Apr 27, 2016

Teaching Religion and Politics in the United States

Religion and Politics in the United States examines the relationships between Americans' ultimate values, beliefs, and practices and Americans' involvement in public affairs. We will look at different ways that relationship has been conceptualized, historically. We will look at different ways it has been lived, too. The class will explore the historical conflicts and complications, the interactions, intersections, and inter-connections of religion and politics in the United States.

Syllabus available here.

Apr 15, 2016

Eisenhower's Bibles

A memo detailing the Bibles Dwight D. Eisenhower would use for his oath of office during his first inauguration:

The handwritten note at the bottom says: "PS -- I shall suggest releasing this on Sunday. I shall talk to you about it." 

Apr 10, 2016

How a Bible gets made

Crossway, the publisher of the ESV Bible, is offering a look at the production of the Bible, showing how the material object is made. This video documents the production process at Royal Jongbloed, a Netherlands Bible bindery founded in 1862.

Apr 8, 2016


Tim Ross, Independent Christian Church minister, in the Scottish Highlands.

Mar 30, 2016

Evangelicals changing on immigration

Americans are generally supportive of immigration. White evangelicals are the exception. 

Evangelicals are the one group, according to a new Public Religion Research Institute survey, where a majority says accepting newcomers into the country "threatens traditional American customs and values."

This does not simply mean white evangelicals are opposed to immigration, though. While 53 percent say immigration is a cultural threat, 54 percent support reform, and like the idea of a path to citizenship.

There's also a big difference between younger evangelicals and older evangelicals. The numbers suggest a major generational shift: younger evangelicals' opinions on immigration are closer to black Protestants than to their elders. Fifty-five percent say immigrants are good for America and opposition drops by 20 points.

It would seem there's a significant change underway within white evangelicalism.

Mar 22, 2016

Easter women

At a Methodist church in Texas in 1943:

This photo was among the more than 8,000 John Vachon took for the United States Farm Security Administration, documenting American life during the Great Depression. Many of these photos are made publicly available by Yale.

Mar 11, 2016

'With respect to the Jews'

In a letter to President Harry S. Truman, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower discusses the Zionism of the Jewish refugees of Europe after World War II:

The letter was written in Sept. 1945.

Truman was a Baptist, and had long supported Jewish immigration to Palestine and the possible formation of a Jewish state. When he became president, this was a contentious issue. Many in his administration, including Secretary of State George Marshall, were opposed to a Jewish state. From Marshall's point of view, supporting Israel was bad foreign policy. It was also not great domestic policy. Not many Americans supported the idea. Even American Jews were generally against it.

According Richard Holbrooke, one of the president's political advisors, Truman was committed to Israel anyway.

Partly this was because of his religious beliefs.

"He was a student and believer in the Bible since his youth," Holbrooke recalled. "From his reading of the Old Testament he felt the Jews derived a legitimate historical right to Palestine, and he sometimes cited such biblical lines as Deuteronomy 1:8: 'Behold, I have given up the land before you; go in and take possession of the land which the Lord hath sworn unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.'"

Partly, too, Truman was influenced by those Zionist refugees that Eisenhower wrote about. They, like the faithful saints of Hebrews 11, did "not desire to look upon their present location as any form of permanent home."

Feb 29, 2016

To all points of the fair

Assaulting Satan:

A man dressed as Satan is play-assaulted by two Bible-weilding women, one of them dressed as an angel, as he tries to enter the 1940 New York World's Fair. It is not clear why. The picture comes from the Manuscripts and Archives Division of The New York Public Library.

Feb 25, 2016

Tim LaHaye's call to action

Tim LaHaye gives the standard religious-right pitch for political involvement:

"I believe the reason we're in some of the problems we're in is because Christians have not participated in past elections," LaHaye says in the 2012 video. "I really believe that we can turn this country around. And the reason I say that is, we did, back in 1980, when Jerry Falwell called me and invited me to be one of seven signers of the Moral Majority and help him move across the country. We had the worst president in the history of America. And it was thousands of ministers that participated in their churches that helped us do this. We can do that again."

Feb 19, 2016

Billy Sunday backs women's suffrage

From the Washington Herald on Jan. 9, 1918:

Sunday was holding a revival in Washington D.C. in the winter of 1918 and rallying American support for World War I. He railed against the Germans. He promised to fight the devil until hell froze over and then keep fighting on ice skates. And he said women should have the vote.

The famed evangelist agreed to say an opening prayer at the United States House Congress before a vote on women's suffrage. He took the opportunity to reiterate his support for women's participation in the political process.

"I see no reason why the men and women of the nation should not walk side by side," Sunday said, according to the newspaper, "in the matters of law enactment as well as in the home and social life."

Sunday also cited the war effort as reason to give women the vote. "Without their co-operation," he said, "the war could not be waged to a successful conclusion."

Sunday was not alone among evangelicals (or those who might today be called evangelicals) in supporting extending the franchise to women. William Jennings Bryan -- of Scopes trial fame -- wanted women to vote. One of the largest groups of advocates on the issue was the Women's Christian Temperance Union, social activists who used scripture reading and prayer and sang hymns like "Jesus the Water of Life Will Give." Both the Southern Baptist Conference and the Southern Methodist General Conference were in favor of women voting. This wasn't a universal evangelical position, by any means, but Sunday's stance wasn't uncommon.

The House passed the 19th Amendment, allowing women to vote, by the necessary two-thirds majority. The Senate voted against the Amendment later that year.

Feb 12, 2016

Not of yourselves, it is the gift of God

A white Lutheran minister with his mostly black confirmation class in 1926:

From a collection documenting African-American Lutherans in the Schomburg General Research and Reference Division of The New York Public Library.