The Bible Cause in East Tennessee

lmu-3

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).

lmu-1

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.

At Lincoln Memorial University

lmu

Next week  (Sept. 22) I am making my first visit to Harrogate, TN. I will be delivering the Kincaid Lecture at Lincoln Memorial University.  My lecture is titled: “The Bible in the Age of Lincoln: The American Bible Society and the Origins of Christian America.”

Here is the press release from LMU:

Harrogate, Tennessee, August 18, 2016—Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) and the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum will present the 2016 Kincaid Lecture Series at 10 a.m. on Thursday, September 22, 2016. Dr. John Fea will present The Bible in the Age of Lincoln: The American Bible Society and the Origin of Christian America based on his book The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society (Oxford University Press, $29.95).

 “While his book gives us a seminal history of an organization that has influenced American and world cultures, Dr. Fea’s presentation will closely examine the bible of Lincoln’s time and how it shaped policy and society during the Civil War,” Museum Director Thomas Mackie said. “I am sure his insights will inspire each of us to examine how the Bible is impacting the current election.”

In The Bible Cause, Fea examines the American Bible Society (ABS), whose primary mission at its founding in 1816 was to distribute the Bible to as many people as possible. In the book, Fea demonstrates how the organization’s mission has caused it to intersect at nearly every point with the history of the United States. Today, ABS is a Christian ministry based in Philadelphia with a $300 million endowment and a mission to engage 100 million Americans with the Bible by 2025.

“The Bible Cause is far more than a definitive history of the American Bible Society, though it succeeds admirably in that respect,” said Margaret Bendroth, executive director of the Congregational Library and Archives. “John Fea also tells a broader story about American culture, how religion came to play such a central role in shaping national identity and how, in turn, secular ideals have shaped American belief and behavior. It is an important story, told with affection, care and thoughtful critique.”

Fea serves as professor and chair of the department of history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and is the author of a blog entitled The Way of Improvement Leads Home. He teaches courses including United States History to 1865, Colonial America, Revolutionary America, Civil War America, Teaching History and Social Studies, History of American Evangelicalism and Pennsylvania History.

Fea is the author or editor of four other books including Why Study History?:Reflecting on the Importance of the Past (Baker Academic); Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction (Westminster/John Knox Press); Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation (University of Notre Dame Press) and The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press).

Supported by the Dr. Robert L. Kincaid Endowed Research Center, the lecture is free and open to the public. A book signing and dessert reception will take place at 6 p.m. in the museum. For more information or to register, contact Program and Tourism Director Carol Campbell at 423.869.6439.

The Dr. Robert L. Kincaid Endowed Research Center promotes the scholarly study and public understanding of the influence created by the Judeo-Christian Ethic upon the era and the legacy of Abraham Lincoln.

The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum is located on the historic campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. Housing one of the top five Lincoln and Civil War private collections in the world, the Museum is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.  For more information about this and other programs at the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, call 423-869-6235.

Lincoln Memorial University is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The main campus is located in Harrogate, Tennessee.

The Bible Cause Tour Is Still Rolling On

Christian NAtion2016 has been a big year here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  In April, 2016 we published The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society.  In September the revised second edition of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction will be released.

With the release of these two titles I want to call your attention to our book tour.  Over the course of the next year we will be doing public lectures and talks on both books. (And even doing some things with teachers and history department on Why Study History?).  We have several things scheduled already, but are always adding more engagements.  Most of the events will occur at colleges, universities, churches (Sunday Schools, Adult Forums, etc.), schools, and religious and historical institutions.  If you are interested or have an idea for a talk please drop me a line at jfea(at)messiah(dot)edu

A lot of these lectures will revolve around religion and politics (past and present–just in time for the November election!), the religion of the founding fathers, the history of the Bible in America (through the fascinating story of the American Bible Society), and the relationship between Christianity and the American founding.  Again, shoot me an e-mail if you want to set something up.

Here is where we are heading so far.

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

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

October 6, 2016: Dunham Bible Museum, Houston Baptist University, Houston, TX

October 27, 2016: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, ILBible Cause Cover

October 28, 2016: Trinity College, Deerfield, IL

October 31, 2016: Centre College, Danville, KY

November 19-22, 2016: Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, San Antonio, TX

November 27, 2016: Derry Presbyterian Church, Hershey, PA

April 10, 2017: Gordon College, Wenham, MA  (Franz Lecture on Why Study History?)

The Bible Cause in a New York Ale House

Bible House Fireplace

I realize that the title to this post is a little deceptive.  No, I will not be speaking about The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society in a New York City ale house. (Although I would be happy to do so if invited!)

Yesterday I learned about an old fireplace mantel from the Astor Place Bible House (which stood from 1853-1956) currently located in the back of the historic McSorley’s Old Ale House on East Seventh Street in the East Village.

After a few Twitter exchanges with Dean at The History Author podcast, I learned that McSorley’s had a Bible House mantel.  And then historian Anne Boylan alerted me to this post at the Ephemeral New York blog.

McSorley's

Here is a taste of the post:

Bible House, the city’s first cast-iron building, went up in 1853, replacing the group’s older headquarters on Nassau Street.

Along with the Astor Library (now The Public Theater) and the newly formed Cooper Institute, Bible House helped make Astor Place a hub of intellectual and literary activity.

Because of its size and appearance, Bible House became a tourist attraction of its own in the late 19th century. The printing rooms inside ultimately cranking out 77 million bibles. Yet as the neighborhood’s fortunes slipped in the ensuing decades, so did the building.

In 1956, after Bible House was torn down and replaced by a Cooper Union building, McSorley’s apparently salvaged one of the hearths, preserving it amid the sawdust floors and dusty frames in the bar’s back room.

Here is what I wrote about Bible House in The Bible Cause:

In 1853 the ABS opened its new Bible House on Astor Place in New York City.  It was a massive building.  The Bible House cost $303,000 to build; it was six stories high, and its brick exterior walls fronted four different city streets.  Much of the building was used for the production of Bibles, but there was also office space for ABS staff and secretaries and additional space at street level for “various business occupations.”  The building committee concluded that the new Bible House was “congenial to all who love the Bible, and in themselves a beautiful development of that Christian civilization and ‘good will to men.'”  The structure became the the center of print culture not only in New York City, but in the entire nation.  Over the course of the next thirty years it was a regular stop for tourists.  Mark Twain visited the Bible House in 1867 and claimed that he “enjoyed the time more than I could possibly have done in a circus.”  Its size and facade sent a clear message: Christian civilization in the United States would advance, and the American Bible Society would lead the way. 

Astor Place

Bible House at Astor Place

The Bible Cause at National Presbyterian Church

As many of you know, I have been taking my new book The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society on the road this year. (I would love to come to your church, school, college/university or organization.  Learn more here and let’s try to work something out).

This morning I was in Washington D.C. at National Presbyterian Church.  I am thankful to Rev. Dr. Quinn Fox who invited me to participate in their Adult Sunday School Summer Speaker Series.  A few highlights:

  • Holly Novak, a member of the church staff, showed me the prie-dieu that Dwight D. Eisenhower knelt upon when he was baptized (as an adult, in 1953) into the Presbyterian Church.
  • I met Clyde Taylor, the former United States ambassador to Paraguay.  Clyde’s father was a former board member of the American Bible Society and director of the National Association of Evangelicals.  I write about Clyde’s Sr.’s relationship with the ABS in The Bible Cause.
  • It was good to see former student Paul Kio, a history teacher in Maryland.  Paul not only showed up for the talk, but even asked a question!

Here are some pics:

Ike

The Eisenhower kneeler (see post). God meets country

Ike Plaque

National Pres

After my talk I hung around and worshiped with the congregation in this amazing sanctuary

The Bible Cause Tour is Rolling On

Bible Cause CoverWith the release of The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible SocietyI want to call your attention to our book tour.  Over the course of the next five months we will be doing public lectures and talks on the book.  We have several things scheduled already, but are always adding more engagements.  Most of the events will occur at colleges, universities, churches (Sunday Schools, Adult Forums, etc.), and religious and historical institutions.  If you are interested, drop me a line at jfea(at)messiah(dot)edu

Beginning in September, we are adding the revised edition of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction to the tour. (And extending things into 2017 and beyond).  A lot of these lectures will revolve around religion and politics (past and present–just in time for the November election!), the religion of the founding fathers, and the relationship between Christianity and the American founding.  Again, shoot me an e-mail if you want to set something up.

Here is where we are heading so far.

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

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

October 6, 2016: Dunham Bible Museum, Houston Baptist University, Houston, TX

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

October 28, 2016: Trinity College, Deerfield, IL

October 31, 2016: Centre College, Danville, KY

November 19-22, 2016: Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, San Antonio, TX

November, 2017 (day TBA): Faith Evangelical Free Church, Fort Collins, CO

#absbook

Bible Cause CoverAs the 200th anniversary of the American Bible Society approaches (May 11, 2016) I have been tweeting some of the themes of my book  The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Societyavailable now through Oxford University Press.

Follow along at #absbook, send me a twitter question, or join in on the conversation.

I should also add that Oxford University Press is offering readers of  The Way of Improvement Leads Home  a 30% discount on the The Bible Cause.

Order online at https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-bible-cause-9780190253066 with promotion code AAFLYG6 to save 30%!

Also, don’t forget that the “Bible Cause/Christian America Tour” is rolling on! Learn more about how you can host an event!

The Bible Cause Tour

Bible Cause Cover

With the official release of The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society taking place this week, I want to call your attention to our book tour.  Over the course of the next five months we will be doing public lectures and talks on the book.  We have several things scheduled already, but are always adding more engagements.  Most of the events will occur at colleges, universities, churches (Sunday Schools, Adult Forums, etc.), and religious and historical institutions.  If you are interested, drop me a line at jfea(at)messiah(dot)edu

Beginning in September, we are adding the revised edition of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction to the tour.  A lot of these lectures will revolve around religion and politics (past and present–just in time for the November election!), the religion of the founding fathers, and the relationship between Christianity and the American founding.  Again, shoot me an e-mail if you want to set something up.

Revised

 

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