Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Upon Further Review: Miller’s The Religious Roots of the First Amendment

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

This marks the first post in a new series, “Upon Further Review.” This series uses recent book reviews in Church History to think through broad questions in the study of the cultural history of Christianity. These are not “reviews of reviews.” Instead, they reflect the ongoing discussion around new books and new ideas in our field. Jeffrey Wheatley, a monthly contributor here at the blog, presents the inaugural post.

by Jeffrey Wheatley

In this brief post I would like to use Nicholas Miller’s The Religious Roots of the First Amendment and Mark Hanley’s review of Miller in Church History (June 2014)  as springboards to assess divisions in recent scholarship. Hanley begins his review by situating Miller’s work within a cadre of “religious historians” such as Mark Noll, George Marsden, and Nathan Hatch, who have in the past two decades struggled (and succeeded, to some extent) to gain scholarly capital against the tide of the “modern secular academy.” For Hanley the pivot point of this divide is the willingness to “take religious ideas seriously.” Of course, within the realm of scholars who take religion, or “religion”—the historical instances of subjects defining religion over against not-religion—seriously, there are a number of divisions as well. This is what I am currently interested in. Specifically, I ask: what methodological commitments undergird the works of the various scholars interested in these topics? Read the rest of this entry →

Recovering Previously Unheard Voices: Native Americans Pentecostals in the Assemblies of God

Monday, August 18th, 2014

By Angela Tarango

In my recent book Choosing the Jesus Way: American Indian Pentecostals and the Fight for the Indigenous Principle (UNC Press, 2014) I show how Native American Pentecostals took the Assemblies of God’s theology of missions, the indigenous principle, and transformed it into a tool that they used to critique the denomination’s treatment of Native believers and to demand more autonomy within Pentecostalism.  While the history of Pentecostalism in America is well documented in rich and varied ways, the greatest difficulty I faced in writing the book was trying to find the voices of the mid-twentieth century Native actors within the Assemblies of God.

Image Courtesy UNC Press

Today I want to talk about the importance of resurrecting the voices of minority groups within historically white denominations. While in graduate school we are taught about how theory and method affects our work, but we are often not taught how to work with archival sources to privilege minority voices, especially when those voices might be very hard to find, as it was in the case of my research. Therefore I will use this blog post to talk about the historian’s craft, and my experience in writing the history of Native Americans within the Assemblies of God.

I began the research for the book when I was a graduate student in American religious history at Duke. Like many graduate students, I didn’t realize what I was initially getting myself into. I had discovered that the AG had extensive missions to Native peoples, and I wanted to write about those missions, but no secondary literature existed, and there were only a few monographs that dealt with missionary work to Native peoples in the twentieth century. Little also existed that focused on Pentecostalism among Native Americans, and what did exist tended to be ethnographic. Initially, I considered doing ethnography—a study of an on-reservation Native American AG church, but issues of funding and time precluded this idea, and also I realized that ethnography would not help me capture the voices of the now deceased early to mid-twentieth century Native American Pentecostal leaders within the AG.  When I decided to not conduct a full-scale ethnography, I was left with only one option—the archives of the Assemblies of God. So I scraped together my graduate student pennies and set off for Springfield, MO, the home of Chinese Cashew Chicken, the Bass Pro World “Granddaddy” store, and the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Anyone who studies Pentecostalism knows that periodical sources tend to make up the bulk of your primary sources.  Pentecostals often relied on Pentecostal periodicals to both connect believers and to spread the word of the movement. Pentecostals themselves—especially early Pentecostals, were a highly oral tradition within American religion. The saints don’t tend to write down their conversion narratives; instead they often internalize it, re-telling the story of how they were saved and then baptized by the Holy Spirit often hundreds of times during their life. In the act of re-telling they will often relate their experiences to the particular audience they are talking to, or tailor it for a particular moment. But this particular trait of Pentecostalism means that it is really hard to trace what actually happened, especially in the earliest years. This was an even bigger issue when it came to Native Americans. In the earliest years of the movement Native people tended to appear in Pentecostal periodicals as “heathen savages” that only existed to be saved. Few records were kept with info on the missions or missionaries and the faith mission aspect of early Pentecostal work in general made it hard to track down records.

So to reconstruct the history of Native Pentecostals within the Assemblies of God I combed Pentecostal periodicals, looking for any mention of Native people or mission stations on reservations. I kept a list of names of white missionaries and Native missionaries, of mission stations, and of themes within the articles. Soon patterns began to emerge, and I was able to map out which missionaries (both white and Native) were most active in mission work to Native peoples. The women were especially hard to find information on because they were usually referred to as “Sister John Smith”—their Christian names were not used in the periodicals well into the 1960s. Once I had the names of those involved established, I pulled any missionary files I could find, and searched the archives for any references to them. Many missionaries did not have an official file, or sometimes identifying information was spelled wrong. In some cases I found small stashes of letters, often for fundraising, pictures, and very rarely I stumbled across a few reminiscences, autobiographies, letters, or written down testimonials. Because white Pentecostals exercised editorial control over the periodicals I also knew that they were being written for a white audience, one that did not see Native voices often as any more than a novelty.  With that in mind I tried hard to read through the themes that emerged about Native Pentecostals in the periodicals and tried to discern what was really going on at mission stations. Once I had narrowed down the themes that emerged I used them as entry points to understanding certain aspects of Native Pentecostal life.

Even with all that work I did not have a wealth of information, so I made the decision to follow the lives of a few prominent Native missionaries that I had unearthed, and one female white missionary who had worked closely with Native leaders. I wove intertwining narratives based upon specific themes for my historical actors and decided to tell the story of Native Pentecostals in the Assemblies of God in that manner. I also tried to find meaning in places where the sources were silent—some strategically so, and I researched background information on the general history of Native people so that I could situate this history better.

Such a method had its setbacks of course. The voices of lay believers remains muted throughout the work, as it mainly focuses on Native leaders. Female Native evangelists are pretty much missing from the work, which for me, was a sore point. Although I knew they existed in the time period I wrote about, they were not covered anywhere in the documents I found—my guess is only oral histories or familial recollections would fix this problem. And by focusing on a group of select leaders the history is powerfully shaped by their vision of Native American Pentecostalism. Yet even with these drawbacks I feel that I captured the essence of Native Pentecostals’ engagement with the AG, and unpacked their important fight for autonomy and a voice within the denomination.

Young scholars should not get discouraged when they find that sources are scarce in the area they wish to study. This is especially true for scholars who focus on minority traditions, since in their case the sources may be biased or even scantier than normal.  The important point here is to do as much as you can with what you have: read between the silences, try to find corroborating information, and don’t be afraid to find creative ways to address the gaps, so long as you stay true to the sources and the history they contain. Because, as my graduate advisor Grant Wacker used to say (and I believed he picked up this quote from his friend David Steinmetz), the job of the historian is to “resurrect the dead and make them speak.”

Angela Tarango is assistant professor of religion at Trinity University. Her first book, Choosing the Jesus Way: American Indian Pentecostals and the Fight for the Indigenous Principlewas published by UNC Press in 2014.


Bringing Religion to the Frontier

Friday, August 15th, 2014

by Andy McKee

In a speech given on May 26, 1826, titled “An Address to the Whites” Elias Boudinot, a Cherokee by birth, addressed First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia to raise funds for missionary activities in the southern United States. In it, he raised questions of race and religion to the community “What is an Indian? Is he not formed of the same material with yourself? For “of one blood God created all the nations that dwell on the face of the earth. Though it be true that he is ignorant, that he is a heathen, that he is a savage; yet he is no more than all others have been under similar circumstances. Eighteen centuries ago what were the inhabitants of Great Britain?” Throughout the 1830s and 1840s, American empire was thought about, created, and enacted on one of the most contentious and often hostile frontiers: the Southeast. In this post, I want to briefly discuss what I find most interesting about the framework that Boudinot worked and evangelized, while not forgetting that at the same instance, just a bit further south, Osceola was waging a “costly little war.”

Elias Boudinot (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Over the course of the summer, while not teaching, grading, holding office hours, or making off-hand tweets about the lack of hammocks in my office, the last several months have provided a great time for thinking about how religion and American empire interact and inform one another. In regard to the antebellum Cherokee religion that Boudinot worked to dismiss, American expansionism relied heavily on two court cases to answer the difficult question: “Do the Cherokees constitute a foreign State in the sense of the constitution?” On this question, Chief Justice Marshall famously declared that no; the Indians were “domestic, dependent nations,” subject to Federal control.

Yet, by the time the John Marshall’s Supreme Court heard Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, the collective imagery of the uncivilizable native was, for all intensive purposes, real. As Marshall wrote of the Cherokee in his opinion, “Their relations to the United States resemble that of a ward to his guardian. They look to our Government for protection, rely upon its kindness and its power, appeal to it for relief to their wants, and address the President as their Great Father.” Therefore, the legal cases surrounding the Indian nation – Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1830) and later Worchester v. Georgia (1832)– did the work of performing and offering particular details that intensified knowledges of race, religion, and American citizenship along the southeastern frontier region.

In casting the Cherokee as having no religion, the dominant position of Christian missionaries was established. In short order, laws, both local and federal, began to reflect the mentality of this powerful force and foreign policy issues regarding this most intimate of outsiders that were patterned by certain memories of violence and unrest. If antebellum America needed to manage and control rivalries between new states to survive, the Georgia cases suggest that expansion is and was not a series of simple, mechanically administered, organizational affairs, but instead yielded to the complicated nature of dealing Indian religions. From this framework of encountering empire, religious intolerance and violence became markers of how state interest in creating and protecting religious rights were not foregone conclusions.

The 1830s experiences of Boudinot and the relationship between America and various Native American nations within the expanding United States, I am suggesting, defines a scene in which the struggle for “proper citizenry” within American empire played out. Within the particularities of these specific events, a short speech given to a Northern Presbyterian audience, for example, operates “typical structures” of knowledge, exchange, and history that represent larger devices for thinking about interreligious interactions in America and the creation of broad categories such as “Christian” and, even more generally “religion.”

In the conclusion of his 1826 speech Boudinot remarked that the nation’s real “American” growth was constituted in the inhabitants who were an “industrious and intelligent people.” These potential great citizens, however, could not overcome the fact of not possessing a religion. Boudinot lamented: “The Cherokees have had no established religion of their own, and perhaps to this circumstance we may attribute, in part, the facilities with which missionaries have pursued their ends. They cannot be called idolaters; for they never worshipped Images. They believed in a Supreme Being, the Creator of all, the God of white, the red, and the black man. They also believed in the existence of an evil spirit who resided, as they thought, in the setting sun, the future place of all who in their life time had done iniquitously….The translation of the New Testament…has swept away that barrier which long existed, and opened a spacious channel for the instruction of adult Cherokees. Persons of all ages and classes may now read the precepts of the Almighty in their own language…” Boudinot’s approach to religion stresses how religious beliefs and attitudes were shaped in negative interactions between individuals and collective groups. The linkages between economics, Christianity, and civilization raises questions about how “religion” became one of many markers of difference used to solidify the once “open frontier” and put clear lines legally on the map.

Andy McKee is a doctoral student at Florida State University. He researches American religious history via labor movements, indigenous religions, and empire. He can be contacted at or on Twitter.

An ASCH Member Heads to Washington: Ben Sasse and the Christian Right

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

by Paul Putz

Although I now reside in Texas, I’m a Nebraskan born and bred, constantly looking for any and all opportunities to discuss my home state. To that end, the Nebraska Senate race this year has been quite a boon. It’s not that the race is exciting – far from it. Ben Sasse, the Republican candidate, is a lock to make the trip to Washington. But Sasse’s unorthodox résumé and his ability to win support from both establishment and insurgent Republicans has made him an intriguing personality.

Sasse on the January 27, 2014 cover of National Review. (Image courtesy National Review)

For my purposes – and for the readers of this blog – what is perhaps most interesting about Sasse is that he was once one of us: he used to be a member of the ASCH, and in 2004 he completed his PhD in history at Yale. In his dissertation, written under the direction of Jon Butler and Harry Stout, Sasse analyzed the rise of the modern religious right, arguing that the movement began in the early 1960s in response to Supreme Court decisions like Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp. The dissertation won two awards and garnered a book contract with Princeton University Press, although the book never did come to fruition.

Of course, winning Ivy league approval is not necessarily a good thing in the heartland. Thus, a GOP bio for Sasse describes his dissertation not simply as a piece of exemplary scholarship but also a work that “successfully attacked biased liberal narratives of Cold War history.” If that description piques your interest, Charlie McCrary has a summary of the dissertation at the Religion in American History blog, as does Sarah Posner for Religion Dispatches.

But Sasse’s scholarly contributions are not the only item of interest for ASCH folks. His personal religious views are worth considering, too, since years down the road Sasse may find himself as a subject of study for an enterprising young scholar’s dissertation analyzing conservative Christianity and American politics in the early twenty-first century. Baptized at a Missouri Synod Lutheran church (LCMS) in Plainview, Nebraska, Sasse attended an LCMS elementary school in Fremont, Nebraska before moving on to Fremont High School and then to Harvard. After Harvard he became associated with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, served as an editor of Modern Reformation, and co-edited Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals (1996). That background (and Posner’s essay) was enough for an alarmed writer for Salon to declare him a “hardcore member of the Christian right” and a “conservative Christian crusader.” If we take that description at face value, then Sasse (the Lutheran evangelical culture warrior) perfectly symbolizes the LCMS’s turn to the political right and its increasing connection with conservative evangelicalism, a turn described by James Burkee in Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod: A Conflict that Changed American Christianity (reviewed in the March 2012 issue of Church History).

It seems to me, though, that the story is a bit more complicated. For one, Sasse apparently had a dalliance with Presbyterianism (see page 81), although he is now apparently back within the Lutheran fold. Second, a steady critic of the Christian Right, D.G. Hart, is a friend and supporter of Sasse. Hart (whose book on Calvinism was reviewed in the latest issue of Church History) is adamant that Ben Sasse is a “2K [Two Kingdoms] Reformed Protestant.” That is to say, Sasse believes that “[t]he affairs of the civil and temporal realm are one thing, the politics of God’s kingdom another.” Hart’s claim is supported by Sasse’s connection with other Reformed 2Kers like Michael Horton and R. Scott Clark.

If Sasse is a 2Ker somewhat in the mold of Hart – and nothing from what I’ve seen of his rhetoric indicates otherwise – then the Christian Right’s dreams of Christianizing America and/or restoring America to its Christian roots are not part of Sasse’s vision. This may be a distinction without a difference for some: although Sasse’s rhetoric does not rely on “return America to God” themes, his views on nearly every current political issue line up with those of the Christian Right. But then again, as Daniel Williams and others have shown, this is true for most GOP members. Perhaps we are at the place where any Republican with a well-known affiliation with Christianity is by default considered part of the Christian Right. At any rate, I’m not prepared to offer a definitive statement of categorization – I’ll leave that to the experts, or maybe even someone who actually sits down with Sasse and talks to him about the subject.

Whatever one’s opinion of Sasse’s political views, by this November the ASCH will have one of its own as a member of the Senate. In the meantime, I’ll continue watching Nebraska politics from afar. And I’ll probably continue keeping my eye on the conservative Presbyterian blogosphere in the hopes that a Sasse/2K-related blowup might be in store during this election cycle. Even that would be more exciting than Nebraska’s Senate race.

Paul Putz is a PhD student in history at Baylor University. He can be found online at or you can follow him on twitter @p_emory.

Church History – September 2014

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014


The September 2014 issue of Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture is now online. You may view the issue by clicking here.

This issue features articles by Daniel J. Nodes, Simone Maghenzani, Elizabeth Bouldin, Newton Key, Zachary Purvis, and Carl R. Weinberg.




The Second Century, Hobby Lobby, and the Invention of Christianity

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Today we begin featuring regular dispatches from a group of monthly contributors. These contributors approach the cultural history of Christianity from a variety of research interests, reflecting the diverse membership and interests of the Society. I look forward to the conversation in the comments and on social media. If you’re interested in writing for the blog, please contact me via e-mail or Twitter. Thanks for reading. -MG


By Thomas J. Whitley

I had been working on my dissertation for a few hours already on the morning of June 30, 2014 when the Supreme Court published the Hobby Lobby decision (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby). Unlike a lot of my fellow contributors on the History of Christianity blog, I do not work in American religious history. I work in antiquity, studying sexual slander and identity formation in early Christianity. As such, my dissertation focuses on the little-known 2nd century “heretical” figure Carpocrates. Read the rest of this entry →

The Big Picture: Eighteenth-century Evangelical Doctrines and English Culture

Monday, August 4th, 2014

By Charles Wallace

hindmarsh small

Bruce Hindmarsh’s recent delightfully wise afterword in the ASCH blog recalls for us his presidential address, delivered this past January in Washington and now expanded in Church History’s June number. His careful research and graceful presentation, both in the room and in the journal, deserve our admiration. In effect, he has put the Society’s imprimatur on the growing “cultural turn” in early Methodist studies. And in the process he has deftly illustrated once again our journal’s “new” subtitle: Studies in Christianity and Culture.

It is not the first time the unlikely connection between British art and the evangelical revival has been made. Peter Forsaith has tilled this field for some time (see his perceptive article “Methodism and its Images” in the T & T Clark Companion to Methodism, ed., Charles Yrigoyen, Jr., 2010). But Hindmarsh has focused more narrowly and given us a particularly fine example of what such interdisciplinarity can achieve. Following up on impulses he felt while “off-duty” and browsing the Huntington Library’s collection of 18th-century British painting, this accomplished church historian immersed himself in art criticism well enough to demonstrate how the two specialties might engage. Both art and evangelical religion, we shouldn’t be surprised to know, were breathing the same cultural air. But who knew that the connections and tensions between artistic titans Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough could illuminate the similar loving but contested relationship of Wesley and Whitefield?

Intriguing parallels may also be sketched, Hindmarsh shows, between painting and the basic doctrinal concerns of Calvinistic and Arminian Methodists. Calvinist spirituality, its take on divine and human agency, may be represented by the aesthetic term “sublime” which was increasingly applied in ethical and philosophical conversation as well. Contemplating divine sovereignty and human creatureliness is a key element in this approach, and Hindmarsh sees it illustrated in Gainsborough’s landscapes and self-portraits. The example he has us view, though, is Joseph Wright’s dramatic painting of an erupting volcano (“Vesuvius from Portici” c.1774-76), nicely evoking Rudolph Otto’s Calvinist-sounding conceptualization of “the Holy” as mysterium tremendum et fascinans.

On the other side of the cultural/theological divide, the Arminian “inner life of doctrine” is best described as a life of the struggle, the agon. This active approach to life and faith was appropriated by the Wesleys in part from their reading of Milton (think Samson Agonistes as well as Paradise Lost); but it was certainly also pervasive throughout the British Enlightenment. The painting Hindmarsh chose to represent this spirituality of struggle is the picture he mentions in his blogpost and that graces the cover of Church History, “The Choice of Hercules,” commissioned by the moralist Third Earl of Shaftesbury from Paolo de Matteis (1712). From our 21st century perspective young Hercules may seem to be merely pondering (rather than outright agonizing) over the allegorical option before him. It’s either virtue, represented by the earnest woman on his right engaging him rationally at eye level, or the blandishments of the somewhat scantily clad woman at his feet to his left, symbolizing worldly pleasure. In any case it appears he has calmly made up his mind. For a more intense version of the story, Hindmarsh recommends Handel’s musical version of the same scene wherein indeed Hercules seems to wrestle emotionally with his choice, singing “Where shall I go?” Here (more so in the oratorio than the painting) the accent is on Arminian human action and agency rather than Calvinist contemplation of the divine.

Leaving Hercules to make his decision, we might ponder a similar question: “Where shall we go?” Hindmarsh, pointing the way, has painted religious historical scholarship into a large cultural landscape – a bigger picture even than the one he literally ran up the Ashmolean stairs in Oxford just at closing time to contemplate! It not only includes religious texts, but art, music, architecture and the rest of 18th-century English culture. Scholars like Hindmarsh and Forsaith have already begun to (and will continue to) fill in the canvas. And so, too, have historians from beyond our guild taken up palette and brushes, the most recent being Misty Anderson, whose impressive Imagining Methodism in 18th-Century Britain: Enthusiasm, Belief & the Borders of the Self (Johns Hopkins, 2012), shows that cultural (in this case literary) historians can cross-over and focus on “our” territory, too. Like Hindmarsh, she has discovered surprising connections between Methodism and other improbable cultural productions, in her case, theater, novels (including erotic fiction), satirical art (e.g., Hogarth’s anti-Methodist engravings), and popular music. The big picture is indeed larger than we thought; early evangelicalism is taking its place on this wider cultural canvas. Thanks to Bruce Hindmarsh for his part in expanding our view and our viewing and for inviting us to travel with him. Perhaps we may both contemplate what we see and struggle to express it artfully in our scholarship!

Charlie Wallace is chaplain and professor of religious studies emeritus at Willamette University, Salem, Oregon. He is working on a study of food and drink in early Methodism.


The Story Behind the Picture

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

By: Bruce Hindmarsh

My presidential address in January, “The Inner Life of Doctrine: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on the Calvinist-Arminian Debate Among Methodists,” is published this month in Church History, but it began several years ago on a padded bench in Henry E. Huntington’s villa in San Marino, California.

This grand house was built in 1911 and is now the centre-piece of the Huntington Art Galleries. I was in Pasadena with my family and working on a research fellowship at the Huntington Library, and every day I enjoyed walking through the gardens to have lunch in the Café. I used to stop off on the way at the Huntington villa to wander through the galleries, and especially to sit in the Grand Manner Portrait Gallery to look at pictures by Gainsborough, Lawrence, Romney and other eighteenth-century greats. In the library, I was reading sources having to do with Methodism, but here, sitting on my padded bench, I was looking at pictures painted around the very same time.

I became fascinated with one particular portrait, the painting of the actress Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse by Joshua Reynolds. As I looked at the date, 1784, I tried to think of all that was going on that same year among the evangelical figures that I was reading about. I realized how easily we begin to study our subjects in disciplinary silos, rather than to make the rich interdisciplinary connections that reflect the reality of life lived on the ground then as now. As I became curious, I began reading about eighteenth-century portraiture and seeing connections to my work on evangelical subjects. At first some of the connections were interesting enough, but superficial. Apparently, Reynolds had a niece who was a god-fearing Methodist who wrote a commentary on Ezekiel. The evangelical John Russell was a leading pastelist and member of the Royal Academy with Reynolds. And so on. But then the connections became more profound as it became apparent that there were deeper aspirations and cultural concerns that brought art and religion into the same frame (so to speak!). I began to try to look at these things together, and if art and religion, then why not other cultural “silos,” and so I began to draw in philosophy, literature, and music, as connections appeared. In the end, this interdisciplinary perspective allowed me to take the Calvinist-Arminian debate among evangelicals—what for many folks today would seem a something of sectarian backwater—and place it back at the centre of eighteenth-century culture and to show how it reflected fundamental aspirations. I used the “sublime” and the “agon” as terms of art that made these connections.

There is a nice coda to this story, since my journey with this article also ended with sitting on another bench in another gallery. Several of us were in Oxford in April for the first joint meeting the ASCH and the Ecclesiastical History Society in the UK—a very successful venture and stimulating conference. It was a busy four days on the ground in Oxford for me, as co-chair of the conference. I was also hosting an alumni event for Regent College and visiting with old friends and colleagues from earlier days in Oxford. It was breathless. Immediately after the conference on Saturday, I rushed to North Oxford to have tea with my good friend, the great Methodist scholar, John Walsh. He insisted on “whizzing” me back into town, after tea, to get ready for the alumni reception. At the last minute, I remembered that the painting, “The Choice of Hercules” by Paulo de Matteis was housed at the Ashmolean in Oxford, and I’d be going right by. This is the painting, commissioned by the Third Earl of Shaftesbury, that appears on the cover of this month’s issue of Church History, and it figured largely in my address and the article. I had not actually seen the painting in person, and I did not know if it was on display. I asked John to drop me at the corner by the museum, and I rushed past the tourists pouring out the front doors and went to the main desk. It was five minutes to closing, and they were shutting down the computers. A kind museum volunteer started up her computer again and looked up the painting. It was upstairs in the European Gallery at the far end, and if I ran I might be able to get there in time to see it. And so I ran, taking the stairs two or three at a time, and arrived huffing and puffing to the gallery, where I saw the painting. It was hard to miss. I took the picture below to help me remember the scale of it. The gallery attendants kindly gave me ten minutes with the painting in an empty gallery, and it was a fitting conclusion to my research for this article.

I am left with two reflections on my experience. The first one I have alluded to already, namely, that we ought as historians to be open to interdisciplinary investigations as a way of seeing our religious subjects in their fullest context. But secondly, and more personally, I am reminded of the importance of a certain element of disinterested exploration, or what Josef Pieper termed “leisure,” in our research. It was in the interstices—the breathing spaces—of my research at the Huntington, when I was “off duty,” so to speak, that I found my way to Reynolds and began to contemplate connections that would later bear fruit in my work. This element of scholarly leisure is increasingly hard to find, and hard to justify in terms of the world in which we now live, but I am grateful the Huntington remains the sort of gracious place that invites such contemplation.

Finally, I refer to an oratorio by Handel in my article, and if any readers would like to hear the music for this work, “The Choice of Hercules,” which is a kind of sound track to the painting below, you may hear at least snippets of the music here. The track for the trio that I describe in my article is number 18.

Bruce Hindmarsh is the James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College. This post is drawn from his Presidential Address to the American Society of Church History at the Society’s 2014 Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. The address was published in the June 2014 issue of Church History and is available here.

New Books in Religious History: Hudnut-Beumler’s In Pursuit of the Almighty’s Dollar

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

By: James Hudnut-Beumler

The editors asked me to contribute to this author’s feature, which focuses on recent books in religious history and their back-stories, so to speak. The book that they had in mind was my In Pursuit of the Almighty’s Dollar: A History of Money and American Protestantism. They indicated that I could write about how the book came to be written, the books that didn’t get written out of the research conducted, and any unplowed fields that I might have found along the way available to other scholars, or some combination of these themes. I accepted the challenge because I have always been interested in other’s “book stories” and because this book, my fourth, had emerged from the greatest forest of possibilities to-date and hence seemed worth writing about for others.

In Pursuit began as a proposal to write a non-reductive economic history of American religion that was funded by the Lilly Endowment as part of its work in Financing American Religion, and specifically a grant for the Material History of American Religion Project, which I directed that led to the writing of a wide range of monographs by individual scholars who were using non-literary evidence (food, movies, images, things heard, dress, etc.) as ways to extend what we knew about American religion in the past. My evidence was economic–money raised, money spent, buildings built, people paid–and so forth. The year the grant was issued was 1996 and my book was not in copy-edited form for a decade. (Typical post-tenure timetable, I know). Here then are the twists and turns.

I began, with the able assistance of Daniel Sack and several students collecting every knowable datum, data set, books about money in churches and synagogues, memories of ministers and their families (more on that later) and evidence about religious spending. The project resembled nothing so much as an NSA data collection effort; for interpretive history it was about as useful. Every summer for three years, however, all the authors in the Material History Project brought what they were writing on to a long weekend writing conference and provided and received critique on chapters in progress. Two pieces of critique stuck with me: limit the story to Protestants and get more people into the story. The first was good advice, since the Protestant money story really is a different one especially in the first centuries of Protestant cultural hegemony. And, of course, peopling our histories (particularly when theological concepts or percentage rates of change are being discussed) is always a way to return important questions of motivation and effect to the foreground.

Once I was simply focused on the Protestants and immersed in their material, one theme presented itself more strongly than all others, namely the reality that the freedom from state establishment of religion attendant to American nationhood was, seen economically, the first great privatization of a European public good, and religiously seen, a funding crisis that preachers would over time convert into the virtue of stewardship. This pursuit of money for God’s work, all the while knowing that it funded the preacher’s own salary was, the ministers’ enduring dilemma. The curious history of this practice of money raising, and what it tells us about the people doing the asking and giving, and the conception of churches God “required” in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries became the backbone of the book.

What then of all the other boxes of data, books, letters, and records I had collected? I had originally organized my material into economic categories marked “nature of the firm,” “income,” “capital,” “market competition,” “labor,” “price series data,” “clergy thinking about the economy,” and so on. A number of other useful studies might have been written out of these boxes, but having noticed that over long spans of time, people (mostly clergy) and buildings and their upkeep consumed roughly 2/3s and 1/3s, respectively, of all congregational income, I decided to mine those aforementioned boxes for what those Protestants spent God’s money on, and how that spending both changed over time and served as material disclosures about religious life in particular times and places. Once I did that, I discovered that not a few of my sources that told just how far the ministers’ incomes went were ministers’ wives writing on a more practical plane than their husbands were given to express themselves. Together, the income and property chapters formed the rest of an economic history of American Protestantism from the era of colonial establishments to the age of entrepreneurial preachers in the early 21st century.

In the last paragraph I deliberately use the indefinite article to claim that I had written an economic history. My exploration of finance and expenditure of Protestants might well be extended to Catholicism where changes in labor patterns especially would figure strongly in any such history. I understand a dissertation is already being completed along the lines of my study for American Judaism and I look forward to reading it. Beyond what we would learn from applying similar approaches to different groups, the boxes that didn’t get used in the study intrigue me. There was one with so much material on religious publishing that I was grateful for those who had written monographs on the topic, but also aware of how a truly economic view of American religion would attend to the ways tracks, newspapers, and book concerns (and now the Internet) form religious experiences in ways that are present in individuals in congregations, but often are difficult to see at that level of analysis. So some historical attention to the religious publishing sector as a factor in the economy of religion would be a welcome addition to our field. Another box that didn’t get used to its full potential was the one marked “religious entrepreneurship.” In Pursuit I described how we have gone from an America where select members of your town’s church decided what kind of religion you got when they chose a settled minister to a contemporary situation where in America you can have as much religion as you or someone else is willing to pay for. The rise of religious entrepreneurs is a phenomenon that is treated, to be sure, in the study of new religious movements. As an American religious historian, however, I am fascinated by the number of instances of repackaging old time religion in a shiny new cover for sale with a spirit that is as much American free enterprise as it is sincere faith. In both of these examples, looms a sense that in modern America the religious economy (like a political economy) is larger and more complex than the actors themselves perceive, but nonetheless a factor in the histories with which we grapple.

I used the term “non-reductive economic history of religion “at the beginning of this essay and I return to it at this, the end. I believe there are many additional insights that economic perspectives on what is going on in various religious histories can offer, providing of course that the tools are used to enlighten rather than flatten the religious subject itself. I would encourage other scholars in the field to count, quantify, and compare in order to see the movement of religious people in and over time. Follow their money as they follow their faith and we just might discover something valuable.

James Hudnut-Beumler is the Anne Potter Wilson Distinguished Professor of American Religious History at Vanderbilt University. His new book, In Pursuit of the Almighty’s Dollar: A History of Money and American Protestantism, was published by UNC Press in 2014.

The Catholic Gaze: Agency through Discipline

Friday, June 27th, 2014

By: Sally Dwyer-McNulty

Examining the interpersonal dynamics surrounding Catholic uniforms for Common Threads, I found three subgroups the most readily interpretable: those who make the clothing rules, those who follow the rules, and those who violate the rules. But other actors, often women, old and young, fictive and real take up a role regarding uniforms — they are the observers. Applying Michel Foucault’s insights about the practices that enforce norms in Discipline & Punishment: The Birth of the Prison, these uniform monitors comprise a network that participates in identifying rule violators and disciplining them. Foucault refers to this network, one that is informal and usually outside of the traditional institutional framework of power, as part of the “mechanism of discipline.” Nevertheless, through their policing Catholic gaze, these often unrecognized inspectors of attire and behavior claim a degree of authority, and assist in sustaining the material and behavioral dimension of Catholicism (1).

For those caught out of uniform or stretching the dress code, the “tattling” female may embody the stereotype of the nitpicky and gossiping woman, but in the context of Catholicism, with few opportunities for official authority, some women find policing a more accessible and viable form of power. The fictional character Mrs. Quimp in the 1944 film Going My Way reminded me to take note of the significance of the lay enforcer. In my initial analysis of Mrs. Quimp, I placed her in the category of a foil used by the film director Leo McCarey to further accentuate the difference between the new, more modern curate, Father O’Malley, and older more traditional pastor, Father Fitzgibbon. Observing Father O’Malley’s stylish boater hat and casual behavior with the boys playing baseball in the street, Mrs. Quimp telephoned the rectory to report on the new priest’s activities to the pastor. I likewise noted that McCarey employed a common stereotype of the nosey and gossipy female neighbor. After reanalyzing the scene, however, I feel l I may have missed an interpretive opportunity. Mrs. Quimp, like real life Catholic women, surveyed the boundaries of Catholic attire and behavior, and therefore, took on the regulator position of Catholic presentation by asserting herself as a tattler. In short, Mrs. Quimp constituted a vital part of what Foucault defines as the mechanism of discipline.

In reconsidering Mrs. Quimp’s role in policing uniform norms, real life examples from my own research reinforced this insight about those outside the formal mechanisms of power playing a policing role in support of Catholic norms. Sisters, it may be more commonly known, inspected school uniforms, prom gowns, and graduation attire. But, I am not thinking of the sisters here. After all, they are often the identifiable originators of the clothing policies themselves. Students, however, are another story. They, like the fictional Mrs. Quimp, participated in surveillance. For instance members of the Student Council at Mount St. Joseph Academy in the Philadelphia area checked and fined students who transgressed uniform standards in the 1940s. Students could charge other students, if they caught violators with “untidy shoes and uniforms” (2). Students who found stockingless legs on the tennis court or on the bus, both of which were considered penalty worthy infractions, issued fines as well. In 1939 at the John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School, a student officer met girls at the front door of their school for a uniform inspection. Accompanying a picture of two hatless girls arriving at the front door of the high school, the yearbook caption read: ”’Crime does not pay,’ listen to the tale of a pair of young sceptics who had doubts speedily removed. They ventured to disregard a precept of Hallahan’s code by carrying their hats in their hands. On their arrival at the scholastic portals, a blue-ribbon student officer pricked their bubble of nonchalance by awarding them a punitive pasteboard apiece” (3). The administrators required the students to wear hats to and from school, but it was the girls themselves they called upon to reinforce the rule. Despite the critical presentation of Mrs. Quimp’s monitoring, in the area of Catholic clothing, church members valued the act.

Sociologist Nathan Joseph, author of Uniforms and Nonuniforms: Communication through Clothing, like Foucault, identifies the position of the knowledgeable observer as a norm enforcer (4). According to Joseph, members of a group affirm or denounce the other distinctly dressed members and status holders of an organization through inspection. The gazers may not be as obvious as the “big three” but they are no less significant in maintaining identifiableness and discipline. And, despite their participation in promoting control, they nonetheless become agents in their own right.

(1) I would like to thank Lynn Eckert, Janine Peterson, and Robyn Rosen for reading and offering helpful comments on this essay. See Dany Lacombe, “Reforming Foucault: a critique of the social control thesis,” British Journal of Sociology, 47:2 (June 1996):332-352. Lacombe argues that for Foucault, “Power implies a network of relations of force between individuals. This relation of force does not suggest confinement; rather power is a mechanism that both constrains and enables action.” Lacombe, 342.
(2) Sally Dwyer-McNulty, Common Threads: A Cultural History of Clothing in American Catholicism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014), 150.
(3) John W. Hallahan Catholic High School for Girls’, Philadelphia, PA. 1939 Silver Sands (yearbook), 48-49. Although the photograph was likely staged, by its inclusion, the photograph conveyed a recognizable scenario of a student monitoring fellow classmates.
(4) Nathan Joseph, Uniforms and Nonuniforms: Communication through Clothing (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986), 50.

Sally Dwyer-McNulty is an Associate Professor of History at Marist College. Her new book, Common Threads: A Cultural History of Clothing in American Catholicism, was published by UNC Press in 2014.