#capitolsiegereligion

Peter Manseau, the Lilly Endowment Curator of American Religious History at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, is collecting tweets documenting the use of religious rhetoric at the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Read them or share your own at #capitolsiegereligion. Here is a taste:

About 60 the 138 House members who objected to the Electoral College count were evangelical Christians

My very conservative estimate is that sixty evangelical Christians who are members of the House of Representatives objected. I think the number is probably higher, but I can’t be sure until we take a deeper dive into the bios of these representatives. Whatever the case, I hope the list below will give you all something to talk about. If you have any additional information please send it along on my Facebook page or Twitter feed. You can also shoot me an e-mail.

And don’t forget to take the survey!

It looks like thirty Catholics also objected.

Here are the religious affiliations of all 138 members of the House who objected to the Electoral College count in Pennsylvania, Arizona, or both. Click here for the Senate.

Robert Aderholt (AL), while a member of the evangelical organization “The Family,” traveled to Romania to meet with a Holocaust denier. He has also fought to display the 10 Commandments in public schools and other public buildings.

Rick Allen (GA) once read a Bible verse to the House Republican Conference calling for the death of homosexuals. He attends evangelically-oriented Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church in Augusta.

Jodey Arrington (TX), like Josh Hawley and Mike Pompeo, is an Evangelical Presbyterian.

Brian Babin (TX) appeared on the radio show of court evangelical Tony Perkins three days after the 2020 presidential election. Babin is an active member of First Baptist Church (Southern Baptist) of Woodville, TX.

Jim Baird (IN) is a United Methodist who believes America was founded on Judeo-Christian values. His church, Gobin United Methodist in Greencastle, does not look particularly evangelical in orientation.

Jim Banks (IN) has an online MBA from evangelical Grace College in Winona Lake. He identifies as an “Evangelical Christian.”

Cliff Bentz (OR) is Catholic.

Jack Bergman (MI) is Lutheran. This is not a historically evangelical denomination.

Stephanie Bice (OK) is Catholic.

Andy Biggs (AZ) is a Mormon.

Dan Bishop (NC) attends Providence United Methodist Church and sings in the choir. It is unclear if this is an evangelically-oriented United Methodist congregation. He defines himself as a “Christian conservative.”

Lauren Boebert (CO) wrote in clear evangelical language when she recently tweeted, “I’m a Christian. So they may try to drive me to my knees, but that’s where I’m the strongest.” She became a born-again Christian in 2009.

Mike Bost (IL) organized a prayer movement for Donald Trump, which was reported on by the Christian Broadcasting Network. He may have caught COVID-19 at an event sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Mo Brooks (AL) left the Mormonism of his wife and now identifies as a “non-denominational Christian.” “Non-denominational” is code for evangelical.

Ted Budd (NC) is an evangelical Christian and a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary.

Tim Burchett (TN) is an evangelical Christian and a member of the Presbyterian Church in America

Michael Burgess (TX) is a Reformed Episcopalian. This is an evangelical, or at least orthodox, denomination.

Ken Calvert (CA) does not seem to make his faith a dominant part of his political identity.

Kat Cammack (FL) started a Faith & Pro-Life Coalition. I can’t find much on her specific religious identity.

Jerry Carl (AL) is an evangelical Christian. He helped found Luke 4:18 Fellowship, a Southern Baptist Church in Mobile.

Buddy Carter (GA) attends Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah. It is hard to tell from the church website if this is evangelical-oriented congregation.

John Carter (TX) attends Central Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist Church in Round Rock, TX.

Madison Cawthorn (NC) is a devout evangelical who attends Biltmore Church in Hendersonville.

Steve Chabot (OH) is Catholic

Ben Cline (VA) is Catholic

Michael Cloud (TX) is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. Before he entered Congress he was the communications director at Faith Family Church, an evangelical megachurch in Victoria.

Andrew Clyde (GA) is a member of Prince Avenue Baptist Church, an evangelical megachurch in Bogart.

Tom Cole (OK) has a Ph.D in British history from the University of Oklahoma,. He attends a United Methodist Church. Perhaps it is Moore United Methodist Church. He has taught history at Oklahoma Baptist University, an evangelical Southern Baptist university.

Rick Crawford (AR) is a Southern Baptist and attends Nettleton Baptist Church in Jonesboro.

Warren Davidson (OH) is an evangelical Christian who has the support of court evangelical Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council. He has been a leader in the evangelical youth organization Young Life and attends Grace Baptist Church in Troy, OH.

Scott DesJarlais (TN) attends Epiphany Mission, an Episcopal Church in Sherwood. He does not seem to identify as an evangelical Christian. He also has an embarrassing past

Mario Diaz-Balart (FL) is Catholic.

Byron Donalds (FL) is an evangelical Christian who converted in the parking lot of a Tallahassee Cracker Barrel. He was a youth leader at Living Word Family Church in Naples.

Jeff Duncan (SC) is a Southern Baptist who attends First Baptist Church in Clinton. He believes in intelligent design.

Neal Dunn (FL) is Catholic.

Ron Estes (KS) is Lutheran

Pat Fallon (TX) is Catholic

Michelle Fischbach (MN) is Catholic

Scott Fitzgerald (WI) is Catholic

Chuck Fleischmann (TN) is Catholic

Virginia Foxx (NC) is a Southern Baptist who attends First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock.

Scott Franklin (FL) attends First Presbyterian in Lakeland. The church is PC-USA, but it seems pretty evangelical. Staff members have degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Asbury Theological Seminary.

Russ Fulcher (ID) is an evangelical Christian.

Matt Gaetz (FL) is a member of First Baptist Church in Fort Walton Beach. He says he was “saved in a Baptist church.

Mike Garcia (CA) calls himself a “Christian who believes in God and Jesus as our savior” but he does not seem to make his Christian faith a central part of his politics.

Bob Gibbs (OH) is a member of Nasvhille United Methodist Church. He holds conservative positions on most social issues, but it is unclear if his church is evangelical-oriented.

Carlos Gimenez (FL) is Catholic.

Louie Gohmert (TX) is a Southern Baptists Sunday School teacher and conservative evangelical.

Bob Good (VA) is an evangelical Christian who describes himself as a “biblical conservative.”

Lance Gooden (TX) is a member of the Church of Christ, a conservative Protestant denomination that is not usually associated with evangelicalism, but shares similar convictions on social issues.

Paul Gosar (AZ) is Catholic.

Garret Graves (LA) is Catholic.

Sam Graves (MO) is a Southern Baptist.

Mark Green (TN) is a Southern Baptist evangelical. He is a creationist.

Marjorie Greene (GA) is a conspiracy theorist who has a “strong Christian faith.” It is not clear if she identifies as an evangelical.

Morgan Griffith (VA) is Episcopalian.

Michael Guest (MS) is a Southern Baptist who attends Brandon Baptist Church where he teaches Sunday School and serves as a deacon.

Jim Hagedorn (MN) is a Missouri-Synod Lutheran.

Andy Harris (MD) is Catholic.

Diana Harshbarger (TN) is a Southern Baptist. She teaches Sunday School at Higher Ground Baptist Church in Kingsport.

Vicky Hartzler (MO) is a self-identified evangelical Christian.

Kevin Hern (OK) is an evangelical Christian who attends the Church at Battle Creek, a non-denominational megachurch.

Yvette Herrell (NM) attends Christ Community Church, an evangelical congregation in Alamogordo.

Jody Hice (GA) is a Southern Baptist and a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a strong Trump evangelical.

Clay Higgins (LA) holds to most Christian conservative social issues, but his religious identity is unclear apart from his self-designation as a Christian.

Richard Hudson (NC) identifies as a Christian and has been endorsed by the Family Research Council.

Darrell Issa (CA) is Eastern Orthodox.

Ronny Jackson (TX) was endorsed by court evangelical Robert Jeffress. He is a member of the Church of Christ.

Chris Jacobs (NY) is Catholic.

Mike Johnson (LA) is a Southern Baptist who attends First Baptist Church of Bossier City.

Bill Johnson (OH) sounds like an evangelical. He identifies as a Christian, a conservative, and a family man.

Jim Jordan (OH) does not seem to identify as an evangelical, but evangelicals love him.

John Joyce (PA) identifies as a Christian, but does not seem to make his faith an important part of his political identity.

Fred Keller (PA) is a member of the Reformed Church of America, a denomination that contains evangelicals but is not normally associated with evangelicalism. He attends First Reformed Church in Sunbury.

Trent Kelly (MS) is a member of Saltillo First United Methodist Church. It is unclear if this church is evangelical-oriented.

Mike Kelly (PA) is Catholic.

David Kustoff (TN) is Jewish.

Doug LaMalfa (CA) identifies as a Christian, but faith does not seem to be a central part of his political identity.

Doug Lamborn (CO) identifies as an evangelical Christian.

Jacob LaTurner (KS) is a Catholic.

Debbie Lesko (AZ) attends a Baptist church

Billy Long (MO) attends First & Calvary Presbyterian Church in Springfield. It is a member of ECO, A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.

Barry Loudermilk (GA) is a Southern Baptist who has been endorsed by Christian nationalist David Barton. He was part of an evangelical barnstorming tour leading-up to the 2020 Georgia Senate run-off.

Frank Lucas (OK) is a Southern Baptist who attends the First Baptist Church of Cheyenne.

Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO) is Catholic.

Nicole Malliotakis (NY) is Greek Orthodox

Tracey Mann (KS) identifies as a Pietist who attends First Covenant Church in Salina. The church is a member of the Evangelical Covenant denomination.

Brian Mast (FL) is an evangelical Christian who attended church at Calvary Chapel.

Kevin McCarthy (CA) is a Southern Baptist and evangelical Christian. He attends the Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield.

Lisa McClain (MI) is Catholic.

Daniel Meuser (PA) is Catholic.

Mary Miller (IL) attends Oakland Christian Church, an evangelical congregation in Oakland, IL.

Carol Miller (WV) is a Baptist. She attends the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in Huntington. This church is not association with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Alex Mooney (WV) is Catholic.

Barry Moore (AL) is a Southern Baptist who is a Sunday School teacher and deacon at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Enterprise.

Markwayne Mullin (OK) attends a congregation associated with the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.

Gregory Murphy (NC) identifies as a “conservative Christian.”

Troy Nehls (TX) is a graduate of Liberty University. He has encouraged Christians to carry firearms to church. He attends Faith United Methodist Church in Richmond, TX. Christianity Today has identified him as an evangelical.

Ralph Norman (SC) attends Westminster Presbyterian Church in Rock Hill. It is a member of the evangelical Presbyterian Church in America.

Devin Nunes (CA) is Catholic.

Jay Obernolte (CA) appears to be a Protestant, but he does not seem to overtly connect his faith to his political identity.

Burgess Owens (UT) is a Mormon

Steven Palazzo (MS) is Catholic.

Gary Palmer (AL) attends Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. It is a member of the evangelical Presbyterian Church in America. He has a history with evangelical organization Focus on the Family.

Greg Pence (IN) is Catholic.

Scott Perry (PA) identifies as a Christian.

August Pfluger (TX) identifies as a “devoted Christian.”

Bill Posey (FL) is a United Methodist. He attends the Rockledge United Methodist Church. The pastor of the church trained for the ministry at evangelical Asbury Theological Seminary.

Guy Reschenthaler (PA) identifies as a Christian.

Tom Rice (SC) is a member of Trinity Episcopal Church. It is an evangelical Anglican congregation.

Mike Rogers (AL) is a Baptist. He attends the independent Saks Baptist Church in Anniston.

Hal Rogers (KY) is a Southern Baptist who attends the First Baptist Church of Somerset.

John Rose (TN) is a member of Jefferson Avenue Church of Christ, a Churches of Christ congregation.

Matt Rosendale (MT) is Catholic.

David Rouzer (NC) is a Southern Baptist

John Rutherford (FL) is Catholic.

Steve Scalise (LA) is Catholic.

David Schweikert (AZ) is Catholic.

Pete Sessions (TX) is a Methodist. He attends First United Methodist Church in Waco. The pastor of the church is a graduate of the evangelical Asbury Theological Seminary.

Jason Smith (MO) is Pentecostal. He attends Grace Community Church in Salem.

Adrian Smith (NE) is an evangelical Christian. He attends Calvary Memorial Evangelical Free Church in Gering.

Lloyd Smucker (PA) is a Lutheran. He attends Zion Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Leola.

Elise Stefanik (NY) is Catholic.

Greg Steube (FL) is a Methodist.

Chris Stewart (UT) is a Mormon

Glenn Thompson (PA) identifies as a Protestant.

Tom Tiffany (WI) does not seem to publicly identify with a religious denomination.

William Timmons (SC) attends Christ Church in Greenville, a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, a conservative branch of South Carolina episcopalianism.

Jefferson Van Drew (NJ) is a Catholic.

Beth Van Duyne (TX) is an Episcopalian

Tim Walberg (MI) is an evangelical Christian who attended Moody Bible Institute, evangelical Taylor University and Wheaton College. He is an elder at Trenton Hills United Brethren Church in Adrian.

Jackie Walorski (IN) is a Pentecostal who attends SouthGate Church (Assembly of God) in South Bend.

Randy Weber (TX) is a Southern Baptist. He attends First Baptist Church of Pearland.

Daniel Webster (FL) is a Southern Baptist who attends First Baptist Church of Central Florida in Orlando.

Roger Williams (TX) identifies as a Christian.

Joe Wilson (SC) is an Associate Reformed Presbyterian, a theologically conservative Presbyterian denomination. He attends First Presbyterian Church in Columbia.

Rob Wittman (VA) is an Episcopalian.

Ron Wright (TX) is Catholic.

Lee Zeldin (NY) is Jewish.

NOTE: I am counting churches in the Southern Baptist Convention as “evangelical.”

Study: White Evangelicals are “cultural others” and the culture wars are getting worse

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia just released its 2020 survey of American political culture. It is titled Democracy in Dark Times. James Davison Hunter and Carl Desportes Bowman are the primary investigators/authors.

It is a very thorough study. Read it here. A few things the study tells us about White Evangelicals:

7 out of 10 “white evangelicals” believe that most opponents of Donald Trump are “socialists.”

9 out of 10 “white evangelicals” believe that the Democratic Party wants to transform the nation into a “socialist nation.”

86% of African Americans believe racism is a serious threat to America and its future. 70% of Hispanics believe this. 68% of White non-evangelicals believe this. But only 36% of “White Evangelical Protestants” believe racism is a serious threat to America and its future.

86% of African Americans believe economic inequality and poverty are serious threats to America. 68% of Hispanics believe this. 66% of White non-Evangelicals believe this. But only 37% of White Evangelicals believe inequality and poverty are serious threats to America.

91% of Blacks believe “the police and law enforcement unfairly target racial and ethnic minorities.” 60% of Hispanics believe this. 57% of White non-Evangelicals believe this. But only 17% of White Evangelicals believe this (83% disagree).

78% of African Americans favor some kind of “financial compensation to African Americans for their historic mistreatment of White Americans” (reparations). 41% of Hispanics favor reparations. 34% of non-Evangelical Whites favor reparation. But only 7% of White Evangelicals favor reparations.

The authors of the report write:

In sum, yes, there is a racial divide in America. Whites, Hispanics, and
African Americans do not share the same or even similar perspectives on
the history, experiences, and issues surrounding race, and the consequence
of this is misunderstanding, a lack of respect, and ultimately prejudice in
the everyday experience of Blacks and other minorities. But these points
of division are not equally or uniformly distributed across the population.
The deepest and most consistent racial division is found between White
Evangelicals and Blacks. Reconciliation begins with mutual understanding,
and by these lights, it is a long way off.

Here’s more:

26% of the African American community identify as “Evangelical.” According to the report, they are “entirely aligned with their larger racial community” on matters of race in America.

Black evangelicals “harbor more ‘conservative’ fears about crime and lawlessness, immigration, socialism, and the like than do secular Blacks. Even so, the two groups in our sample are not that far apart, especially in comparison with the great cultural distance between White Evangelical Protestants and White secularists.”

Evangelicals of color are nearly three times as likely as White Evangelicals to agree that “our founding fathers were part of a racist and sexist culture that gave important roles to White men while harming minorities and women.”

Evangelicals of color are twice as likely as White Evangelicals to see “Wall Street and the banking system as a very or extremely serious threat to America and America’s future.”

53% of White Evangelicals are Republicans. 35% of White Evangelicals are Independents. Only 7% of White Evangelicals are Democrats.

82% of White Evangelicals say that they are either “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative.” 15% of White Evangelicals describe their politics as “moderate.” Only 2% of White Evangelicals describe their politics as “liberal.”

The authors of the study conclude that White Evangelicalism, a movement that once was at the center of American religious and cultural life, has become a “cultural other” in the United States.

A majority of White Evangelicals believe that the opponents of Donald Trump are “misguided and misinformed,” “close-minded,” “dangerous,” and “arrogant and pretentious.”

Read the entire report here. The study concludes that “nearly 30 years after Hunter’s 1991 book Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America…, the country is even more deeply fractured by ideology, religion, race, and income.”

The Author’s Corner with Christopher Blythe

blythe-cover (2)Christopher Blythe is Research Associate at the Maxwell Institute’s Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies at Brigham Young University. This interview is based on his new book, Terrible Revolution: Latter-day Saints and the American Apocalypse (Oxford University Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Terrible Revolution?

CB: I have a deep interest in how different communities have interpreted the Book of Revelation for their times and situations. Obviously, throughout the history of Christianity there have been varied interpretations of millennialism–what I tried to do was zero in on this particularly last days minded church and see how these ideas develop and circulate. I noticed that treatments of Latter-day Saint apocalypticism focused almost exclusively on the Church’s leadership and official statements. So, I set out to discover the voices of the laity and by the end of my research, I had collected hundreds of diaries and letters that included lay prophecies, visions, dreams, and so on. It presents a very different and more complete story.

Terrible Revolution is based on a dissertation I completed five years ago under the supervision of John Corrigan at Florida State University. His encouragement also led me to research this topic and write this book.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Terrible Revolution?

CB: Terrible Revolution argues that nineteenth-century apocalypticism developed in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in response to a hostile relationship with the federal government of the United States. The Church hierarchy encouraged an emphasis on apocalyptic judgments during this period, but following Utah statehood, they came to carefully police these ideas when propagated publicly by members of the laity.

JF: Why do we need to read Terrible Revolution?

CB: If this was 2019, I would say that the greatest contribution of Terrible Revolution is its study of lay Latter-day Saints and how they have come to reserve some ideas and experiences to a private sphere. In 2020, I think people need to read this book because it shows how many Americans use an apocalyptic lens to make sense of widespread anxiety. This is certainly true of the current pandemic, but it has been true of earlier moments as well. For those who do want to read it, for the next several months, it can be purchased for 30% off when ordering from Oxford University Press with the code: AAflyG6.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

CB: As a teenager in the mid-1990s, I began to read diaries from the Latter-day Saint past collected on a website–just for fun. I can remember how excited I was to find that I could lay out multiple sources for the same event and see how perspectives varied. A big part of my own passion for history is because I think the process is so rewarding and enjoyable. I decided to direct my work towards “lived religion” or “vernacular religion” after discovering Robert Orsi’s Thank you St Jude and David Hall’s Worlds of Wonder; Days of Judgment. Orsi and Hall beautifully modeled how to write about the way religious belief played out in individual lives.

JF: What is your next project?

CB: I’m working on a couple books right now, but the one I am most excited about at the moment is a reception history of George Washington’s vision. This vision was first written during the Civil War as a fictional account of Washington’s encounter with an angelic guide at Valley Forge. The angel would show him the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and a future foreign invasion on American soil. This short text has re-emerged numerous times among American religious groups, who often assumed this was an actual account of Washington’s experience. I look at how this vision was embraced by Catholics, Pentecostals, Latter-day Saints, and others, who each found their own meanings within the story, while also buttressing their American identities. 

JF: Thanks, Christopher!

The Author’s Corner with Kate Moran

The imperial churchKate Moran is Associate Professor of American Studies at Saint Louis University. This interview is based on her new book, The Imperial Church: Catholic Founding Fathers and United States Empire (Cornell University Press, 2020).

JF: Why did you decide to write The Imperial Church?

KM: I grew up Catholic in California, and have long been interested in the complex place Catholic history occupies in public culture. Studying U.S. history in graduate school, I was also surprised to learn that—despite the demographic significance of Roman Catholicism in the United States—Catholic history is still often treated as a confessional sidetrack. I was inspired by a vibrant group of scholars of history, religious studies, literature, and American studies who were pushing back against that marginalization.

Specifically, in this project I set out to challenge two historiographical tendencies. One is the tendency to tell the history of Catholicism and American culture primarily as the story of a rise and fall of anti-Catholicism. The other is a tendency to see nineteenth- and early twentieth-century U.S. Catholic history as a largely Atlantic-facing story of immigration. I became curious about what to do with the many examples of non-Catholics talking about Catholicism in ways that didn’t fit a presumption of hegemonic anti-Catholicism. And I wondered what those conversations looked like well beyond the eastern seaboard cities that dominated the scholarship.

Ultimately, looking in these directions led me to something that scholars have noted in a piecemeal way, but neither named nor charted: the emergence, between the 1870s and the 1920s, of popular, cross-confessional efforts to celebrate historical Catholic missionaries as regional and even national founding fathers.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of The Imperial Church?

KM: The Imperial Church traces a widespread re-evaluation of the place of Roman Catholicism in U.S. history and culture during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era: alongside and against powerful anti-Catholic currents, many American Protestants began to celebrate Catholic missionary histories. In the upper Midwest, Southern California, and the U.S. colonial Philippines—in journalism and travelogues, poetry and plays, monuments and pageants—American Protestants joined their Catholic compatriots in commemorating and celebrating historical Catholic missionaries as gentle and effective agents of conquest, uplift, and economic growth, as founding fathers who could serve both as origins of, and models for, the U.S. empire.

JF: Why do we need to read The Imperial Church?

KM: Speaking as an academic, I would say that The Imperial Church brings the study of U.S. religion—and particularly of Protestant-Catholic relations—together with the study of U.S. empire in new and transformative ways. It demonstrates the importance of Catholicism to the rhetoric of U.S. empire, and it demonstrates the importance of the category of empire to the history of U.S. Catholicism. It encourages us to think critically about what can sometimes be simplistic and celebratory narratives of the eventual inclusion of American Catholics into some sort of American religious “mainstream.” The cross-confessional celebration of Catholic missionaries as American heroes was absolutely an embrace of Protestant-Catholic toleration and unity; it was also predicated on the fantasy of a common white Euro-American Christianizing and “civilizing” project.

Speaking as a person living through the current moment, I would also say that The Imperial Church can help us understand vital contemporary debates about how to remember the violence and colonialism of the U.S. past, and how to reckon with its legacies and its persistence. One of the central figures of my book – the Spanish Franciscan missionary to California, St. Junípero Serra—is one of the people whose statues are currently being toppled and removed, to the relief of some and the horror of others. Part of what this book does is explain why we have so many public monuments to Serra, and to other historical Catholic missionaries, in the first place.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

KM: It was a gradual decision. I’ve long been interested in–to crib from Joan Didion–the stories we tell ourselves in order to live. I came to focus on intellectual and cultural history, and American studies, because those modes of inquiry gave me tools to examine the stories people in the past told themselves about who they were and what mattered most to them. As I began teaching, I realized that good teachers of U.S. history and American studies are always encouraging students to critically engage with some of their own inherited stories: about what kind of country they think this is, and what role they want to play in its future. I feel quite honored to be part of students’ work in this regard, and to be working alongside them.

JF: What is your next project?

KM: It’s in the early stages, but I’m putting together a project on the San Francisco Magdalen Asylum. The asylum was founded in 1865 by Irish immigrant Sisters of Mercy as an attempt to provide refuge for women fleeing forced prostitution in post-Gold-Rush San Francisco. Within a few decades, the asylum also became a state-sponsored carceral institution: girls sentenced by county courts to confinement in San Francisco’s Industrial School, for crimes such as vagrancy and “improper conduct,” were sent instead to the Magdalen Asylum. As a result, the asylum was the subject of at least two lawsuits, both of which accused the county of unlawfully contracting its public duties out to a religious institution. I’m interested in using the history of this asylum to continue to explore some of the themes I worked on in The Imperial Church: the religious history of the U.S. West and Pacific; intersections of (Catholic) church and state; and the global dimensions of U.S. religious history. More specifically, I want to explore what research into the work, ideas, and charism of the sisters—entwined with what I can unearth about the work, ideas, and goals of the girls in the asylum—can tell us about the development of women’s and children’s incarceration in the United States.

JF: Thanks, Kate!

Post COVID-19: religious revival or religious recession?

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Last month, when I was writing my series “Three Sundays in April,” I commented on how court evangelical preachers Greg Laurie, Robert Jeffress, and Jack Graham were predicting a great spiritual revival as soon as Americans came out of quarantine and started attending church again.

But David Gibson, the director of Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture, wonders if COVID-19 will actually lead to “religion recession” in America.

Here is a taste of his piece at Religion & Politics:

The future of our national religious life is also the subject of growing speculation, with the sunny-side-up view arguing that we are primed for a new “Great Awakening” of the sort that have periodically transformed American culture.

This revival will be spurred, the thinking goes, by a flood of Americans who ache for a return to communal worship that has been denied them for months. They will be joined by newcomers who, chastened by this national memento mori, discover or rediscover the balm of faith. “Could a plague of biblical proportions be America’s best hope for religious revival?” Robert Nicholson wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “[T]here is reason to think so.” Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution had the same question: “It could also go the other way,” he tweeted, “but my instinct is to think that a great awakening is now *more* likely, at least in America, by 2050.”

To many, the prospect of a resurgence in religious observance is an enticing vision, because faith communities can be anchors of social solidarity, which has been steadily eroding for decades.

The data and history tell a different story, however, and, much like the economic outlook, the forecast for religion looks more like recession than resurrection.

Read the entire piece here.

Also see Yonat Shimron’s piece at Religion News Service: “Survey: Most Americans aren’t comfortable going back to religious services.

The Author’s Corner with Benjamin Park

CoverBenjamin Park is Assistant Professor of History at Sam Houston State University. This interview is based on his  new book, Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier (W.W. Norton/Liveright, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Kingdom of Nauvoo?

BP: While I was a student at Brigham Young University, I had the chance to spend an entire semester in Nauvoo as part of their “Semester Away” program. While there, I fell in love with both the city and with history in general; it was that semester that I changed my major from pre-medicine to English and history. While my interests took me elsewhere for my dissertation and first book, I was drawn back to Nauvoo in 2016 when the LDS Church published the detailed minutes for the “Council of Fifty,” a clandestine and scandalous organization that Joseph Smith created the final year of his life with the intent to become the new world government. I decided that now was the time to use my new historical tools on my old fascination, and the book was born.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Kingdom of Nauvoo?

BP: We now take the concept of democracy for granted, but we often forget what a new and scary concept it was in the early nineteenth century. The story of Nauvoo—a city that appeared on the swampy shores of the Mississippi River in 1839 and grew to over twelve thousand residents within five years—reveals a moment when the democratic system failed, as both those within and without the city turned to extralegal and, in the end, violent measures to preserve the peace.

JF: Why do we need to read Kingdom of Nauvoo?

BP: Mormons are often treated as outliers to the American religious and political story—quixotic curiosities rarely deserving prolonged attention. But Kingdom of Nauvoo aims to show, through a fascinating story of political intrigue, sexual rumors, and conspired murder, that the story of Nauvoo tells us much about the central issues for understanding antebellum America, as well as the democratic legacies that remain with us today.

JF: Tell us a little bit about the primary sources you used for this project.

BP: Mormons were a record-keeping people, and this was especially the case in Nauvoo. I was fortunate to have hundreds of contemporary sources ranging from letters, diaries, and newspapers that flesh out the story of the thousands of people who lived in the city. Many of these, including the Council of Fifty minutes, were unavailable to historians until very recently, making this a story that could only now be fully known.

JF: What is your next project?

BP: I am privileged to be the editor of Blackwell’s A Companion to American Religious History, which features chapters from thirty brilliant scholars that demonstrate religion’s centrality to American history. The volume will be available at the end of this year. I am also just starting on a book about the role religion played in the rise of militant abolitionism during the decades leading up to the Civil War.

JF: Thanks, Ben!

Pew Studies 50,000 Christian Sermons

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There is so much here to work through and interpret.

A few quick findings of note:

  • The average sermon is 37 minutes long.
  • The average evangelical sermon is 39 minutes long.
  • The average sermon in an African American church is 54 minutes long.
  • The average sermon in a mainline Protestant church is 25 minutes long
  • The average sermon in a Catholic church is 14 minutes long.

 

  • The most common words in Christian sermons are “say,” “people,” “come,” “know,” “life,” “like,” “God,” “thing,” and “day.”
  • Words associated with evangelicals such as “hell,” “salvation,” “sin, and “heaven” do not appear in evangelical sermons as much as one might think they do.
  • Sermons in historically black churches are distinguished by words related to celebration and praise.
  • Sermons in evangelical and historically black churches quote scripture more than sermons in Catholic and mainline Protestant churches

Read the report here.

Episode 59: Miss America’s God

PodcastThroughout the history of the Miss America Pageant, there has been a complicated relationship between sexuality and religion. The goal of the pageant is to crown the ideal American woman. But contestants are judged simultaneously based on their so-called purity as well as their sex appeal. Host John Fea explores his own relationship with the pageant and its roots in the New Jersey boardwalk culture. He is joined by Baylor’s Mandy McMichael (@mandyemcmichael), author of Miss America’s God: Faith and Identity in America’s Oldest Pageant.

 

Waldman: Immigration is Making the United States a More Christian Nation

latin evangelicalsSteven Waldman, author of Sacred Liberty: America’s Long, Bloody, and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedommakes a very interesting point in a recent piece at Talking Points Memo.  After mentioning Trump’s anti-immigration policies and his defense of Christianity, Waldman writes: “It’s a stance we’ve come to expect, but there’s an irony to this.  At a moment when more and more Americans are unaffiliated with religion, immigration is providing a counterbalance.”

Here is a taste:

Beyond that, it is well known that for the past few decades Latino immigration has energized, and in some ways saved, the Catholic Church in the United States. About 40 percent of American Catholics are Hispanic, and they’re more likely to say religion is “very important” in their lives than white Catholics.

What’s less acknowledged is that Latinos have also bolstered evangelical communities. Some 16 million evangelicals are Hispanic, and about 15 percent of all immigrants are evangelical.

Beyond the specifics, I’d argue that immigration has been a key factor in strengthening religious freedom in the U.S. New immigrants are more likely to be religious and to say it’s important in their lives than the general population.

Read the entire piece here.

Episode 50: The Religious Beliefs of the Adams Family

PodcastDon’t be confused by the title, we are not talking about the spooky family from the 1960s. Rather, in this episode, we turn to the religious history of one of America’s founding families. By focusing on the Adams family, one can trace the evolution of American religion as John, Abigail, JQA, and others wrestle with Providence, the Enlightenment, and a changing political landscape. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling are joined by Sara Georgini (@sarageorgini), the author of Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family.

Sponsored by the Lyndhurst Group (lyndhurstgroup.org) and Jennings College Consulting (drj4college.com).

Even White Evangelicals Oppose Trump’s Bible-Signing

Trump BIbles

Check out journalist Joanna Piacenza piece at Morning Consult.  According to a Morning Consult poll, most white evangelicals think that Trump’s signing of Bibles at an Alabama Baptist church earlier this month was “inappropriate.”  U.S. adults, Republicans, Christians, white Catholics, and white mainline Protestants also think Trump’s signing of Bibles was “inappropriate.” The only identity group that thinks the president’s signing of Bible is appropriate are Trump voters, but only by a 43% to 42% margin.

Read the piece here.  I was happy to help Piacenza with her story.

Religion and Presidential Remembrances

bush-casket-capitol-03-ap-jef-181203_hpMain_12x5_992

Over at The Washington Post, Kimberly Winston teaches us that much of the pageantry we are seeing surrounding the death of George H.W. Bush has deep spiritual roots.

Here is a taste of her piece:

“The need to create meaningful rituals around death is very deep in our DNA,” said S. Brent Plate, an associate professor of religious studies at Hamilton College. “Death erases some of the dividing elements between religions. It shows us we are all human, all mortal. So this week is about the death of George Bush, but it is really about the collective faith of us all.”

Here is some context for the rituals you will see as the nation pays its last respects to its 41st president:

As Bush’s body traveled to Washington, D.C., from Houston, where he and the late first lady Barbara Bush lived after 1993, it was accompanied all the way. In addition to family and friends, a group of former staffers flew with the body, and an entourage of military service members was always nearby.

Like all presidents, Bush is being given a state funeral, a complicated and highly orchestrated set of military and state traditions that are secular in appearance, but have foundations in religion.

The practice of watching over a body springs from the oldest religious traditions. Scholars say the ancient Romans took the custom with them as they conquered the Mediterranean and Europe. By the Middle Ages, the practice was wrapped into Christianity and came with the first European settlers to the New World.

Read the rest here.

Cummings: “…there are times when the sin is so pervasive and corrosive that it is irresponsible to talk about anything else”

Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Kathy Sprows Cummings is a historian of American Catholicism, the director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame, and a Catholic who was raised in Pennsylvania.  She brings all of this expertise and experience to bear on her recent New York Times op-ed: “For Catholics, Gradual Reform is No Longer an Option.”  Here is a taste:

People will say that there is still holiness in the church, that there are many priests and bishops with good and pure hearts, and they are right.  But there are times when the sin is so pervasive and corrosive that it is irresponsible to talk about anything else, and this is one of those times.  My once-polite requests for incremental reform have morphed overnight into demands that church leaders voluntarily relinquish their place at the head table.

Read the entire piece here.

Mark Silk: May 2018 Was a “Humiliating Month”

WeinstienOver at his blog at Religion News Service, Trinity College professor Mark Silk reminds us what happened this month as it relates to the #MeToo era:

  • The elders of Willow Creek apologized for casting doubt on women’s allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of departing senior pastor Bill Hybels
  • Paige Patterson, denigrator of women, was relieved of the presidency of Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • “The judgment of God has come,” wrote Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
  • Harvey Weinstein left a New York Police Department precinct in handcuffs.
  • And then there was Morgan Freeman, the Voice of God Himself.

Click here to get the entire list.