Historians Approve Anti-ICE Resolution

AHA2020 Carousel Slide test

At its annual meeting in New York City, the American Historical Association approved the following resolution:

RESOLUTION CONDEMNING AFFILIATIONS BETWEEN ICE AND HIGHER EDUCATION

In light of the serious and systematic violation of human rights committed by both the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the US Border Patrol (USBP) in recent years—and considering their presence on US university campuses for recruitment and research purposes—we resolve the following:

WHEREAS, several US universities have contracts with and host recruitment for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the US Border Patrol (USBP); 

WHEREAS, ICE and USBP have been cited for numerous human rights abuses at the border and in detention facilities; 

WHEREAS university contracts with ICE and USBP legitimate both agencies as a branch of government and potential employers; therefore, be it

Resolved, that the AHA urge university faculty, staff, and administrators to sever existing ties and forgo future contracts with ICE and USBP; and

Resolved,that the AHA support sanctuary movements on campuses that seek to protect immigrant students and workers.

I am not sure what this resolution has to do with the study of history.  If I was present I would have rejected it. The AHA is not a political organization.  In this sense, I am mostly in agreement with the former AHA president and Cornell University historian Mary Beth Norton.  Here is a taste of a recent piece at Inside Higher Education:

Members of the American Historical Association approved a resolution condemning college and university contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 70 to 60, at their annual meeting over the weekend. They approved an additional statement in support of professors teaching off the tenure track, but voted down two resolutions expressing concern about academic freedom in Israel.

The successful resolution on ICE now goes to the AHA’s governing council for further consideration. Per association policies and procedures, the council may accept it, refuse to concur or exercise a veto.

Alexander Avina, associate professor at Arizona State University, was the first to speak in favor of the resolution, saying that his own parents were undocumented migrants and that he now teaches such immigrants in the borderlands. He urged the AHA to take “a stand against ongoing state terrorism” and the idea that universities should make millions of dollars by working with agencies that perpetrate it.

Ashley Black, a visiting assistant professor of history at California State University at Stanislaus, said she teaches students who were part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and who now live in a “state of fear and insecurity.” She asked the AHA to endorse campuses as sanctuaries in the interest of student safety and learning.

ICE had no vocal fans in the room, but a number of historians spoke out against the resolution on the grounds that it strays from AHA’s mission and established rules and practices. Mary Beth Norton, former AHA president and Mary Donlon Alger Professor Emerita at Cornell University, said she might support a resolution that adhered to the AHA’s Guiding Principles on Taking a Public Stance, highlighting threats to historical sources, academic freedom and historians’ movement. Yet she did not support the resolution as written.

Norton said later that the document said “nothing about historical scholarship or historians. Accordingly, it is outside the purview if the AHA as an organization, even though expressing outrage about ICE is entirely appropriate for individual historians in their capacity as citizens.”  

Avina said that he and his colleagues behind the resolution hope that the council will “accept and publicly support” it.

Read the entire piece here.

A Glimpse of the American Society of Church History Book Exhibit

Martin Spence is Associate Professor of History at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He is writing for us this weekend at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association (and related organizations) in New York City.  Enjoy his latest post.  –JF

Here’s a sample of what’s on the ASCH bookstands. The volume the religious imagination of Stephen King—appropriately placed next to a book on witchcraft—looks particularly intriguing.

Bookstand 1

I’m looking forward to reading John Wolffe’s Sacred and Secular Martydom in Britain Since 1914. It offers chapters on the World Wars, the Falklands Conflict and Irish Nationalism.

Bookstand 2

A collection of books on American religious pasts and futures from Eerdmans:

Bookstand 3

I’m hoping to read this volume by Amy Collier Artman on Kathryn Kuhlman, who has always appeared to me a very enigmatic figure. A good sampling of some of the recent interest in political spiritual biography too, including FDR and Robert E. Lee.

Bookstand 4

I’m also looking forward to reading this book that has been crafted on the religious significance of Hobby Lobby, a useful counterpart to Bethany Moreton’s book a few years ago on the spiritual significance of Walmart.

Bookstand 5

The Kingdom of God in American History

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Elias Boudinot, Founder of the American Bible Society

Ralph Keen is writing for us this week from the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History in New York City.  Keen is Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation Chair of Catholic Studies and Professor of History at the University of Illinois-Chicago. In 2018 he was president of the ASCH. Here is his latest post.  Enjoy!

The Kingdom of God was the focus of a session in which Rhys Bezzant (Ridley College, Melbourne) brought to light the importance of Kingdom language in Edwards. In Bezzant’s view, the Kingdom was both an element in Edwards’s own conversion and the systematic “scaffold” of his theological edifice. The language of the Kingdom serves as a key to understanding Edwards’s pastoral agenda. Caleb Maskell (ASCH exec sec) then offered an account of the 1816 founding of the American Bible Society, tying it to a narrative of eschatological anticipation promoted by elite “formalist evangelicals” who felt it their God-given duty to Christianize the young nation and protect it from the “dangers” of democracy.  Vince Oliveri (Bristol) offered an analysis of Bonhoeffer’s 1932 essay “Thy Kingdom Come” with attention to its critique of both otherworldliness and secularism. Bonhoeffer’s understanding of the German church crisis of the 1930s was, in Oliveri’s view, strongly influenced by his experience of the Black church in NY.

Quakers, Methodists, and Public Discourse in the Early Republic

2nd GA

Ralph Keen is writing for us this week from the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History in New York City.  Keen is Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation Chair of Catholic Studies and Professor of History at the University of Illinois-Chicago. In 2018 he was president of the ASCH.

In a session on Quakers, Methodists, and Public Discourse in the Early Republic, Samuel Dodge (Lehigh) described the paradox of religious freedom as it affected Pennsylvania Quakers in the call-up before the Revolution—the conflict being over the absoluteness of their pacifist convictions and the demand to sacrifice personal liberties for the common good. Elizabeth Georgian (Univ of SC) presented the case of itinerant Lorenzo Dow, the subject of several disciplinary proceedings for slander and who sought vindication in the court of public opinion through his published Journal and favorable attention in newspapers. Daniel Gullotta (Stanford) elucidated some of the differences between Whig and Jacksonian attitudes toward Christianity and its appropriate role in public life. While the Whigs accused Jacksonian Democrats of godlessness (and everything implied by that), Gullotta argued that the latter saw themselves as having a religious character just as firm as that of the sanctimonious Whigs.

The Role of History Educators in a Time of Crisis: Building Bridges Between Historians and K-12 History Teachers

Classroom_at_Gaylord_Opryland_Resort_&_Convention_CenterSari Beth Rosenberg is writing for us this weekend from Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City.  She is a U.S. history teacher and writer in New York City. Sari helped write the new social studies high school curriculum for the New York City Department of Education and is also a frequent curriculum consultant at New-York Historical Society. Her bylines include the #SheDidThat series for A&E Television Network/Lifetime, TheProgressive.org, PublicSeminar.org, and PatriotNotPartisan.com. Some of her recent media appearances include TheSkimm’s 2018 GOTV series and Travel Channel’s “Mysteries at the Museum.”  Follow her on Twitter. Enjoy her post!  –JF

Nearly twenty years ago, I was a participant in several Teaching American History Grant (TAHG) programs, as well as the coordinator for one designed for New York City elementary school teachers. Thanks to this federally-funded program (defunct since 2012), history teachers, like myself, worked with historians for the sole purpose of improving their content knowledge as well as pedagogy. I still integrate many of the documents and practices from my TAH days into my lessons. Most importantly, TAH played an integral role in bringing together historians with K-12 history teachers, an important partnership that is missing in the field today.

Although there has been an increasingly robust conversation around this topic in the Twitterverse, I was excited to attend an IRL discussion on Sunday, January 5th at 8:30AM at the AHA conference. Organized by the AHA Teaching Division, “The Role of History Educators in a Time of Crisis” panel was chaired by Joe Schmidt (New York City Department of Education) in conversation with Trevor Getz (San Francisco State University), Christopher Martell (University of Massachusetts Boston), and Judith Jeremie (Brooklyn Technical High School). I left the session determined to redouble my efforts in finding more ways for historians and history teachers to join forces in meaningful ways.

Chris Martell’s Two-Way Bridge Between Historians and Teachers 

I have been a longtime fan of Chris Martell’s efforts to actively connect historians with history teachers on Twitter. Based on his paper, “A Two-Way Bridge: Building Better Partnerships between Historians and History Teachers/Teacher Educators,” Martell’s main message was that we need to move from historian/history teacher interaction to collaboration. That means we need to start presenting at each other’s conferences and utilize more digital platforms for sharing our resources and teaching strategies. He began by discussing how there are a few thousand self-identified historians and professors in the United States, but there are currently 1.1 million elementary school teachers. These educators are often overlooked when we talk about who teaches history. Meanwhile, beginning in 2008, we have experienced the steepest decline in history majors. Considering that 18% of 300,000 history majors report they wish to pursue careers in K-12 education, this does not bode well for the future of public education. How do we stoke the flames of enthusiasm for the study of history?

Martell’s answer is to partner history teachers with historians. In his studies, he found that K-12 history teachers often struggle to keep their content updated with the latest research and struggle to find helpful resources. They find historians inaccessible, most school-based professional development is not focused on content, and most of the history journals are not open-sourced. Martell realized that social media has become the new territory to best improve interactions between historians and history teachers. In response, he started a social media campaign, #BridgingHistoriansandTeachers, to get historians and history teachers to follow one another. It has been an effective venture thus far. In thirty days, Martell followed 42 historians. 33 of those historians followed him back and promised to follow back any K-12 historians who followed them. If Martell’s initiative continues, he hopes that historians and educators can learn about each other’s work and engage in meaningful conversations about classroom activities. He also emphasized the need for more PD opportunities that link content and pedagogy so teachers can actually implement the material in their respective classrooms. He cites the University of Massachusetts Boston/ Boston Public Schools model as one to which we should emulate.

Joe Schmidt’s Passport to Historian-History Teacher Collaboration

Next to speak on the panel was Joe Schmidt (“History Education and the Passport to Social Studies: Historical Thinking and the Creation of a District Curriculum”). He explained that he views curriculum and curriculum development as an important forum for teachers and historians to work together. (Disclosure: I know the benefit of this work firsthand, as I have been on the curriculum writing team since 2015). That has been a major part of the model for the New York City Department of Education teacher-created curriculum. After sharing the mind-blowing fact that 1 of 300 Americans sit in a New York City public school classroom every day, Schmidt shared the process in creating the Passport to Social Studies, the NYC DOE teacher-created curriculum aligned with the 2014 NYSED Social Studies framework as well as the New York City Social Studies Scope and Sequence. So far, the Social Studies team has created curriculum for K-10 (45 unit guides total).Grades 11-12 are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Schmidt shared that the key to creating the curriculum was a shift to focusing on pedagogical content knowledge, where history educators translate historical research results into developmentally-appropriate material for students. Therefore, a major change in the new curriculum is a greater focus on historical thinking as the foundation, not having students memorize a laundry list of facts. To help teachers and students with this change, Schmidt and the curriculum team created a series of Historical Thinking Skills Tools. These one-to-three page organizers help scaffold students work with  historical concepts, including “Continuity and Change Over Time” as well as “Turning Points.” For example, the Turning Points Tool allows students to not just say why a particular moment was a turning point, but it also challenges them to unpack if it was a turning point and the implications of this in history.

Aside from bridging the work of historians into the curriculum used by history teachers, Schmidt hosts a series of History Book Talks, open to all New York City social studies teachers. Over the years, he has invited many high-profile historians, including Joanne Freeman, Kevin Kruse, Julian Zelizer, and Kevin Gannon, to discuss their work with history teachers, often resulting in a lively Q&A, where both content and pedagogy are discussed. These book talks are a successful model of how to forge connection as well as collaboration between teachers and historians.

Judith Jeremie’s Students Reap the Benefits from Her Work with Other Historians 

A Brooklyn Technical High School teacher, Judith Jeremie shared that “Learning how to teach students to think like historians was definitely a learning curve.” Her greatest growth came from becoming a curriculum writer on the Passport project. She shared that her biggest challenge is to get her students to become critical thinkers. Speaking with historians who are experts in their respective fields greatly helped her with this feat. For example, she collaborated with Trevor Getz, an expert in the field of African history, and this helped her better teach the topic to her AP World History students.

Jeremie shared that attending the History Book Talks, organized by Schmidt, gives her greater depth and breadth of content, while also giving her strategies for translating it for her students so they can start thinking about the bigger picture of history. Jeremie shared her positive experiences using the Tools from the Passport curriculum: “Students loved using them(the tools) and seeing the process, especially if you show them why you are using it. They love the idea that you are including them in history-making.”

Trevor Getz’s Inside Scoop on How the “Economy of the Academy” is Affecting Pedagogy

Speaking of Trevor Getz (“Historians Taking Education Seriously”), he was the final presenter on the panel. As a history professor, he was able to provide more insight as to why pedagogy is often ignored at the university level. He shared that he thought he was a good teacher based solely on the fact that his “student evaluation scores were high.” Getz did not really “engage with history education” until getting involved with the development of the New York City Department of Education Passport curriculum. Only in that capacity did Getz begin learning about backward-design and the other mainstays of curriculum development. He revealed: “We (as college faculty) get very little professional development.” In fact, if a college professor does end up getting sent to a PD in pedagogy, it is punishment for low student evaluation scores.

Getz explained that integral to understanding why pedagogy is essentially ignored at the university level, one must understand the “economy of the academy”: a system solely based on getting your research published, in particular “the monograph.” As long as you have reasonable teacher evaluation scores, your main focus in academia is based around your research. This system makes it so that historians do not value conversations with teachers where they can talk and learn about pedagogy. Since there is little to no interaction between the two parties, the survey courses taught at the college level “deviate very little from high school standards.” For the most part, professors do not take into account what students might have already learned in high school.” What ends up happening is that the history survey courses are a terrible introduction to learning about history on the college level. Getz concluded his remarks with this important point: “Without vertical integration between teachers and university faculty, we do not get a sense of how to move from 9-12 to 13-16 grades.”

Before opening the panel up to questions, and comments, from a highly engaged audience, Joe Schmidt asked each panel member to answer this question:

“What is history education?”

Jeremie shared that it involves sharing how historians write about history as a launch point so her students can ultimately model and produce their own writing.

Getz explained that until a cultural shift happens at the college and university level, professors won’t deviate from the existing system. However, he cited AHA’s Gateway Project as being at the forefront of change.

Martell emphasized that universities need to incentivize history professors to work in schools and make it a part of their work to collaborate with K-12 teachers. However, he stressed that it is crucial to teach content and pedagogy together.

A few other suggestions on how to forge historian/history teacher connections:

For History Teachers: Cold Call Your Local Historian

Schmidt shared that part of his job is reaching out to historians every day, oftentimes cold calling them. Nine times out of ten they respond to his calls. He encouraged classroom teachers to reach out to nearby colleges and universities.

For Historians: Write a Shorter Blog Piece for Teachers

Martell suggested that since teachers don’t have time to use whole texts in their classes, historians can publish a short blog piece when they publish a longer article.

Schmidt added that this is a great idea as long as historians add citations to the abbreviated blog pieces.

The overall consensus among the panel, as well as the attendees, was that forging meaningful collaborations between historians and history teachers is crucial to the study of history. It is our responsibility as educators to do all we can to provide young people with strong historical thinking skills to navigate this increasingly chaotic world. With history as a discipline waning in popularity, it is essential that we find new ways to revive interest in the subject. A synergy between historians and history teachers might be our last great hope in closing the growing divide in America, and the world.

Evangelical-Jewish Relations

NetanyahiRalph Keen is writing for us this week from the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History in New York City.  Keen is Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation Chair of Catholic Studies and Professor of History at the University of Illinois-Chicago. In 2018 he was president of the ASCH.

A session on Evangelical-Jewish relations brought new light to the harmonies and tensions between American Jews and pro-Israel Evangelicals. Amy Weiss (College of St. Elizabeth) presented Billy Graham and Rabbi Marc Tannenbaum of the American Jewish Committee as partners, not without differences, in the forging of an alliance regarding Israel and the promotion of inter-religious dialogue before 1979 when Baptist claims of Evangelical exclusiveness made it harder for Jews to work with the SBC. Daniel Hummel (UW-Madison) discussed the construction of a Judeo-Christian identity in the wake of the 1982 Lebanon War, arguing that that war prompted a clearer definition of the term by the religious right, one that asserted that freedom of religious practice (specifically that of Christians in Islamic regions) is a human right. Hummel described Jerry Falwell’s trip to Lebanon as a point in the development of American support of Israel. Third, Ian Van Dyke (Notre Dame) unpacked the difficult questions regarding the religious identity of Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians, particularly as they arose during the 1989 International Congress of World Evangelization in Manila. Tensions between these two groups triggered questions about who could be considered Christian (as well as whether Messianic Jews were still Jews), in particular given their stances toward Israel. As Heath Carter stated in his comment after these papers, it was evident that there was more conflict within Evangelicalism concerning Judaism and Israel than there was between Evangelicals and Jews.

Nationalism and Worship

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Nationalism and Worship Panel (Left to right): Wright, Maiden, Hummel, Bivins, Haberski and Turek

Martin Spence is Associate Professor of History at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He is writing for us this weekend at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City.  Enjoy his latest post.  –JF

This morning at ASCH I chaired a roundtable on Nationalism and Christian Worship. This gathering was my idea. It forms part of a project I am working on this year funded by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. The grant is given as part of the CICW’s new Teacher-Scholar grant program that encourages scholars to find ways to connect their discipline, the study of Christian worship, and the practice of local worshipping communities. I have been doing various things during the grant year including reading good books on worship and nationalism, and starting to write a book of my own on Evangelicalism and Nationalism. I have also been working with Dr. Jim Samra, pastor of Calvary Church, Grand Rapids, to lead a church-based study group on the history and practice of nationalism and worship.

As a scholar whose main research interests focus neither on nationalism nor the United States I wanted to conduct a fact-finding mission to learn from experts in the field. The roundtable this morning was the result. I was very pleased with the top-flight team who assembled, and I learned much from their lively and multi-dimensional responses to my questions.

Lauren Turek (Trinity University, San Antonio TX) explored how Evangelicals have appropriated the internationalist language of human rights to serve nationalist ends, particularly in regard to construing the global campaign for religious freedom as a refraction of their own allegedly embattled place within American culture. Jason Bivins (North Carolina State University) picked up this theme of the imagined marginality of American Christians, and I look forward to his new book Embattled Majority which plots these issues in detail. Bivins also gave arguably one of the most passionate orations I have heard at an academic conference about the need for scholars to be plain-speaking prophets for these perilous times. Raymond Haberski Jr. (Indiana-Purdue University) reflected on the link between rhetoric and “operationality” of religious nationalist discourse, thinking particularly about the way in which Catholic just war theorists engaged the public sphere in the 1980s against a tendency toward ecclesial withdrawal from public life in the wake of the  Vietnam era.

Dan Hummel (University of Wisconsin-Madison) opened up the multivalent connection between worship and nationalism in regard to Christian Zionism, in particular the adoption of Jewish liturgical practices by Evangelical Christians. But he also wanted to warn against seeing Christian Zionism as simply a refraction of American nationalism, pointing us to the international nature of the Christian Zionist movement. Ben Wright (UT Dallas) explored the issue of national formation in the antebellum era, and affirmed the point made by some other panelists that nationalism differs across space and time, and is, to some extent, always a site of contest and evolution in which Christian communities have played strategic and varying roles. John Maiden (Open University, UK) offered a British perspective, arguing that the British Evangelical community has in one sense lost its older commitment to national religion (the 27% of Evangelicals that voted for Brexit stand in marked contrast to the 81% that voted for Trump), while retaining some of its imagery, particularly in regard to Britain’s special status and anti-Catholic rhetoric.

Several overarching themes emerged which I will want to reflect on further. First, a hunch I had developed going into this project received some affirmation. Nationalism, while on the one hand belligerent and self-satisfied, is in many ways fragile and uncertain. Indeed, its most strident manifestations may come from positions of weakness – or imagined weakness – as much as from strength. Second, the question was raised at several junctures concerning for whom the discourse of Christian nationalism is intended. Is Christian nationalist rhetoric primarily aimed at the Christian community, or is it directed to achieving defined goals within the nation-state? Third, I was interested in the relationship between individualism and community raised in the discussions, especially as this seems a very germane link with issues of worship. Is nationalism, especially in the American context, something experienced (ironically) in isolation or, at best, as a kind of personal experience of a cultural mood or sentiment? Or is it genuinely about community and civic engagement? This seems important as it connects with a standard critique of Evangelical worship that privileges sentiment and individual experience over the formation of an ekklesia. This leads me to the fourth reflection, which is the sense of moral imperative that several participants conveyed for the church to do better at helping Christians think and act well about these issues. Much of the literature on worship and liturgy stresses the educative function of worship. The question my whole project is asking this year is (a) whether churches are equipped to fulfill this function in a way that sufficiently addresses and overcomes the other powerful liturgies that form Christian identity and community within the national-state, and  (b) if, as I suspect, the answer is often not, then what role can Christian thinkers — including us Christian historians—have in helping the church “imagine the Kingdom” and “unmask the powers” more fully.

One question after the panel from an audience member reminded me of a question I also still want answered: are there any historical studies of when the flag when into the sanctuary, or when and why it left the building? Flags in sanctuaries seem to be a great example of what Michael Billig calls “banal nationalism” – the slow and almost unnoticeable daily drip-feed of national identity symbols. My only answer to the question is anecdotal. Perusing the minutes of a church in Grand Rapids I found that this particular church raised the flag in 1976—a symbolic date that requires no explanation. But it would be interesting to know if this was the start or just a renaissance of the flag in the sanctuary, and to explore the mechanisms that encouraged churches to hoist the flag in this year. Was there a concerted national campaign, or was it spontaneous local initiative? As the audience member suggested, it would be useful for those trying to encourage the removal of the flag from the sanctuary if historians could show the context and reasons it went in.

Nothing But the Blood

Nothing-but-the-Blood-Full-Score-1Martin Spence is Associate Professor of History at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He is writing for us this weekend at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City.  Enjoy his latest post.  –JF

“Blood” is a powerful, multi-faceted, and pervasive theme of Christian historical experience. And, as a Saturday afternoon ASCH roundtable co-sponsored by the American Catholic Historical Association revealed, it has also been a unifying trope of Catholic and Protestant spirituality. These separated brethren are, it turns out, blood brothers.

The panelists, Rachel Wheeler (Indiana University), Jennifer Scheper Hughes (University of California, Riverside), Adrian Weimer (Providence College) and Elizabeth Castelli (Barnard College) showed that blood flows in many forms in Christian history: it is both metaphor and material reality; sacrament and symbol; interiorized and externalized. It can signify the blood of Christ, the sacrifice of the martyrs, the “pure” or “impure” blood of racialized communities, or the pulsing energy of a new convert whose “heart” has been revived. It boils, flows, drips and circulates. It appears in rivers, cups, tears, and vials. It comes down to cover, and ascends again to heaven.

I appreciated the format of this panel: a seemingly simple one-word theme that opened up inexhaustible veins (pun intended) of discussion. While the presentation of in-depth research papers has an important role at conferences, I enjoyed the way the way in which the format of this panel quickly opened up all kinds of possibilities and linkages across time periods and subject matter.

While the panel focused predominantly on early modern history (with the exception of Castelli’s account of the Saint Patrick’s Day Four—Catholic pacifists who smeared their own blood over a US Army recruiting station to protest the 2003 Iraq War), I found myself thinking about ways that blood flows in my own area of modern Evangelical history. Evangelical hymnody drips with blood, of course (for example, see Tom Schwanda’s chapter in John Coffey’s edited Heart Religion on the imagery of wounds and blood in the hymns of John Cennick). But there is also the Salvation Army’s motto “Blood and Fire;” a constellation of millennially-tinged nineteenth-century Christian health movements that worried about animal blood spilt, human blood transfusions, and embraced health regimes intended to revivify circulation; and the reaction against blood-soaked theological rhetoric exemplified by late Victorian critics or reformers of Evangelicalism who found the imagery faintly revolting.

The Strange Career of German Religious Influence in America

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Johann Neander

Ralph Keen is writing for us this week from the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History in New York City.  Keen is Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation Chair of Catholic Studies and Professor of History at the University of Illinois-Chicago. In 2018 he was president of the ASCH.

The session on the influence of German theology in the US brought to light new details about the reception of Johann August Neander and August Tholuck. Annette Aubert (Westminster Seminary) discussed the work of Neander, considered by many at the time as a founder of modern church history, author of a history that appeared in numerous American editions. Neander’s adoption of rigorous historical method, and his attempt to reconcile tradition and innovation, encountered resistance from more conservative seminaries. David Komline (Western Seminary) described a controversy over whether Tholuck was a universalist, a question that engaged Baptists, Congregationalists, Lutherans and Unitarians and that led some in these camps to claim (and others to deny) that universalism had become the theological orthodoxy in Germany. Tholuck himself tried to clarify his position in letters, with mixed success. Joel Iliff (Baylor) gave an account of Tholuck’s reception in the antebellum South, with attention to Tholuck’s history of rationalism and it’s role in shaping how many Southern theologians understood the task of theology. For them, Tholuck represented the union of piety and scientific biblical scholarship. Iliff pointed out that Tholuck was seen by some as a second Luther or Calvin. Aubert’s paper had a similar observation about the prominence (at the time) of Neander, whose supporters considered him a second Reformer.

Christian Uses and Representations of Judaism and the Old Testament in Reformation Europe

ASCH logoRalph Keen is writing for us this week from the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History in New York City.  Keen is Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation Chair of Catholic Studies and Professor of History at the University of Illinois-Chicago. In 2018 he was president of the ASCH.

In a session on uses and representations of Judaism in the Reformation era, Samuel Dubbelman (Boston U) described Johann Matthesius’s role as the source of a legend in which a Polish Jew named Michael of Posen tried to assassinate Luther with poison; Erik Lundeen (Baylor) uncovered new points in John Foxe’s sermons (on the occasion of a Jew’s conversion to Christianity) that reveal a deeper ambivalence toward Judaism than previously recognized; and Brian Hanson (Bethlehem College, MN) examined pre-1560 Tudor sermons for their use of examples from the Prophets. Thomas Becon as Elijah, Robert Crowley on the role of a shepherd—both adopting Biblical personas in their rhetoric. All three papers uncovered nuances in these Reformers’ attitudes to Judaism, the Jewish rejection of “idolatry and superstition” providing a basis for an affinity with the anti-Catholic rhetoric and tempering the anti-Judaism usually associated with early Protestantism.

Conference of Faith and History Events Today

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The Conference on Faith and History is sponsoring several events today at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association.

This morning at 8:30 the Conference will host its annual breakfast reception.  There is no program for this event.  Stop by, grab some food, and enjoy some good conversation.

The CFH will hold two sessions today:

Educating for Activism: Historians and Politics in the Contemporary United States

What is Race: Historical and Theological Retrieval in American Christianity

American Exceptionalisms

American Exceptionalism

Gutacker (left) and Foley (right) respond to questions at the panel on Race, Religion, and American Exceptionalism

Martin Spence is Associate Professor of History at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He is writing for us this weekend at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City.  Enjoy his latest post.  –JF

The interplay between race, religion and American exceptionalisms was the theme of a panel in the second round of papers at day one of the ASCH in New York city. The panel sits squarely in the center of the conference’s overall theme: Whose América: New Perspectives Contours and Connections in Church Histories.

The plural exceptionalisms was a key note sounded, particularly in the papers by Malcolm Foley (Baylor University) and Nichole Renèe Phillips (Emory University) which discussed how African American conceptualizations of American exceptionalism could critique America’s oppressive and violent racial attitudes while simultaneously affirming that the American experiment was indeed built on unique ideals. In fact, such endorsement of American exceptionalism was often used to call white Americans to reform. This suggests that American exceptionalism is not always a cipher of bellicose ethno-nationalism, but can also act as a sternly prophetic voice. Indeed, I was left pondering how severe critique of the nation’s sins can still be a form of implicit nationalism, since the very act of chastisement for sin tacitly accepts the normative status of national claims to uniqueness and special importance.

I was particularly intrigued by Foley’s presentation of Black Presbyterian Pastor Francis Grimke (1850-1937). Foley showed how Grimké was troubled by an apparent contradiction between African American experiences of inequality and violence in America and the foundational commitment and loyalty to the country that he witnessed among many African Americans. Yet, according to Foley, Grimké himself displayed some of this same ambiguity, castigating and critiquing, yet never able to quite give up on the America of the mind.

Meanwhile Paul Gutacker explored the way in which church history could be used by Americans of both European and African descent in the nineteenth century. European Americans drew on the broader myth of Protestant freedom and Anglo-Saxon liberty to envision America as the arena wherein the story of the English people would find its climax, the result of America’s victorious disaggregation of church and state. Gutacker focused part African American Christian leaders, by contrast, stretched further back to emphasize that the early church Bible belt was in North Africa, and that the most revered of all theologians, even among Protestants, Saint Augustine, was, of course, African. Interestingly, both African and European Americans could plug into the dominant anti-Catholicism of the era. Black theologians perpetuated a narrative that held the Catholic church as responsible for slavery, while European leaders saw anti-Catholicism as the great unifying creed of freeborn American Christians.

Anti-Catholicism, which was to some extent a proxy for nationalism in the nineteenth century in both Britain and the United States, will recur as a theme at ASCH in a panel on Sunday with papers from John Wolffe, Geraldine Vaughan and John Maiden. Prof. Wolffe told me in conversation after today’s panel that he sees anti-Catholicism scholarship making a resurgence. This is an intriguing fact given current hostility to immigrants and outsiders at work in American (and British) society at the moment. I am reminded of Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr.’s comment that prejudice against Catholics is “the deepest bias in the history of the American people.”

Let the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association Begin!

30 Rock

I’m not as angry as I look in this picture!  🙂

Thousands of historians have converged on New York City this week for the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association (and other history-related meetings).

I arrived in New York this afternoon, checked into my hotel, and headed straight to 30 Rockefeller Plaza where I chatted with NBC News Now anchor Alison Morris about the “Evangelicals for Trump” rally in Miami. (The video is not yet available).

After the interview I went back to my hotel and watched some of Trump’s speech in Miami and then attended the dinner board meeting of the Conference on Faith and History (CFH).  There are lot of good things happening in the CFH these days.  Stay tuned.  The Call for Papers for our 2020 Fall meeting at Baylor University in Waco will be released soon.

Tomorrow I am going to finally register for the AHA conference, spend some time in the book exhibit, and attend a breakfast and two sessions sponsored by the CFH.

If you could not make it to the conference this year, we’ve got you covered here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  We have several great correspondents reporting from the floor of the conference.

More to come…

The American Society of Church History is Coming to Town!

ASCH

It’s Always Christmas New York, Broadway, New York, NY near the ASCH conference. Photo by Martin Spence

Martin Spence is Associate Professor of History at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He is writing for us this weekend at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City.  Enjoy!  –JF

It may be January 3, but it’s always Christmas in New York. And if any historians possessed the knowledge about how to keep Christmas well, it was the five who led one of the first panels at the ASCH Winter meeting at the Parker Hotel, New York.

The papers were culled from the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Christmas, an inter-disciplinary study of the theology, history, sociology, liturgy and culture of Christmas which editor Timothy Larsen (Wheaton College) assured us will be published just in time for….Easter.

The panelists, Katrina Jennie-Lou Wheeler (City University of New York),David Thomas Orique (Providence College), Daniel Vaca (Brown University), and Timothy Larsen, all emphasized how Christmas has been a site of cultural contest since the early modern era. Larsen’s revelation that nonconformist Evangelicals who did much to popularize Santa Claus in late Victorian Anglo-America was particularly intriguing, especially as a counterpoise to the common belief that a secular Santa has shoved Jesus out of the manger.  Meanwhile David Thomas Orique showed how the celebration of Christmas was both a point of friction and a zone of assimilation for European, Native and African cultures in post-Columbian America. Daniel Vaca touched on the multivariate narratives of Christmas and their role in mediating idealized visions of domesticity, pleasure, and social harmony. Katrina Jennie-Lou Wheeler took us back to the original “war on Christmas” in Tudor and Stuart England.

Lo! Two blocks East of the conference venue shines the great light of Trump Tower, and inevitably the forty-fifth President made a (virtual) appearance at the panel when panel commentator and chair Margaret Bendroth (Congregational Archives and Library) raised Trump’s  recent “Miracle of Christmas” rally at Battle Creek, MI. Bendroth asked whether it is actually the “powers that be,”—posing as the faux champions of Christmas to serve political-cultural ends—who may be the real Grinches.

Correspondents Wanted: 2020 AHA Meeting in New York City

AHA 2020 Cover

Is anyone interested in a writing a post or two (or three or four or five…) from the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association (and/or related meetings) in New York from January 3-6, 2020?

Once again The Way of Improvement Leads Home is looking for writers/correspondents to report from the conference.

What am I hoping for out of these posts/reports? Frankly, anything. Let the spirit move you. I would love to get general observations, reports on sessions you attend, job market updates, or any other kind of stuff you might have the time or inclination to write about.

Feel free to be as creative and journalistic as you want. My only requirement is that you write material while the conference is in session. I will try to get stuff posted here in real time (or thereabouts) during the conference.

Though we can’t pay you for writing, we can introduce you, your writing, and your online presence to a several thousand readers a day. Our posts on the AHA are regularly picked up at other sites and blogs as well.

If you are interested, shoot me an e-mail at jfea(at)messiah(dot)edu and we can get the ball rolling. In the meantime, check out our posts from other conferences to get an idea of what some of our previous correspondents have done:

Megan Jones at AHA 2019

Brantley Gasaway at AHA 2018

Matt Lakemacher at AHA 2019

Zach Cote at AHA 2018

Mike Davis at AHA 2018

William Cossen from AHA 2017

Michael Bowen from AHA 2017