I gave this lecture at the Cumberland County Historical Society in Greenwich on February 3, 2019:
What a great lineup!
UPPER MAKEFIELD — The David Library of the American Revolution announced a schedule of educational programs that will be offered free in the library’s lecture hall, 1201 River Road, Washington Crossing.
The David Library is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of American history Between 1750 and 1800.
The lecture series will begin at 7:30 p.m. May 14 with a talk by Larry Kidder titled “George Washington’s Ten Crucial Days.” Kidder, who lives in Ewing, is the author of the new book, “Ten Crucial Days: Washington’s Vision for Victory Unfolds,” as well as “A People Harassed and Exhausted: The Story of a New Jersey Militia Regiment in the American Revolution.”
Additional lectures scheduled at the David Library include “The Usual Suspects: General Washington, His Critics, and the Conway Cabal Reconsidered,” a lecture by Mark Lender author of “Cabal! The Plot Against General Washington,” at 7:30 p.m. June 13; “Occupied Philadelphia and the Disaffected of Revolutionary America,” a lecture by Aaron Sullivan, author of “The Disaffected: Britain’s Occupation of Philadelphia During the American Revolution,” at 7:30 June 25; “Revolution in the News,” a lecture by Joseph Adelman, assistant professor of history at Framingham State University and assistant editor for digital initiatives at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, and author of “Networks: The Business and Politics of Printing the News, 1763-1789,” at 7:30 p.m. July 24; “Remembering Material Worlds: The Stuff and Spaces of Interpreting Early America,” a lecture by George Boudreau, co-editor of “A Material World: Culture, Society, and the Life of Things in Early Anglo-America,” a new volume of essays on material culture by leading scholars from various disciplines,” at 3 p.m. Aug. 4; “The Founding Generation and their Spirits: How Consumption Shaped American Politics and the Presidency,” a lecture by Matthew Costello, senior historian of the White House Historical Association,” at 7:30 p.m. Sep. 13; “Supreme Injustice: The Proslavery Jurisprudence of John Marshall and the Legacy of the American Revolution,” a lecture on the 264th anniversary of the birth of John Marshall, fourth chief justice of the Supreme Court, by Paul Finkelman, president of Gratz College, and author of “Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation’s Highest Court,” at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24; “The Providence of John and Abigail Adams,” a lecture by Sara Georgini, series editor for “The Papers of John Adams” at the Massachusetts Historical Society, and author of “Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family.” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10; and “Quartering the British Army in Revolutionary America,” a lecture by John Gilbert McCurdy, author of “Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution,” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22.
David Library Lectures are free of admissions, but reservations are required. Call 215-493-6776 ext. 100 or visit www.dlar.org/events.htm for or more detailed descriptions of the programs, and for possible program additions.
If you are in the Spokane area come out for a lecture next week on Evangelicals and Donald Trump at Whitworth University. I will be there on Monday, March 18. The lecture is open to the public. Learn more here.
On Tuesday I will be giving the inaugural Jack Crossley Lecture on Ethics and Religion at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Learn more here. I hope to see you there!
I’m on the road (or in the air) today trying to find my way back to Pennsylvania through the snow, but I wanted to say a very quick word about last night’s lecture in Colorado Springs.
Jeff Scholes of the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (UCCS) Philosophy Department and Director of the Center for Religious Diversity and Public Life was a wonderful host. The UCCS History Department also sponsored the event and I am pretty sure my friend Paul Harvey was the point person on that front. We had a great turnout for a lecture titled “The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.” Thanks for everyone who came out last night and I am sorry I could not hang around longer to answer all of your questions and here are all of your stories. Feel free to follow this blog or my twitter feed to keep the conversation going!
I will be at North Greenville University in Tigerville on February 5, 2019 to give the Boggs-Hickson Endowed Lecture. Read more about it here.
I am honored to deliver the inaugural Jack Crossley Lecture at the University of Southern California School of Religion. Learn more here.
The biennial meeting of the Conference on Faith and History took place on October 3-6, 2018. I am honored to have served as the program chair for the meeting.
Lectures by Margaret Bendroth, Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, Beth Allison Barr, and Jemar Tisby (undergraduate conference) are now available for viewing here. (Robert Orsi’s lecture will not be available).
If you are in the area on Thursday evening, September 27, join us for the 2018 Messiah College American Democracy Lecture. This year’s lecturer is Nancy Tomes of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In 2017, Tomes was awarded the Bancroft Prize in American History for her book Remaking the American Patient: How Madison Avenue and Modern Medicine Turned Patients Into Consumers. Tomes’s American Democracy Lecture is titled “Doctor Shoppers: From Problem Patients to Model Citizens.” The lecture will take place at 7:00pm in the Calvin and Janet High Center for Worship and Performing Arts, Parmer Hall on the campus of Messiah College. Free tickets are required. To reserve tickets call 717-691-6036 or reserve tickets online at messiah.edu/tickets.
If you want a taste of what you might expect at the lecture, listen to our interview with Tomes in Episode 22 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.
If you are a health-care professional or someone who is interested in our current health care debates, this lecture is for you. I will see you there.
Hurricane Florence has postponed my Boggs Hickson Lecture in History at North Greenville University in Greenville, South Carolina. My lecture, “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?,” has been postponed to February 5, 2019.
Over at Inside Higher Ed, Doug Lederman asks “will trying new teaching techniques tank my evaluations?” I have asked this question many times during my 20+ years in higher education. In the following excerpt, Lederman reflects on a study suggesting that teachers who lecture get better student evaluations:
The survey asked instructors to assess their teaching styles on a continuum from “highly alternative” to “highly traditional,” and the vast majority called themselves “mostly traditional with some alternative features.” Respondents said they lectured between 40 and 80 percent of the time, using a range of other techniques for the rest — small-group and whole-class discussions, sometimes involving clickers, in-class online quizzes, etc.
Instructors were then asked whether the use of more interactive teaching techniques had affected their teaching evaluations, and the vast majority said they did — mostly positively. Forty-eight percent believed their student evaluations had improved, about a third (32 percent) said there had been no effect and one in five (20 percent) felt that their evaluations had fallen.
Digging deeper into the data, the researchers found that the instructors most likely to report lower evaluations (and to generate direct student complaints) were those who lectured the least. Those who reported lecturing between 20 percent and 60 percent of the time were likeliest to report an increase in positive student evaluations, while those who lectured less than 20 percent of the time were likelier than others to see their evaluations worsen.
Asked why they thought that was the case, instructors who saw their evaluations worsen were mostly likely to say they believed students “do not feel like they are being ‘taught’ when lecturing decreases,” while others said that they did not think students want to work actively during class time. “They want to be spoon-fed, not think,” one respondent said.
Read the entire piece here.
Nancy Tomes is Distinguished Professor of History at Stony Brook University. Her 2016 book, Remaking the American Patient: How Madison Avenue and Modern Medicine Turned Patients into Consumers won the prestigious Bancroft Prize in American history.
“This is like a dream come true.”
On September 27, Tomes will deliver the 2018 Messiah College American Democracy Lecture at 7:00pm in Parmer Hall. If you are in the area you will not want to miss this lecture! See you there. Stay tuned for more details.
Listen to Tomes discuss her book on The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.
As some of you know, I spent the last couple of days in Regina, Saskatchewan. The Canadian Society of Church History (CSCH) invited me to deliver the keynote address at its annual conference. (Thanks for everything Stuart Barnard!). The collegial historians associated with the CSCH made me feel very welcome and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know some of them on Wednesday night at dinner. (Thanks again for the ride to the hotel Robyn Rogers Healey!) If you get chance to join this organization or attend its annual conference, I highly recommend that you do it! Next year’s meeting is in Vancouver.
The lecture drew a good turnout of CSCH members and other scholars who were in town for the 2018 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. It was titled “Fear, Hope, and Nostalgia: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.” I even got to talk about Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump on CBC radio show in Saskatchewan!
#CongreSSH Une conférence sur les racines évangéliques du soutien à Donald Trump par un historien et commentateur de la vie publique américaine.Conférencier: John Fea, professeur d’histoire, Messiah College @ideas_idees pic.twitter.com/BBHQ3ebvJd
— Yassine El BAHLOULI (@elbahlouli) May 30, 2018
Here is a small taste of my lecture:
In the late 1970s, after a period of relative quietism in the middle of the 20th century, conservative evangelicals composed a political playbook to win back the culture from the forces of secularization. Most of the 81% of American evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 understand the relationship between their faith and their politics through this playbook. The playbook, which was tweaked occasionally over the years to address whatever moral issues seemed most important at the time, never lost its focus on restoring, renewing, and reclaiming America for Christ through the pursuit of political power. When executed properly, the playbook teaches evangelicals to elect the right President and members of Congress who will pass laws privileging evangelical Christian views of the world. These elected officials will then appoint and confirm conservative Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, defend life in the womb, and uphold religious liberty for those who believe in traditional views of marriage.
The power that this playbook holds among American evangelicals cannot be underestimated. Frankly, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and the rest of the leaders of the Christian Right deserve a lot more credit than they currently receive in general treatments of modern American political history. Falwell, for example, may be the most important figure in American politics in the post-World War II era. His playbook has been so successful that most ordinary evangelicals cannot imagine an alternative way of thinking about Christian political witness, even when other evangelicals have proposed alternative options for engagement with public life.
For example, University of Virginia sociologist and cultural critic James Davison Hunter’s has suggested that rather than trying to “change the world” through power politics, Christians might consider thinking about their cultural witness through what he calls faithful presence. Hunter writes:
I would suggest that a theology of faithful presence first calls Christians to attend to the people and places that they experience directly. It is not that believers should be disconnected from, or avoid responsibility for, people and places across the globe. Far from it…. But with that said, the call of faithful presence gives priority to what is right in front of us—the community, the neighborhood, and the city, and the people in which these are constituted. For most, this will mean a preference for stability, locality, and particularity of place and its needs. It is here, through the joys, sufferings, hopes, disappointments, concerns, desires, and worries of the people with whom we are in long-term and close relation—family, neighbors, coworkers, and community—where we find our authenticity as a body and as believers. It is here where we learn forgiveness and humility, practice kindness, hospitality, and charity, grow in patience and wisdom, and become clothed in compassion, gentleness, and joy. This is the crucible within which Christian holiness is forged. This is the context within which shalom is enacted…. Faithful presence… would encourage ambition, but the instrumentalities of ambition are always subservient to the requirements of humility and charity.”
Or consider Duke University theologian Stanley Hauerwas and Baylor University’s Jonathan Tran on abortion:
When Christians think that the struggle against abortion can only be pursued through voting for candidates with certain judicial philosophies, then serving at domestic abuse shelters or teaching students at local high schools or sharing wealth with expectant but under-resourced families or speaking of God’s grace in terms of “adoption” or politically organizing for improved education or rezoning municipalities for childcare or creating “Parent’s Night Out” programs at local churches or mentoring young mothers or teaching youth about chastity and dating or mobilizing religious pressure on medical service providers or apprenticing men into fatherhood or thinking of singleness as a vocation or feasting on something called “communion” or rendering to God what is God’s or participating with the saints through Marian icons or baptizing new members or tithing money, will not count as political. How much money and time spent on electing the right candidates might have been used for this kind of political witness?”
Washington Post columnist and former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson has called for evangelicals to draw from Catholic social teaching as a means of thinking about how the Christian understanding of human dignity might influence public policy. The National Association of Evangelicals’s recent statement on political engagement, titled “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,” is deeply rooted in Catholic social teaching.
Evangelicals from the Dutch Reformed tradition, guided by the 19th-century Dutch politician Abraham Kuyper, have long advocated for a “principled or confessional pluralism” in which the various “spheres” of society—churches, families, schools, business, agencies of the arts and humanities—are free to exercise authority over their particular spheres. As historian George Marsden writes, “The primary function of government is to promote justice and to act as a sort of referee, patrolling the boundaries among the spheres of society, protecting the sovereignty within each sphere, adjudicating conflicts, and assuring equal rights and equal protections so far as that is possible.” Marsden adds, “In this richly pluralistic view, society thrives when it promotes the health and integrity of what more recently have often been called ‘mediating institutions.’ Such institutions, likewise, should stay within their spheres of sovereignty.
John Inazu, an evangelical and Washington University-St. Louis law professor has suggested for something similar—he calls it “confident pluralism.” Inazu writes: Confident Pluralism argues that we can and must live together peaceably in spite of deep and sometimes irresolvable differences over politics, religion, sexuality, and other important matters. We can do so in two important ways—by insisting on constitutional commitments that honor and protect difference and by embodying tolerance, humility, and patience in our speech, our collective action (protests, strikes, and boycotts), and our relationship across difference.” New York City megachurch pastor and evangelical author Timothy Keller has championed Inazu’s view.
It is not my intention here to advocate for any of these evangelical approaches to political engagement. My purpose here today is to note that the Christian Right has rejected all of them, preferring instead to advance their moral, political, and cultural agenda by gaining control of the levers of power. What is particular telling is that few of these cultural warriors seem to have thought very deeply about what they will do if they ever do gain power. What happens when the dog catches the bus? Will the Christian Right try to create a theocracy? Will they imprison doctors who perform abortions? Will they ban gay marriage? Will they require every county seat to display a cross and a copy of the Ten Commandments? What is their plan once America is restored, renewed, and reclaimed?
We’ve all gone to a history lecture and said WOW, “I could listen to that speaker all day.” Who are your favorite history lecturers? I am not referring as much to classroom teachers as I am people who can hold a room as a plenary speaker at an academic conference or public lecturer?
Here are four I have enjoyed in recent years:
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Heather Cox Richardson
I have never been to Saskatchewan. But if all goes as planned, I will be visiting Regina, Saskatchewan on Wednesday (May 30) to deliver the plenary address at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Church History. The title of my talk is “Fear, Power, and Nostalgia: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.”
I hope to spend some time attending sessions and exploring Regina. Is there anything I need to visit or see while I am there?
If you are in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area stop by on Wednesday and say hello:
“The Court Evangelicals: Who Are Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisers and Where Did They Come From?”
- Wednesday, November 15, 2017
- 3:30 PM–5:00 PM
- Meeter Center Lecture Hall
Since the election of Donald Trump, a group of leaders from a variety of evangelical traditions have served as advisers to the President on matters of faith and public life. John Fea has called these advisers Trump’s “court evangelicals.” Like the religious members of the king’s court during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, Trump’s court evangelicals seek power and worldly approval by flattering the “king” rather than speaking truth to power. Who are these court evangelicals? Do they have a political theology? What are the historical forces behind their “unprecedented access” to the Trump White House? This lecture will situate these religious leaders in a longer history of evangelical political engagement.
About the speaker
His first book, The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), was chosen as the Book of the Year by the New Jersey Academic Alliance and an Honor Book by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. His book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011) was one of three finalists for the George Washington Book Prize, one of the largest literary prizes in the United States. It was also selected as the Foreword Reviews/INDIEFAB religion book of the year.
John is also co-editor (with Jay Green and Eric Miller) of Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation. (University of Notre Dame Press, 2010), a finalist for the Lilly Fellows Program in Arts and Humanities Book Award. His book Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past was published in 2013 with Baker Academic. John’s book The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society appeared in March 2016 with Oxford University Press.
John’s essays and reviews on the history of American culture have appeared in The Journal of American History, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, The William and Mary Quarterly, The Journal of the Early Republic, Sojourners, Explorations in Early American Culture, Pennsylvania Heritage, Education Week, The Cresset, Books and Culture, Christianity Today, Christian Century, and Common Place. He has also written for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Fox News, USA Today, Al-Jazeera, Washington Post, CBS News, New York Daily News, AOL News, Houston Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Harrisburg Patriot News, Salt Lake City Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Religion News Service, and other newspapers. He blogs daily at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, a blog devoted to American history, religion, politics, and academic life.
Co-sponsored by the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics. This talk is part of monthly history colloquia series. These lectures are open to the Calvin community – students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends – and all are welcomed and encouraged to attend. Come early to enjoy refreshments and conversation, and feel free to ask questions or join the discussion at the end.
Last night in Washington D.C., University of Chicago philosopher delivered the 2017 National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson Lecture. Several Messiah College students and faculty were in attendance.
WILLIAM D. ADAMS: Your book Not for Profit made the case for the importance of the humanities in American democratic life. Have things changed substantially since it was published in 2010?
MARTHA C. NUSSBAUM: Data on humanities majors is still a source of concern, but there’s been a big increase in total enrollments in humanities courses in community colleges. And in adult education, too, there’s been a huge upsurge. The preface to the new edition of my book gives data and sources on all this.
We are lucky in the United States to have our liberal arts system. In most countries, if you go to university, you have to decide for all English literature or no literature, all philosophy or no philosophy. But we have a system that is one part general education and one part specialization. If your parents say you’ve got to major in computer science, you can do that. But you can also take general education courses in the humanities, and usually you have to.
ADAMS: Yet I’ve sensed some weakening of our resolve to support the liberal arts. What should we be doing to reinforce your way of thinking about higher education?
NUSSBAUM: There are three points you can make. The one I think should be front and center is that the humanities prepare students to be good citizens and help them understand a complicated, interlocking world. The humanities teach us critical thinking, how to analyze arguments, and how to imagine life from the point of view of someone unlike yourself.
Secondly, we need to emphasize their economic value. Business leaders love the humanities because they know that to innovate you need more than rote knowledge. You need a trained imagination.
Singapore and China, which don’t want to encourage democratic citizenship, are expanding their humanities curricula. These reforms are all about developing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
But the humanities also teach us the value, even for business, of criticism and dissent. When there’s a culture of going along to get along, where whistleblowers are discouraged, bad things happen and businesses implode.
The third point is about the search for meaning. Life is about more than earning a living, and if you’re not in the habit of thinking about it, you can end up middle-aged or even older and shocked to realize that your life seems empty.
Read the entire interview here.
And here is a shot of the Messiah College contingency in Washington, courtesy of Pete Powers’s Facebook page:
On Monday afternoon I will be at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts to deliver the 2017 Franz Lecture. My lecture is titled “Why Study History?” The lecture is scheduled for 4:00 in Ken Olson Science Center on campus. Learn more here. The lecture is free and, as far as I know, is open to the public.
Miya Tokumitsu, an art historian at the University of Melbourne, is the latest academic to defend the virtues of the lecture in an age when “lab-and project-based learning…flipped classrooms and online instruction” are gaining in popularity. Tokumitsu, in a recent piece at Jacobin, argues that the lecture “remains a powerful tool for teaching, communicating, and community building.”
Here is a taste:
Lectures are not designed to transmit knowledge directly from the lecturers’ lips to students’ brains — this idea is a false one, exacerbated by the problematic phrase “content delivery.” Although lecturers (hopefully) possess information that, at the beginning of a lecture, their students do not, they are not merely delivering content. Rather, giving a lecture forces instructors to communicate their knowledge through argument in real time.
The best lectures draw on careful preparation as well as spontaneous revelation. While speaking to students and gauging their reactions, lecturers come to new conclusions, incorporate them into the lecture, and refine their argument. Lectures impart facts, but they also model argumentation, all the while responding to their audience’s nonverbal cues. Far from being one-sided, lectures are a social occasion.
The regular timing of lectures contributes to their sociality, establishing a course’s rhythm. The weekly lecture, or pair of lectures, draws students together at the same time and place, providing a set of ideas to digest while reading supplementary material and breaking into smaller discussion sections. Classrooms are communities, and typically lectures are the only occasion for the entire group to convene physically. Remove the impetus to gather — either by insinuating that recorded lectures are just as effective or by making the lecture optional — and the benefits of community disappear.
Read the entire piece here. Tokumitsu seems to favor plenary lectures alongside smaller discussion groups and discussions of texts.