Monday, November 9, 2015

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update 115

Last week I had a phone conversation with the publicists from Oxford University Press who will be working to promote The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society.  Since this is a trade book (as opposed to an academic book) Oxford will be making every effort to bring it before a public audience.  This includes reviews in venues such as national newspapers and blogs, media appearances, and speaking engagements.

I am excited about hitting the road and the keyboard to talk and write about the history of the American Bible Society and its relationship to American religion and United States history more broadly.  During our phone conversation the publicists asked me to provide them with themes that they might use to promote the book.  I offer some of them below.  

If any of you find these themes interesting and want to set up a book talk or a lecture--either in the Spring ( the book appears in late March) or sometime later--please let me know. 


  • The Bible and the American founding:  Many of the American Bible Society founders, including John Jay, Elias Boudinot,and others, were also some of the founders of the American republic.  The ABS serves as a great example of the way that these religious politicians tried to build a Christian nation in the early republic.  Another variation on this lecture could be the role of reform movements and benevolent societies in building a Christian republic.  (I gave on this topic last year at Southern Methodist University).
  • The Bible and the Civil War and Reconstruction:  Two chapters of The Bible Cause deal with the Bible, slavery, and the attempt to build the nation after the War.  This topic might be appealing to Civil War roundtables or other groups.
  • Bible publishing in America:  In 1966 the ABS published Good News for Modern Man. Learn more about the  Bible that replaced Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care as the best-selling paperback in American history.
  • American missionary activity and imperialism:  Several chapters deal with the ABS work in China, Turkey, Japan, and Europe
  • The Bible and "Christian America":  The ABS was always ready to promote the idea that the United States was a Christian nation. We see this in the generation of the ABS founders, the Civil and Reconstruction era, the 1950s and the Eisenhower era, and the Bicentennial of the United States in 1976 (among other times).  See how this theme of Christian nationalism weaves its way through the history of the ABS from 1816 to the present.
  • Protestant-Catholic relations:  The ABS was originally an anti-Catholic organization, but in the 1960s it began a relationship with the Catholic Church that continues to the present day. Both Catholic and Protestant groups might be interested in this long history.
  • The Bible and the West
  • The Bible and the New Immigration (1880-1920)
  • The Bible and the African American community--The Bible Cause includes chapters on the ABS response to slavery, Reconstruction, segregation, Jim Crow, and Civil Rights.
  • The Bible and American evangelicalism.  In the 1990s the ABS took a decided turn away from the Protestant mainline and  toward evangelicalism.