Heading to Louisville for the 2020 Festival of Faiths

Festival of Faiths

I will be speaking on April 23 and 24:

The 25th Anniversary Festival of Faiths “Sacred Stories: Contemplation & Connection” happens April 21-25 in Louisville, Ky., and will celebrate the power of narratives to give us meaning in a complex world. Thought leaders from around the globe will gather to share ideas and carry on conversations about how people of all faiths might come together to create positive change.

Festival of Faiths 2020 featured speakers to include:

Omid Safi, On Being Project, Duke University

Brie Stoner, co-host of the podcast “Another Name For Every Thing with Richard Rohr”

Lee Hale, host of the podcast “PREACH”

Sharon Salzberg, New York Times bestselling author and teacher of Buddhist meditation

John Fea, professor of history at Messiah College

Lyla June, poet and hip-hop artist

Ramtin Arablouei & Rund Abdelfatah, co-hosts/producers of NPR’s “Throughline” podcast

Michael Gungor, co-host of “The Liturgists Podcast”

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, president and dean of Valley Beit Midrash

Learn more here.

An Afternoon at Fort Roberdeau with the American Revolution Round Table of Central Pennsylvania

Roberdeau 4

What? You’ve never heard of Fort Roberdeau?  Here is some info from Wikipedia:

Fort Roberdeau, also known as The Lead Mine Fort, is a historic fort located in Tyrone Township outside Altoona, Pennsylvania. It was built in 1778, during the American Revolution and was occupied until 1780. Initial efforts were made in 1939-41 to reconstruct the fort by concerned local agencies with support from the National Youth Administration. The stockade was finally reconstructed as a Bicentennial project in 1975-76.

The original fort was built of horizontal logs with a bastion at each corner. The fort was originally erected by General Daniel Roberdeau to protect local lead mining activities from the Native Americans and Tories.[3] The fort is open to the public as a historic site, administered and owned by Blair County.

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.[1]

The site consists of the reconstructed fort and its structures (officers’ quarters, storehouse, barracksblacksmith shop, lead miner’s cabin, powder magazine, and lead smelter), a restored barn (1859) which serves as visitor center, a restored farmhouse (ca. 1860), a sinkhole, a trail system, and a log house (2012) built in the style of an original frontier house. The site is open May 1 through October 31.

I was at the fort yesterday to speak to the members of the American Revolution Round Table of Central Pennsylvania.  If you live in the central Pennsylvania area and are interested in learning more about the American Revolution, I encourage you to attend one of meetings of the round table.  This is a fast-growing and vibrant group of revolutionary-era history buffs.

On the request of Mark DeVecchis, the round table president, I spoke on Philip Vickers Fithian and the American Revolution.  Of course the talk was based on my 2008 book The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America.  It was good to revisit the themes of the this book:


I want to thank Mark DeVecchis and Glenn Nelson, Director of Fort Roberdeau, for their hospitality during our visit.  We hope to return soon.

Here are some pics:

Roberdeau 1

Roberdeau 2

Ethan Walter was the youngest attendee of the event. It was a pleasure to inscribe his book with the words “Keep Studying History!”

Roberdeau 3

With Mark DeVechis (L), president of the American Revolution Round Table of Central Pennsylvania and Glenn Nelson, director of Fort Roberdeau

Christians and Politics: Power, the Liberal Arts, and People of Faith

Lee University campusI will be at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee this weekend to give a plenary talk at the Lee Symposium: Conversation on Faith and the Liberal Arts.  This year’s theme is “Christians and Politics: Power, the Liberal Arts, and People of Faith.”

Here is the program:

Christians and Politics: Power, the Liberal Arts, and People of Faith

Lee University, October 4-5, 2019

Friday, October 4

2:00 pm


3:00 pm

Welcome and Opening Remarks

3:30 pm

Presenter: John Fea, Messiah College

Responder: Lisa Clark Diller, Southern Adventist University

5:45 pm


7:00 pm

Presenter: Ana Shippey, Lee University

Responder: Richard Follett, Covenant College

Saturday, October 5

9:00 am

Presenter: Wilfred McClay, University of Oklahoma

Responder: David Broersma, Lee University

11:00 am

Presenter: Christa Bennett, Community Well

Responder: Mark Scully, Lee University

1:00 pm


2:00 pm

“Summing Up: What Have We Heard?”

Presenter: Jason Ward, Lee University


On the Road This Fall

ARR1900_JohnFea_Flyer_INITIAL-01 (1)

Stop by and say hello is you are in the area:

On October 4, 2019, I will give a plenary address at the Lee University Symposium on Christians and Politics.  This year’s theme is “Power, the Liberal Arts, and People of Faith.”

Two days later, October 6, I will be at Fort Roberdeau, Pennsylvania where I will be speaking about Philip Vickers Fithian and the American Revolution to the American Revolution Round Table of Central Pennsylvania.

On October 21, 2019, I will be the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Kansas Council for History Education.

Click here for information on how to book a lecture or seminar.

My Post-*Believe Me* Speaking Plans

Believe Me 3dSeveral of you have asked me if I will still be doing public lectures after the Believe Me book tour winds down.  Yes, I am planning to continue to speak and lecture as long as the invitations keep arriving.

While my last stop on the Believe Me tour is in April at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in the Boston area, the paperback version of the book is scheduled for January 2020 and I thus imagine I will do some more speaking as part of that release.  Stay tuned.

Of course I am also available for lectures on my other books.  In addition to those books, I am currently at work on a book about the American Revolution in New Jersey and am also hoping to co-author a young adult biography of Philip Vickers Fithian.

I also have some additional news on this front.  Most of my speaking engagements will now be handled by my assistant Christine Walter.  You can learn how to contact her about a possible lecture by heading over to the Speaking page on this website.  Christine will be the point person for travel arrangements, receipts, honorariums, and just about everything else related to my schedule. She is happy to work with your institution to make something happen.

See you on the road!

PA Turnpike

On the Road in Spring 2019

snow road530.jpg.560x0_q80_crop-smart

Here we go…

February 3, 2019
Cumberland County Historical Society, Greenwich, NJ
Lecture: “The Greenwich Tea Burning in History and Memory”

February 5, 2019
North Greenville, University, Greenville, SC
Boggs Hickson Endowed Lecture: “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?

February 11, 2019
University of Colorado-Colorado Springs 
The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump”

February 15, 2019
CCCU Annual Conference for Chief Academic Officers, St. Petersburg, Fla 
“Christian Education in the Age of Trump: Challenges and Opportunities”

February 19, 2019
Inaugural Crossley Lecture, Department of Religion, University of Southern California
“The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump”

February 26, 2019
Lecture:  Georgetown Day School, Washington D.C. 
“Donald Trump and the Christian Right in America”

March 5, 2019
Mechanicburg (PA) Presbyterian Church
Lecture and Discussion: “The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump”

March 18, 2019
Whitworth University, Spokane, Washington
Lecture: “The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump”

March 21, 2019
Ward Lecture, Greensboro College, Greensboro, NC
“The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump”

April 8, 2019
Boisi Center Event at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. Hamilton, Massachusetts
“Evangelicals and Politics” (panel discussion with Randall Balmer and Dennis Hollinger)

I hope to see and meet some of you!

On the Road in January 2018


January 2, 2018 is coming to an end.  Did you keep your head above water today?  Every January 2nd I am bombarded with e-mails, requests, and reminders.  Everyone is back at work and everyone needs something.  Of course I am just as guilty on this front.  Yes–I sent my fair share of “back to work” e-mails today.

Most of the e-mails I responded to today were related to upcoming speaking engagements.  Here is where I will be in January:

January 3, 2018:  I will be giving a lecture titled “Why Study History” at Brethren Village in Litiz, PA.  This event is open to residents of the community.

January 5, 2018 (8:30–10:00am):  I will be in Washington D.C. for the annual meeting of the American Historical Association and will chairing a session on Messiah College’s Digital Harrisburg Initiative.

January 5, 2018 (3:30-5:00pm):  I will be chairing a session on the Bible in American Cultural and Political History at a joint meeting of the American Historical Association and the Conference on Faith and History

January 7, 14, 21, 28, 2018 (9:00 and 10:45):  I am teaching a course called “Christian Politics?” at West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

January 12, 2018: I will be co-leading a history teachers workshop on historical thinking for the New York State Association of Independent Schools at the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York.

January 16, 2018:  I will be leading discussions on the history of rural America and my book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? at Boston Trinity Academy in Boston, Massachusetts.

January 21, 2018:  I am heading back to Philip Vickers Fithian country for a lecture at the Cumberland County Historical Society in Greenwich, NJ titled “The Greenwich Tea Burning in History and Memory.”  The lecture is free and open to the public.

I hope I see some of you out there!

We are already booking things for the Summer and Fall.  Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump will be out in the late Spring and I will be hitting the road with the book.  (Of course I am also available for lectures on themes related to any of my books).  Perhaps we can make something work.

Heading to Northfield


St. Olaf College

On Wednesday I will be in Northfield, Minnesota to give a few talks at St. Olaf College and Carleton College.  In the afternoon I will be speaking to faculty from both institutions on “Publication, Public Scholarship, and Blogging.” The talk is part of the “Future of Publishing” lecture series sponsored by the Saint Olaf and Carleton libraries.  I’m looking forward to it.

Learn more here.

On the Road in Fall 2017


This Fall I am balancing teaching two courses at Messiah College, leading the Messiah History Department (my last year as chair), speaking in various venues, blogging daily, hosting Season 4 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast (we have some great guests lined up!), writing a book (more on that later–stay tuned) and watching as much Calvin College women’s volleyball  and Mechanicsburg girls soccer as possible.

Here is where I will be speaking:

September 21-22: The State of the Evangelical Mind Symposium, Indianapolis. Plenary panel (with Jay Green and Eric Miller): “Noll’s Scandal & the CCCU: A Tripartite Review).

October 18-19: St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN. Multiple talks and lectures on digital humanities, religion in America, and academic blogging.

November 15: Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI.  Public ecture: “The Court Evangelicals: Who Are Trumps’s Christian Advisers and Where Did They Come From?”

November 20: American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Boston. Panelist: “The United States of Hobby Lobby.”

Summer is Almost Here


I hope to spend a little time this summer on the back deck

It is Messiah College graduation weekend.  I am looking forward to spending some time with our history graduates and their families.

This is also the time of year when people ask us about how we will be spending the summer.  So here goes:

I have pushed aside most speaking invitations for the summer in order to focus on several things:

  • In June I will be taking an 8-day bus tour of historical sites related to the Civil Rights Movement.  Stay tuned for more details.
  • I need to complete several smaller writing projects, including book reviews and conference papers.
  • I will be spending most of the summer trying to a complete a book on New Jersey and the American Revolution which I need to deliver soon to Rutgers University Press.  A few trips to the archives will be necessary.
  • Once again, I will be spending a week at Princeton University leading a Gilder-Lehrman Institute seminar on colonial America for teachers.  This is always a highlight.
  • Prepare for my Fall 2017 course: “Teaching History.”

I hope to get back on the road in the Fall.  I am thankful to Messiah College for freeing up time so I can speak to a host of different public audiences during the course of the academic year.  Several things are tentatively in the works right now, but let’ talk if you or your church, college, school, or organization are interested in hosting a lecture, seminar or campus visit of some type. You can get a sense of some of my recent engagements here.

On the Road in April (and Beyond?)


My travel schedule this Spring has been light.  I have been enjoying teaching this semester and the students in my Pennsylvania History and United States History to 1865 courses have been excellent.  I have taken some time to tweak some of my lectures, experiment with some new assignments, and become a better discussion leader.  This is my third year teaching Pennsylvania History and I think I am finally starting to like the content.  It has also been fun and invigorating to be back in the U.S. Survey lecture hall after a year on sabbatical.  I am sure all of the social and political changes in American life have had something to do with that.

It has also been fun to get back into the studio for Season 3 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.  I have been so thankful for all of the support we have received through out Patreon campaign.  It is very rewarding to see that so many people have affirmed our work in this way and truly care about the role that history can play in our democratic life together.  Thanks again.  By the way, Episode 19 drops on Sunday.

But I am also increasingly aware of the need to travel outside of the college campus in an effort to bring good history and historical thinking to public audiences. With that in mind I am in the process of scheduling talks and lectures for the Summer and Fall of 2017 and the Spring of 2018.  You can learn more about the kind of speaking, workshops, and seminars that I do here or here.

2016 was a busy year.  I was at West Shore Evangelical Free Church (Mechanicsburg, PA), Derry Presbyterian Church (Hershey, PA), Centre College (Danville, KY),  Trinity College (Deerfield, IL), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL), University of Chicago, Houston Baptist University, Eastern Nazarene College (Quincy, MA), Lincoln Memorial University (Harrogate, TN), National Presbyterian Church (Washington D.C.), Arch Street United Methodist Church (Philadelphia), Cairn University (Langhorne, PA), St. Francis University (Loretto, PA), The George Washington Library (Mount Vernon, VA), and Oxford University (Oxford, England).

Next month I will be heading down to New Orleans for the Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians. (We are still looking for correspondents!) On Saturday, April 8, I will be co-leading two “chat room” sessions for historians.  One session (which I will co-lead with Kevin Schultz of the University of Illinois-Chicago) will be on the ways that Twitter (@johnfea1) can help us disseminate good history to a larger public.  The other session (which I will co-lead with Elizabeth Marsh of the OAH)  will be on the History Relevance Campaign.  If you are in New Orleans I hope you have some time to stop by and participate in one of these sessions.

After New Orleans I fly to Boston on April 10 to deliver the 2017 Frantz Lecture  at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts.  My lecture is titled “Why Study History?”  As far as I know, this lecture is free and open to the public.

I hope to see you on the road!  We always need good American history, but it is especially needed in times of great change.  I would love to talk with you about setting something up as your school, college, university, historical society, library, church, museum, or virtually any other public space where these kinds of conversations take place.

Learning to Pronounce “Quincy”: My Visit to Eastern Nazarene College


It’s  pronounced “Quinzy.”

This was one of the many things I learned earlier this week when I visited Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Massachusetts to deliver the History Department‘s annual Donald Yerxa Lecture.  I have delivered a lot of lectures named after people, but I think this was the first time I ever gave a lecture named after 1). A person who was still alive and 2). a person who I know and who as recently as last month was asking me when he might receive an overdue referee report for a journal he edits.  🙂

Some of you know Don Yerxa from the many interviews he has conducted with prominent historians in the pages of Books and Culture and other publications.  Others might recognize his name from his leadership of the Historical Society.  Christian historians know him as the current editor of Fides et Historia, the academic journal of the


Don Yerxa

Conference on Faith and History.  This week I learned that Don was also deeply committed to Eastern Nazarene College, his alma mater and the school where he spent his entire career as a history professor (among other roles).

It was a great day in Quincy.  I got up early on Monday morning to meet with some very wide-awake students in Nick Pruitt‘s 7:45am politics class.  Nick is completing his dissertation in American history at Baylor University under the direction of Barry Hankins and is at Eastern Nazarene this year on a term appointment.  I had no idea that Nick had landed this position.  I had just seen him a few months earlier during I talk I gave at Baylor.

Nick’s students were eager to talk politics.  We talked about the (limited) role that historians can play in political elections, Historians Against Trump (and why I supported it), and the political sensibilities of the students at Eastern Nazarene College (which are all over the map!).

Later in the day I visited Bill McCoy‘s Critical Readings in History course.  Bill is the chair of the Eastern Nazarene History Department and one of the last Yerxa hires.  His gracious hospitality even included a bowl of New England clam chowder at a seafood stand on the beach!  Eastern Nazarene has some very bright and engaged history majors.  They are reading my Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past and came with a lot of questions for me.  The two-hour class went by very quickly and the conversation was spirited.

fea-at-encMy evening Yerxa Lecture was titled “The Power to Transform:” History, Christian Thinking, and American Democracy.”  I tried to take some of the themes of Why Study History? and connect them to our depressing political culture, the weakness of Christian thinking in evangelical churches, and the decline of the humanities.  This all sounds pretty depressing, but I did try to offer some hope and a way forward.

Thanks to Bill for bringing me to Eastern Nazarene, Nick for hosting me in his class, Don for having a career that is worthy of a lecture series, and the Eastern Nazarene students for making me feel at home.

The Bible Cause in East Tennessee


Last week I drove down Interstate 81 into the Cumberland Gap to give the annual Kincaid Lecture at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.  I had never been to this part of Tennessee before and it was a beautiful day for driving. (I also had my satellite radio tuned to channel 20–E Street Radio!).  The university is located adjacent to Cumberland Gap National Park.

I had never heard of Lincoln Memorial University before Tom Mackie, the Director of the Lincoln Library and Museum, invited me to visit.  My lecture was titled “The Bible in the Age of Lincoln: The American Bible Society and the Origins of Christian America.”  It focused on the creation of the American Bible Society, the role of benevolent associations and Christian reform movements in antebellum America, and the American Bible Society’s attempt to supply a Bible to every American family and do it in two years (1829-1831).


Lincoln Memorial University has a fascinating history.   As its website notes:

Lincoln Memorial University grew out of love and respect for Abraham Lincoln and today honors his name, values, and spirit. As the legend goes, in 1863 Lincoln suggested to General O. O. Howard, a Union Army officer, that when the Civil War ended he hoped General Howard would organize a great university for the people of this area.

Mackie runs a museum and library that contains the largest collection of Lincoln artifacts in the country and some important archival collections of prominent figures from the 19th-century.  During my tour of the library I got to see Lincoln’s cane, English china that Lincoln purchased in 1858, a traveling exhibit on Lincoln and the Constitution, a piece of Lincoln’s hair, porcelain vases created to promote the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, every picture of Lincoln ever taken, and a bunch of ephemera commemorating Lincoln’s death and legacy.  Mackie is completing a doctoral dissertation on this ephemera that situates Lincolnalia in the fields of memory, material culture, and dime store museums.  It is going to make a great book.

On the Road: Fall 2016


OnTheRoadHere is where I am heading this Fall.  If you are in the area stop by and say hello!

September 23, 2016
Kincaid Lecture: Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, TN
The Bible and Moral Reform in the Early American Republic

September 26, 2016
Donald Yerxa Lecture: Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, MA
Why Study History?

October 6, 2016
Dunham Bible Museum, Houston Baptist University, 7:00pm
Lecture: “The Bible Cause: 200 Years of the American Bible Society”

October 27, 2016
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL
Book Discussion with Ph.D Students : “The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society

October 28, 2016
Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL
Chapel Presentation: “The Bible Cause: 200 Years of the American Bible Society”

October 31, 2016
Centre College, Danville, KY
Lecture: “The Bible Cause: 200 Years of the American Bible Society.”

November 19-22, 2016
Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, San Antonio, TX
Session on The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society

November 27, 2016
Derry Presbyterian Church, Hershey, PA
Adult Forum: Presbyterians and the American Presidency

December 3, 2016
Derry Presbyterian Church, Hershey, PA
Adult Forum: Empathy and the Meaning of American Democracy

Speaking Clips: Secularism on the Edge

I have been spending some time today adding some clips to The Way of Improvement Lead’s Home page devoted to speaking engagements.

As many of you know, we are in the midst of our Bible Cause/Christian America tour. (Learn more about the tour and how to get involved here).  In order to stir the pot a bit, I will try to post a few of the videos here.

Here is a clip from my keynote conversation with religious studies scholar Jacques Berlinerblau at the “Secular on the Edge” conference in February 2013 at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.

Host an Event on the *The Bible Cause* Tour

Bible Cause CoverI’m hitting the road this year to promote my forthcoming The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society.  Things are in the works for speaking engagements at colleges and universities, churches, and other institutions with an interest in the role of the Bible in American life.

I would love to come to your venue–no matter how big or small.  Drop me a line and let’s set something up for the Spring, Summer, or Fall of 2016.

With the expected release of the second edition of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? in the Fall, I am also adding talks on this book to the tour.  The Bible Cause is, in many ways, a natural extension of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?

As of today we’ve confirmed a few stops on the tour.  We hope to add more soon.  (Check the “Speaking” tab above for more details).

March 18, 2016: St. Francis University, Loretto, PA

April 13, 2016: Arch Street Methodist Church, Philadelphia, PA

June 26, 2016: National Presbyterian Church, Washington D.C.

September 23, 2016: Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, TN

October 6, 2016: Dunham Museum of the Bible, Houston, TX

October 27, 2016: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL

October 28, 2016: Trinity College, Deerfield, IL

University of Oxford Bound


Pembroke College, Oxford

Later this week I will be at the University of Oxford to speak as part of a panel titled “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?”  I will be joined by Owen Anderson of Arizona State University and Peter Thompson of St. Cross College, Oxford.  The session is sponsored by the Seminar in Constitutional Thought and History at the Rothermere American Institute.

The event will take place at Pembroke College’s Allen & Overy Room from 17:00-18:30pm.  If you are in the area I hope you will come by and say hello!

Undergraduate Liberal Arts Conference: The Examined Life

If you are an undergraduate student in the humanities or a teacher of undergraduates in the humanities, I want to call your attention again to this conference at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania.  This is a great conference for undergraduates to present their work.  I have had a few students give papers and presentations here in the past and they can all attest to a positive experience in an undergraduate-friendly environment.
To learn more about The Examined Life conference click here.  Deadline for proposals is February 19, 2015.

On the Road with *The Bible Cause*

Those who read The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog carefully know that I have a new book coming out titled The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society (Oxford University Press, 2015).

The book is not due out until April 2016, but I am already starting to book some speaking engagements related to its release.  If you are interested in a book talk or lecture at your college, bookstore, historical society, church, or cultural institution,  I hope to be “on the road” with the book sporadically from its April 1, 2016 release through the Fall of 2016.  Drop me a note and we can try to set something up.
I am also excited to announce that the second edition of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction is in the works.  (If you have been following my Virtual Office Hours you already know this).  If I can get my act together, it will be out sometime in July 2016.  I did a lot speaking related to this book when it first appeared in 2011 and hope to do some more when the second edition appears.  Let me know if you or your organization or school is interested. 
For a sense of past and upcoming engagements check out the “Speaking” section at The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog.