The Story Behind the Picture

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.

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

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.

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The Catholic Gaze: Agency through Discipline

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.

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Arthur Scherr’s “Thomas Jefferson Versus the Historians”: A Response by Matt McCook

June 24th, 2014

By Matt McCook

The religious faiths of the founders, particularly Thomas Jefferson, have been the subject of so much recent scholarship and polemical writing, Arthur Scherr’s title, “Thomas Jefferson Versus the Historians: Christianity, Atheistic Morality, and the Afterlife” led me to wonder which historians Scherr’s Jefferson would battle. It was clear from the opening paragraph that historians who supposedly champion the position of the Religious Right were the intended opponents. Although all respondents on this blog have mentioned that Scherr casts his net too widely in identifying the culprits, the critique bears repeating. Polemical works on all sides deserves to be called out by serious scholars, but not all scholars who argue that Jefferson was more Christian or more comfortable with some degree of cooperation between church and state are necessarily writing on behalf of the Religious Right. I find little similarity between the works of David Barton and the scholarship of James Hutson, Paul Conkin, Edwin Gaustad, or even Daniel Dreisbach. Their works are not merely provocative, as unsupported polemical assertions are, nor would they claim their conclusions were above historical revisionism. Rather, they have contributed reasonable assertions based on available evidence that demand attention; their contributions are not so easily dismissed.

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Church History – June 2014

June 17th, 2014

The Spring issue of Church History is out on Cambridge Journals Online. In this issue:

Robert McEachnie, “A History of Heresy Past: The Sermons of Chromatius of Aquileia, 388-407.”


Alison More, “Institutionalizing Penitential Life in Later Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Third Orders, Rules, and Canonical Legitimacy.”


Jan Stievermann, “Faithful Translations: New Discoveries on the German Pietist Reception of Jonathan Edwards.”


Bruce Hindmarsh, “The Inner Life of Doctrine: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on the Calvinist-Arminian Debate Among Methodists.”


Emily Anderson, “Containing Voices in the Wilderness: Censorship and Religious Dissent in the Japanese Countryside.”


Phillip A. Cantrell, II, “We Were a Chosen People”: The East African Revival and Its Return to Post-Genocide Rwanda.”


Check out the full issue at Cambridge Journals Online.

Thomas Jefferson Versus Some Historians: Frank Cogliano Responds to Arthur Scherr

April 21st, 2014

By Frank Cogliano

In “Thomas Jefferson Versus the Historians” Arthur Scherr challenges the view that Jefferson’s “wall of separation” between church and state was permeable and that the Sage of Monticello was a devout Christian. The view of a Christian Jefferson who accepted a blurring of the boundary between church and state, supported fast days and attended church services in public buildings, has gained traction in recent years particularly among those who advocate for a “Christian Founding” of the American Republic. If Jefferson, so long portrayed as deistic skeptic who believed a wall should separate church and state, the president who excised miracles from the New Testament, can be shown to be a devout Christian, then there can be no question that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and (by implication) should be a Christian nation today.

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Jefferson Versus the Historians, or Barton Versus the Historians? Thomas Kidd Responds to Arthur Scherr

April 14th, 2014

By Thomas Kidd

The topic of Thomas Jefferson’s faith generates an extreme range of opinions. These run from Christian pop history writer David Barton’s insistence that, until late in life, Jefferson was an orthodox Christian, to Arthur Scherr’s contention in his Church History piece that Jefferson lived and died as an “Epicurean deistic pagan,” a pantheist, or perhaps even an atheist.

Barton’s The Jefferson Lies strained credulity by its selective use of evidence, leading Thomas Nelson publishers to pull the book from circulation in 2012. Scherr’s article respects standard historical practices in its use of evidence, and his analysis highlights many important aspects of Jefferson’s faith (or lack thereof). But as with other polemical views on Jefferson’s beliefs, Scherr’s thesis – that Jefferson considered himself no kind of Christian, not even a radically liberal one – outruns the nuances of the evidence.

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Thomas Jefferson and the Historians – John Ragosta Responds to Arthur Scherr

April 8th, 2014

By John Ragosta

Asked for a comment on Arthur Scherr’s analysis of Thomas Jefferson, Christianity, morality, and an afterlife, I am a bit ambivalent.

Scherr is deeply concerned with misinformation from the “religious right” suggesting that Thomas Jefferson was not really devoted to a strict separation of church and state or that he was a devout Christian (and the possible implications of such misinformation to constitutional debate and policy – although he studiously ignores those issues).

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Gearing Up for Our First International Conference

April 1st, 2014

By Shaun Horton

The ASCH’s first joint international conference with the Ecclesiastical History Society begins this Thursday. There will not be an official live blog this time, but there is an online conference program for those who, like me, prefer mobile phones to printed paper. Scan the QR code to the right to see it on your phone or tablet. (If you need a bar code scanner, try searching your app store for “Redlaser.”) There is also some last minute conference information on Constant Contact, which will be incorporated into the online program soon.

It is not too late to register for a lower rate than you will pay at the registration desk. Register on to register in dollars. If you prefer pounds, you can register through the EHS site. also has information on the conference hotel for anyone who still needs to book a room.

Finally, we would love to hear from anyone who winds up blogging about the conference. Just drop us a line. You might even try live blogging some of the events. (We use Coveritlive, but 24LiveBlog provides a nice, free alternative.) The trick is to listen carefully, and stop when your hands get tingly.

Blogging can be a great way to engage, reflect upon, and develop some of the ideas that get batted around during the panels and conversations over the course of several days. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend it.

Collection Care for Small Libraries

March 19th, 2014

By Emily Suzanne Clark

This post is a quick heads-up about a research planning project being overseen by the American Theological Library Association (ATLA), the Catholic Library Association (CLA), and the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL). The project is called “In Good Faith: Collection Care, Preservation, and Access in Small Theological and Religious Studies Libraries,” The research planning project centers on the creation and analysis of a preservation survey for small theological and religious studies libraries, archives, and cultural institutions. The point of the survey is to collect information from the librarians and archivists at small religious studies and theological libraries in order to get a sense of collection care and preservation needs that are unique to these smaller institutions. This way, the ATLA, CLA, and AJL can plan classes, seminars, and programs specially geared towards these smaller libraries’ needs. The rich materials found in these smaller institutions are so important to the kind of work we as scholars can do and sometimes unknown to us.

The survey is available now and will be until April 12, and please pass it on to to your favorite small library or archive. Though the advisory group has been working on a definition of a small library, it is being conceived somewhat broadly. So if you’re not sure if your favorite small religious studies or theological library fits the definition, send it on anyway.

Here is more information about the survey.