I am writing from Marietta, Ohio where I have been spending some time with the History Department at Marietta College.
On Tuesday night I gave a public lecture on Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction. The McDonough Auditorium on campus was mostly filled with students, faculty, and members of the community. (The college president, provost, and assistant provost were also in attendance). I was glad to hear that my book is being used in two classes this semester–a course on the American founding era and a sophomore historical methods seminar.
As is usually the case when I give these talks, the members of the audience were full of questions, both following the lecture and at the book table. One young man asked me if I thought an atheist would ever be elected President of the United States and, if there was an atheist elected, would he/she swear on the Bible during the inauguration ceremony. One guy asked a “question” that consisted of him reading aloud a passage from a book called The 5000 Year Leap. Yet another audience member asked the following question: “Roe v. Wade?” (Yes, you read that correctly. He basically uttered the name of the famous Supreme Court case using an interrogative inflection and somehow expected me to answer him). These things sometimes happen when you are on the road asking people to consider whether or not America was founded as a Christian nation.
I spent the day learning about the Marietta History Department, the rich early American history of the town of Marietta (which was the first settlement in the old Northwest Territory and the site of some amazing native American earthworks), the college’s special collections library (which houses the complete papers of the Ohio Company among other gems), and plans to create an early American center with a strong public history dimension. It looks like some very exciting things are happening on the latter front and I was honored to be able to help the faculty refine their vision for such an initiative.
Thanks to Matt Young and the rest of the History Department (it was good to see Andy Wehrman again) for their gracious hospitality during my visit. I had some delicious spicy shrimp soup at Austyn’s, experienced the local breakfast flavor at The Busy Bee, and tried some Jeni’s ice cream (Pistachio) at The Buckley House.