading down to the Religion and US Empire section later this afternoon. Stay tuned for more exciting news from AARSBL.