The *Believe Me* Book Tour is Coming to Pittsburgh!

Post Gazette

I hope to see some of you tomorrow night, Tuesday July 10, when the Believe Me book tour comes to Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley, PA.  I am grateful to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette religion reporter Peter Smith for his story on the book.  (And we made the front page!).

Here is a taste:

Author John Fea recognizes those moments when a statistic contains the power of language. So he dedicated his new book “To the 19 percent.”

Mr. Fea, professor of history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg (and a prolific blogger), is writing about one of the most-discussed statistics of late.

An estimated 81 percent of self-identified white evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, according to exit polls.

In his new book, “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump,” Mr. Fea attempts to explain why many white evangelicals would coalesce behind someone that others — including his fellow 19 percenters — see as a racist, mendacious and sexually predatory.

Mr. Fea delves into academic and political explanations — and yes, the current Supreme Court vacancy is a key factor, one that many evangelicals say vindicates their vote.

But what’s more personal are Mr. Fea’s encounters with readers on his book tour, which brings him to the Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

At his recent book launch in Harrisburg, “I had at least two people come up to me who said they were very much isolated in their evangelical church,” he said. “One person talked about his faith being challenged by seeing fellow Christians casting their lot with a president who clearly does not represent the best of evangelical values.”

He’s heard from ministers who are “counseling more people on political-related issues because they’re so angry.”

So how to explain the vote?

Read the entire piece here.

What is More Important: Quality Consumer Goods or Social Equality?

CarnegieThe obvious answer is quality consumer goods. How could we live without them?

At least this is how Pennsylvania steel magnate Andrew Carnegie would have answered the question posed in the title of my post.

Yesterday  in my Pennsylvania History class I taught Carnegie’s famous 1889 North American Review essay titled “Wealth.”

Here is part of what he said:

Formerly articles were manufactured at the domestic hearth in small shops which formed part of the household. The master and his apprentices worked side by side, the latter living with the master and therefore subject to the same conditions.  When these apprentices rose to be master, there was little or no change in their mode of life, and they, in turn, educated in the same routine succeeding apprentices.  There was, substantially, social equality….

But the inevitable result of such a mode of manufacture was crude articles at high prices.  To-day the world obtains commodities of excellent quality at prices which even the general preceding this would have deemed incredible. In the commercial world similar causes have produced similar results, and the race is benefited thereby. The poor enjoy what the rich could not before afford. What were the luxuries have become the necessaries of life. The laborer has now more comforts than the landlord had a few generations ago. The farmer has more luxuries than the landlord had, and is more richly clad and better housed. The landlord has books and pictures rarer, and appointments more artistic, than the King could then obtain.

The price we pay for this salutary change is, no doubt, great. We assemble thousands of operatives in the factory, in the mine, and in the counting-house, of whom the employer can know little or nothing, and to whom the employer is little better than a myth. All intercourse between them is at an end. Rigid Castes are formed, and, as usual, mutual ignorance breeds mutual distrust. Each Caste is without sympathy for the other, and ready to credit anything disparaging in regard to it. Under the law of competition, the employer of thousands is forced into the strictest economies, among which the rates paid to labor figure prominently, and often there is friction between the employer and the employed, between capital and labor, between rich and poor. Human society loses homogeneity.

The price which society pays for the law of competition, like the price it pays for cheap comforts and luxuries, is also great;but the advantage of this law are also greater still, for it is to this law that we owe our wonderful material development, which brings improved conditions in its train.

After walking my students through this text, I ended class and let them ponder it over the weekend.  We will see what they think on Monday.

Rise Up: Springsteen in Pittsburgh

It was the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks and Bruce Springsteen was playing a show in Pittsburgh at the Consol Energy Center.  I wanted to see Bruce one more time on his current River tour and the Pittsburgh show was the only one I could make work with my schedule. I took my daughter Caroline to the show.  I think it may have been her third or fourth Bruce show.  Not bad for a fifteen-year-old.

Apparently Bruce’s next album will not feature the E Street Band so this may be the last time we see Little Stevie, Mighty Max, Charlie, Suzy, the Professor, Nils, and Gary W. for awhile.  (It was announced today that the band is heading to Australia in January).

Bruce did not speak about 9-11.  He let the music do the talking.  Though he has been leading off this leg of his U.S. tour with “New York Serenade,” the final track from The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, it was particularly relevant on this night.

He followed “Serenade” with four songs from his 9-11-themed album The Rising: “Into the Fire,” “Lonesome Day,” “You’re Missing,” and “Mary’s Place.” Later in the show he played two more songs from The Rising: “My City of Ruins” and “The Rising.”  I was disappointed when most people in my section sat down for “My City of Ruins” despite the powerful refrain to “rise up.”

After his early musical tribute to the fallen heroes of September 11, 2001, Springsteen took us back to his first two albums–Greetings From Asbury Park and The Wild, the Innocent, & the E Street Shuffle.   The next eight songs came from one these early 1970s albums.  During this stretch, which included “Growing Up” (the first time I have ever heard it played in concert), Springsteen regaled the audience with stories from his high school days and his first record deal.  It was obvious that Springsteen was giving the Pittsburgh audience a foreshadowing of his forthcoming memoir Born to Run. Caroline was not entirely familiar with these early songs so I am glad I played both of these albums in the car on the drive to the concert.  This kind of pre-concert prep has become a stable in the Fea household.

From our seats behind the stage (Section 118) I was able to get a very interesting perspective on the political dimensions of the concert.  For example, when Springsteen played “41 Shots,” a song commemorating the 1999 New York shooting of Amadou Diallo, it seemed like more people than usual decided that it was a good time to get out of their seats and grab another beer or take a bathroom break.  As Marc Dolan recently told us in Episode 9 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast, not all Springsteen fans appreciate this song.

In another revealing moment a fan in the front row threw a copy of the United States Constitution onto the stage.  Bruce picked it up and showed the crowd that it had the words “F… Trump” written on it.  The crowd cheered and the woman next to me lifted her hands in agreement, but a significant number of people in my section began yelling similar derogatory things about Hillary Clinton.  Despite Springsteen’s outspoken progressive politics, his fans remain a politically eclectic bunch.

And of course what would a Springsteen concert be without this:

It was a great night!