Does the Way of Improvement Still Lead Home?


After a fifteen month sabbatical I have returned to my day job.  Earlier this month I resumed my role as chair of the Messiah College History Department.  The week has been filled with meetings related to this charge.  On Tuesday I return to the classroom.  The wheels of academic teaching and (low-level) administration–committee work, meetings, planning department social events, writing syllabi, holding office hours, etc.–are always churning.  I have yet to hear about a reentry program for faculty who have been on leave.  (If you know about one I would like to enroll!).

As I prepare for the new academic year at Messiah College I revisited an essay I published in The Cresset back in 2011 titled “Does the Way of Improvement Lead Home?: Rooted Cosmopolitanism and the Church-Related College.”

Here is a taste:

So is cosmopolitan rootedness possible in the academy? Can the way of improvement lead home? Can we think of our vocation and our work in terms of serving an institution? Our natural inclination is to say something similar to the comments in the aforementioned blog discussion. I can be loyal to an institution as long as the administration of the institution remains loyal to me. Fair enough. Administrators must be sensitive to the needs of their faculty, realizing that institutional loyalty is something that needs to be cultivated over time. But this kind of rootedness also requires faculty who are open to sticking it out because they believe in what the institution stands for—whatever that might be. (This, of course, means that the college or university must stand for something greater than simply the production of knowledge). It requires a certain form of civic humanism—the ideological opposite of Lockean contractualism—that is willing to, at times, sacrifice rank careerism for the good of the institution.

So what does this have to do with Christian scholar-teachers and students at church-related institutions? What is it about a church-related college that might lead a professor to remain loyal? Or, to ask a related question, one that transcends the professoriate, what is it about being a Christ-follower that might lead one to want to pursue an intellectual life in a particular place?

Church-related colleges are by nature rooted in a particular Christian tradition. At many of these colleges, the religious tradition is palpable, and this informs the sense of place. It is hard to be at Valparaiso University very long without breathing the Lutheran air. At my own institution, Messiah College, a school rooted in a mix of evangelicalism and Anabaptism, the confessional and liturgical air is not as thick, but a clear sense of place manifests itself in the praise songs emanating from the chapel during Thursday night “Powerhouse” worship or the feeling around campus each Spring when 2,800 students take a day off from classes to perform acts of service in the surrounding community. The absence of an American flag speaks volumes about the kind of place that we are. The prayers and devotional thoughts before class give the college a sense of distinctiveness.

Of course, at many, if not most, church-related colleges the intellectual life of the community is grounded in a particular theological understanding of the world. When at their best, church-related colleges offer a truly Christian education that combines the spiritual, liturgical, and theological commitments of a tradition with the life of the mind. The interaction between deeply held religious conviction and the pursuit of knowledge brings vibrancy to the educational experience of students and the intellectual lives of faculty. Church-related colleges are places where the tensions between particular loyalties to faith and the cosmopolitan pursuits of learning result in much creative energy.

Yet at times, the religious convictions that inform the missions of our institutions can become suffocating, especially for those faculty or students who may not share in the so-called home tradition. Commitment to a place defined by a specific way of thinking about the world can be stultifying.  This is why church-related colleges need people from outside the tradition. For some colleges and universities, this might mean having non-Christians who are good citizens and sympathetic to the school’s mission add their perspectives to the mix. For other church-related colleges or universities, it may mean faculty who come from Christian traditions that are different.

For those rooted in the tradition, these “outsiders” can help the confessional insiders think more deeply about their core convictions. For those who are not from the tradition, there is much to learn from the so-called religious guardians of the place. I have learned a lot from the members of the Brethren-in-Christ Church and other Anabaptists who teach at Messiah College. The Anabaptist flavor of the place has shaped the way I think about and teach American history, a subject that by its very nature raises questions of nationalism, war, and justice. I have become a more thoughtful Christian and scholar by imbibing as much as I can from the religious convictions that inform the place where I teach. There is a level of intellectual engagement that I am not sure I would find at a non-church-related school. Cosmopolitan rootedness can make the church-related college a vibrant and energetic place to work.

Over the course of the last few days I have been wrestling with the ideas in this piece.  Do I still believe them?  And if so, to what extent?

Perhaps readers may find the piece helpful as the new school year gets underway and we once again start to think about our relationship to the institutions in which we teach and serve.

What Constitutes a Historical Document?

Mount VernonAHA Today, the blog of the American Historical Association, is featuring the work of several history graduate students who will be writing regular posts throughout the summer.  I am thrilled to see that one of the students chosen to write for the blog is Erin Holmes, a Ph.D candidate in early American history at the University of South Carolina.  I got to know Erin and her work a little bit during my one-month residency as a visiting scholar at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon.  When I arrived Erin was in the midst of a longer six-month fellowship devoted to work on a dissertation on 18th-century plantation landscapes in Virginia, South Carolina, and Barbados.

In her first post at AHA Today, Erin reminds us that the primary documents historians use to tell stories about the past do not have to be words on paper.

Here is a taste:

In 1953, L.P. Hartley wrote that “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Historians and lay readers alike are familiar with the idea that the past is a different place, but often lose sight of the word “place” in that discussion. Like any other place, we can travel to the past. Most often, we do this through the written word. We read primary sources that introduce us to foreign cultures and practices that once existed in the very location (sometimes down to the exact longitude and latitude) we do today, albeit in a place—a historical context encompassing geography, culture, and more—that would be utterly alien.

“Visiting the Past and the Places in Between” is based on my belief that history is inherently place-based and that historical analysis is strengthened by comparison. We attach ourselves (to varying degrees) to the places we come from, the places we live, and the places to which we travel. Among the richest resources for historians of the early modern period seeking thick descriptions of long lost people and places are travel narratives. These accounts are fundamentally the product of comparing the familiar with the unfamiliar, and to some extent historians produce our research questions from the same cloth. Pairing travel narratives with existing (or archaeological) historic structures, as well as expanding the definition of a “historical document” to include landscapes and buildings, provides an entry point to the past that can allow us to not only answer those questions, but to push them further.

Read the rest here.

Wendell Berry on Pope Francis and the Amish

Over at Modern Farmer, Corby Kummer interviews noted farmer and writer Wendell Berry about the state of family farming in the United States (or at least in Berry’s Kentucky neighborhood).  Here is a taste:

MF: Is the spiritual connection between farmer and farm being lost?

WB: I think that’s an immediate danger. This is dangerous territory now. I’ve been reading the Pope’s encyclical. It’s very impressive. As the issues arise, he faces them. He makes the connection between the biblical imperative and the local obligation of the farmer or land user.

The Amish, like the Pope, take the gospels pretty seriously. They’re pacifists, for one thing. Remember when the madmen killed children in their school? The Amish went straight and forgave the killer. The black people in Charleston did it too. The Amish have that capacity to take the moral imperative literally. I think they take stewardship with the same, and consequent, seriousness. They’ve asked the essential question about technological innovation: What would this do to our community, if we do it? That governs their discussion. They have done very well. They’re not perfect people. But that Holmes County example is right there to be seen, and mostly our agriculture experts don’t look at it, or can’t see it, or can’t recognize the goodness of it if they do see it.

MF: Do you see that connection being rebuilt?

WB: Our neighbor with a CSA was telling Tanya about his little boy who wanted to pick the cherry tomatoes, and did. To have your heart thus warmed is part of a farm’s income. Neighbors working together have an income that’s never booked.

The old way of neighborly work-swapping here involved much talk. Neighbors worked together, a matter of utmost practicality, with a needed economic result, but the day’s work was also a social occasion. Is this a “spiritual” connection between neighbors, and between the neighborhood and its land? I suppose so, but only by being also a connection that is practical, economic, social, and pleasant. And affectionate.

That whole thing of looking somebody straight in the eye and saying something—my goodness. “I love you,” right into somebody’s face, right into their eyes, what a fine thing. Who would want to miss it?

People who talk only to communicate are different from people who talk for pleasure. People who talk for pleasure, as opposed to people who talk to communicate, become wonderful talkers over the years. They have eloquence.

A Bookstore in Bellefonte

Bellefonte, PA

I have taught a few students from Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.  After a conversation with one of those students I came to the tentative conclusion that it must be a nice place to live.  It sounded like a charming Victorian Pennsylvania town.  And it was close to Penn State.

If my memory serves me correctly, I used to stop at a Holiday Inn off of Route 80 near Bellefonte during my seminary years in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  I usually pulled my 1981 Skylark into the motel when I was too sleepy to finish the drive from Deerfield, IL to Montville, NJ.  I remember being frustrated because my room did not have a remote control for the television set.

If I wasn’t in such a hurry to get home to see my parents and siblings in New Jersey I might have taken the time to drive into downtown Bellefonte.  After reading about Jonathan Eburne‘s failed attempt to open a bookstore in the town, I wish I had been more curious and adventuresome in those days.

Here is a taste of Eburne’s Los Angeles Review of Books essay on the struggle to cultivate intellectual community in Bellefonte.  It’s a great piece about place:

I THOUGHT it would be a good idea to start a bookstore in my town. The print industry is dead, we’ve been told, from the publisher’s nose to the bookseller’s tail. But haven’t books always been at least a little dead? Coffined thoughts, in mummy cases, embalmed in spice of words. Perhaps a bookstore could marshal some of that spice toward happier ends, breeding lilacs out of the dead land. A community bookstore seemed like a small yet viable way to push back at the larger forces encroaching against so many elements of our towns and cities. Universities; museums; downtowns: sometimes everything feels under attack. A plague upon our houses! The attacks are fueled by all sorts of imperatives, a worldly sickness. Most of it, we cannot fathom how to fix. But I could imagine a bookstore, like a small bulwark against the tide. The goal was simple: to found a cooperative; to think small, to build gradually through a cohort of like-minded collaborators. That way, nobody would get hurt.
But something did get hurt. Nobody went bankrupt, mind you, and no money was lost. Yet my town and its cultural prospects are worse off than when we started. Instead of helping to build a new cultural institution, I’ve watched other institutions crumble down around me.
This is a story about that reversal of fortune.

The Placelessness of Airports

A non-place
I have probably done more traveling via plane in the past three years than I have in the rest of my life combined.  I could thus relate to Skyler Reidy’s recent piece at the Front Porch Republic, “Airports are Non-Places.”  Here is a taste:

Upon entering the innermost circle of the airport, the traveler is nowhere. Cool air shuffles slowly, driven not by the wings of a giant demon surrounded by traitors, but by a silent and sprawling air conditioning system. Other anonymous travelers shuffle past. The travelers here are arriving from disparate cities, each with their biological clocks set accordingly. In their various degrees of jetlag, the non-citizens of the airport do not share even a common experience of time’s flowing. Wandering in their isolation, what do travelers see?

Bright screens with crisp images display reams of times, flight numbers, and cities: Tokyo, Paris, Nairobi, Cleveland. These tables change constantly, reading out new instructions for the travelers watching them, as the configuration of machinery and services at the terminals shifts. The modern economy is hear in full force, with beautiful graphic design conveying constant creative destruction to eager consumers.
As travelers shuffle along the ley lines laid by these screens, they see various chain restaurants beckoning them. These are the fastest of fast food, heavily processed and unhealthy meals, sourced from factory farms scattered across the world, treated with sodium and high-fructose corn syrup until palatable. McDonald’s is perhaps the most ubiquitous of these chains. A traveler can step to the counter and receive the same burger and fries whether he is in Seattle or Savannah, and never have to trouble his thoughts or his emotions with a genuine gustatory experience. This is food for the stomach, and for no higher part. Indeed, McDonald’s newest advertising campaign seems cynically calculated for to appeal directly to the appetites: “Think with your mouth.”

Suppose the traveler does not want to spend his money on food. Surely he must spend his money on something while he waits. Knick-knack shops abound in most airports. Here, a glimmer of place is visible. These stores sell souvenirs meant to reflect the character of whatever town the airport is planted in. A t-shirt with a cute local saying, a shot glass with the city skyline, or other any other bric-a-brac locally imported from China. These are Baudrillard’s simulacra of souvenirs, imitations without an original. These trinkets reduce place to a commodity, and offer it to travelers drifting through the non-place of the airport.

Once a traveler has made it past the chain restaurants, the bright souvenir stores, and the anonymous crowd, there is only the flight left. The flight is the purpose of the airport, and it is also the kernel of hope in the whole non-place. The flight can carry you away from the airport; it carry you to a brand new place, rich in exotic rootedness; it can carry you to old friends with shared memories; it can carry you home.

"Local" Features Asbury Park

We have written before about Local: A Quarterly of People and Places.  The recent issue focuses on Asbury Park, New Jersey.  It seems the editors have played down the Springsteen angle on the cover (going instead with Southside Johnny), but I can’t imagine an issue on Asbury Park without some mention (an article or two) on the Boss.

Learn more at the Local Facebook page. (And don’t forget to “like” it!)

Jersey: A Sense of Place

As many readers of this blog know, the idea of “place” was a dominant theme in my first book, The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in America (University of Pennsylvania Press). In that book I chronicled Fithian’s deep sense of attachment to his home on the Cohansey River in eighteenth-century Cumberland County, New Jersey.  Many readers of the book who know me well have remarked that my connection to my New Jersey roots is evident throughout the narrative. I can’t disagree.

I think a good argument could be made that Fithian was the first New Jersey writer to reflect deeply on a sense of place in this colony/state.

So needless to say I was thrilled to see that Montclair State University is sponsoring a year-long series of lectures and presentations entitled “Jersey: A Sense of Place.”  If you are in the Montclair area tonight you should definitely check out Louis Masur’s lecture “Talk about a dream:’ Bruce Springsteen’s American Vision–from New Jersey to the World.”  Masur is the author of Runaway Dream: Born to Run and Bruce Springsteen’s American Vision and is co-editor of the recently released Talk About a Dream: The Essential Interviews of Bruce Springsteen.

Learn more about the series here and here.

Does "Staying Put" Cultivate Community?

For the good folks at the Front Porch Republic the answer to this question seems to be an unqualified “yes.”  And anyone who reads this blog carefully knows I am sympathetic to the Front Porcher’s understanding of “place,” especially as espoused by writers like Wendell Berry and Christopher Lasch.  (I actually wrote a few things for the Front Porch Republic website a few years ago).

But Ross Douthat’s recent column at The New York Times complicates the relationship between “place” and “community.”

Here is a taste of his argument in “Place is Not Enough.”

It’s easy to assume that America’s current crisis of community — the fragmentation of family life, the retreat from civic and religious engagement — is related to people being too quick to pull up stakes and leave their existing communities behind. But the surprising reality is that the recent weakening of social ties has coincided with a decline in mobility. Here are the relevant Census figures:

The percentage of people who changed residences between 2010 and 2011 ─ 11.6 percent ─ was the lowest recorded rate since the Current Population Survey began collecting statistics on the movement of people in the United States in 1948, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today. The rate, which was 20.2 percent in 1985, declined to a then-record low of 11.9 percent in 2008 before rising to 12.5 percent in 2009. The 2010 rate was not statistically different than the 2009 rate.

Now Americans are still a more mobile people than most. But if you’re looking for a straightforward link between staying in place and the health of America’s communities, this is not the trend you would expect. We are staying put more than we did in earlier eras, and yet outside of the upper class it isn’t translating into the kind of personal and familial stability that communitarians want to cultivate.

I am sure Patrick Deneen is on the case.

Place and the Academic Life

Paxton (PA) Presbyterian Church

Over at Religion in American History, Bucknell’s Brantley Gasaway asks:

To what extent does place matter to us? How, if at all, has the nature of your own place influenced your teaching and even research on religion in America?  In what ways are you taking advantage of the unique religious landscape and resources of your area?

Brantley reflects on how his location in central Pennsylvania has shaped the way he teaches American religion.  For example, Amish and other Anabaptist groups have played a much greater role in his classes.  He is even thinking about future scholarly projects that will utilize the resources of his particular place.

I can definitely relate to Brantley’s post.  I live in the same general region (although about an hour south on Route 15) and have also given serious thought to how this place has influenced my scholarship and teaching.

On the teaching front, next year I will be offering a course on Pennsylvania History for the first time  I am hoping the course will focus on both content and methodology.  I want the region to be a laboratory for my students where they can sharpen their skills in public history and oral history.

In terms of scholarship, my current book project on Presbyterians and the American Revolution will draw upon some of the rich resources of the region, particularly as they relate to the Paxton Boys and the Revolution on the Pennsylvania frontier.

Brantley’s post has reminded me that place matters when it comes to our understanding of work and identity.  Thanks.

Public Historians and "The Local"

As American public historians begin to think deeply about how to partner with their colleagues from outside the United States, Robert Weyeneth, the director of the Public History Program at the University of South Carolina and the president of the National Council on Public History, reminds us that local studies still matter. Studies that focus on small places–case studies, if you will–can teach us much about the human experience, especially when they tease out universal implications.

Here is a taste of Weyeneth’s post at History@Work:

Thinking about what he saw in the High Sierra on one of his many rambles into the remote, the California naturalist John Muir famously remarked “when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”  I’d urge that we apply this ecological observation to our work in the trenches of public history, by reflecting on how and why the case study is “hitched to everything else.”
It seems to me that we care about the local case study when: 
•  it transcends the parochial for the contextual

•  the specifics of place open up conversations about big issues and large debates

 •  it engages issues of social justice and the role of the past in the present

•  the story is framed analytically and answers the  question “so what?”
I like to tell my students that good public historians have the ability to cast down their buckets wherever they land and find interesting projects.  This advice has always been less about place (where they are studying as graduate students or working afterwards as professionals) and more about themselves (whether they can dig deeply into nearby history and discover broad patterns and meanings).
I may be over-stating the argument for the location-specific case study as the bedrock of public history, but if NCPH is perceived as too academic in its concerns and constituencies, I think this is an especially important message to practitioners. By seeking to internationalize, NCPH is not turning its back on practitioners – anywhere.  We value the case study, whether in Berlin or Berlin, New Hampshire, Colombia or Columbia, Monterrey or Monterey.
Everywhere I turn it seems that I am running into smart people promoting locality and place.  This past weekend I attended an AHA session devoted to the topic.  Five university press editors offered tips on how to publish a book about a particular place.  The University of Georgia Press has an entire book series on Early American Places.”  I chatted with a few editors this past weekend who seemed to be more open to my project on the Greenwich Tea Burning than they were a couple of years ago.  
I have long been fascinated by the tension between the local and the universal.  As many of my readers know, this was the driving theme of my first book, The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).

Publishing About American Places

This morning I attended a very helpful session on publishing about American places.  I learned a great deal from this session and am now more eager than ever to revisit and revise my book proposal on the Greenwich Tea Burning with the working title: “The Greenwich Tea Burning: History and Memory in an American Town.”  (I might add that one of the panelists today rejected my original proposal for this book).

Bryant Simon of Temple University chaired the session.  The panelists were:

Michael McGandy (Cornell University Press)
Neils Hooper (University of California Press)
Susan Ferber (Oxford University Press)
Rand Dotson (LSU Press)
Stephen Wrinn (University of Kentucky Press)

Here is an edited twitter feed for the session:

Simon asks the panelists how to balance “place” and “argument” in university press books.

Ferber: “We can sell it in San Francisco, but will anyone else care?” How are place-centered books relevant outside the place

Sometimes regional books sell better than academic monographs. How do you explain this?

Ferber: Platform and belovedness of the place are key when publishing about place.  

McGandy (Cornell): When writing about local places, compelling writing will often help the author get it published.  

Wrinn of U KY press is reading a book proposal about a local county in KY that he just received 17 minutes ago.  

Wrinn of U KY Press: :”How do you get a national review of the *Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook*?” Challenges of regional publishing.  

There are five university press editors in the room and there are only 15 people in the audience.  

Ferber: “Using journalistic skills” in writing history is key to good publishing about places.  

Ferber: Must recreate a feel for being in a particular place. Teasing out a story from what might be limited evidence.  

Simon asks the panel to define a “hyper-local history.” Ferber defines it based on scale–places that no one knows about  

Hooper (Cal Press): “I don’t trust the readers (of a book about place) to connect with the larger argument. Extolls narrative  

Panel is discussing narrative books that begin with an academic introduction and lose the readers.  

Dotson (LSU Press): A good book on place will also talk about other places. If it does not, a univ. press will not publish it.  

Ferber: Talking about a talk by John McGreevy on Sioux Falls. McGreevy convinced Ferber that this place.  

Ferber: May be appropriate for authors to use first person to show readers how they came to write about their places.
Simon: Is there a pushback against globalization that celebrates place and the local?  
McGandy: Difference between writing about “place” as history and writing about “place” as a culture that may not be historical  
Ferber: Role of the author is critical in promoting books about place. Authors must promote.  
McGandy (Cornell): Looks for National Park Service rangers who will reference his books on tours.  
Editors like authors with websites and blogs. Like authors who travel with a box of books in their trunk.  
Ferber: There are a lot of microhistories out there. She implies that not many are well-written.  
Simon: Americanists tend to use the phrase “case studies” rather than microhistory or local history.  
Simon: Difference between what professors are telling graduate students and what editors are telling professors.  
Wrinn (U of KY Press): University presses are committed to scholarship, that is why they are subsidized.  
Wrinn uses phrase “horse porn” to describe the books U of Kentucky Press sells that make money so they can publish scholarship.  

Local: A Quarterly of People and Places

Yesterday I received in the mail the first edition of Local: A Quarterly of People and Places.  The founders of Local have come up with a unique concept–a quarterly magazine that focuses on the stories of one town or community.  The initial offering is devoted to the town of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania.

I believe in projects like this. I firmly believe that there is dignity and worth in the stories of ordinary people from ordinary towns.  Local covers these people and places brilliantly.  The photography is outstanding and the human interest stories are compelling.

In this particular issue I enjoyed reading a feature on an old pillow factory that has been reclaimed by artists and local businesses.  My friend Jonathan Lauer has a short piece about riding his bicycle.  And there is a really cool two-page photo of a bowling alley.

I encourage you to check out Local.  It reminds us that the “way of improvement” often leads “home.”  In an age of digital writing, blogs, and online journalism, it is the kind of publication that you will want to read without electricity or a computer battery.  It feels good in your hands.

Al Zambone Explains Cattleblogging…

…and it has everything to do with place, farmers, rootedness, and the “rural Enlightenment.”

Here is a taste of his “Manifesto on Cattleblogging“:

This blog is a representation of some of my scholarly and intellectual interests.  Among these are what John Fea has cunningly termed the “Rural Enlightenment” of the eighteenth century.  I am, however, even more interested in a Rural Enlightenment–or Rural Renaissance, or Reformation, or Rebirth–of the 21st century.  This interest is deeply personal.  Noel Perrin entitled one of his books First Person Rural, and I think I can say the same of my own personal identity.  In some way I don’t fully understand myself, I in large part understand myself in relation to the rural landscape in which I grew up…

…Thus cattle are for me the symbol of rural life, and thus of symbol of place, of rootedness, of a pre-modern response (or post-modern rightly-understood response) to the anomie and rootlessness of modern life.  They are responsible for keeping us alive. And they cannot be photographed inside an apartment.

Eric Miller’s New Collection of Essays: "Glimpses of Another Land"

If you are not a fan of Eric Miller‘s work, you should be.  Cascade Books has recently published a collection of his essays: Glimpses of Another Land: Political Hope, Spiritual Longing. These essays original appeared in places like Books and Culture, The Cresset, First Things, Christianity Today, and Touchstone.

Here are some blurbs:

“Eric Miller is one of the most thoughtful and graceful writers today—a combination of intelligence, humility, and faithful insight. I try to read everything he writes. What a gift to have so many of his essays collected in one place!”
—Mark Galli, senior managing editor of
Christianity Today

“Whether he writes about the Amish, popular Christian music, or the Pittsburgh Steelers, Eric Miller’s prose sings with grace, passion, wit, Pennsylvania patriotism, and, suffusing it all, a sense of hope. His is an America of neighbors, faith, and peace, not vacuous pop culture and political cant. In the tradition of Christopher Lasch and Wendell Berry, Eric Miller illumines for us a way back home.”
—Bill Kauffman, author of
Ain’t My America

“It’s fitting that Eric Miller begins this book by talking about hope and longing. Grounded in a specific time and place, clear-eyed about our troubles, these essays offer bright glimpses of another land.”
—John Wilson, editor of
Books & Culture

“Eric Miller is quickly becoming one of the best evangelical cultural critics at work among us today. Always timely, never trendy, usually salty, never cynical, his essays have a winsome way of delighting us in the good, drawing us out of ourselves in longing for a better, more humane and divine mode of living in the world . . . May his tribe increase and find a way of loving the rest of us in. May they help us keep our hope alive.”
—Douglas A. Sweeney, author of
The American Evangelical Story

“These essays invite a new generation to appreciate an older legacy of post-partisan political hope. Here is a voice that echoes with Burke, Chesterton, Berry, and above all, Christopher Lasch. Miller’s pointed insights and intimate prose are invitations to both reflection and delight.”
—James K. A. Smith, author of
The Devil Reads Derrida

“Eric Miller is my favorite Christian cultural critic. I have been absorbing his writings for over a decade, and they never fail to inspire me with hope for something better, something real. If you haven’t read him, you must. These essays will challenge you to think differently about what it means to be a human being in this world.”
—John Fea, author of
The Way of Improvement Leads Home

And while your at it, I would also check out Miller’s Hope in a Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch.  And I also heard he co-edited a pretty good book called Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation.