I understand that Ben Affleck was unhappy to learn his ancestors owned slaves. I mention this because I was also unexpectedly side-swiped by history while researching a chapter for After Aquarius Dawned on the Peoples Temple and the Jonestown mass death. As traditional authority, aka the Establishment, declined after the war in Vietnam and Watergate and all those liberation movements – sexual, gay, women’s, black – Americans practiced more freedom of choice, summarized by a women’s movement slogan, “the personal is political.” Since I was already looking into the Temple, I took a side-jaunt into the story of my cousins who perished in Jonestown. Continue Reading Judy Kutulas: What If My Relatives Were on the “Wrong” Side of History?
Certain immigrants, including Mormons, Hindus, and Muslims faced barriers in their effort to settle in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries because they were perceived as adhering to belief systems that were un-American. Though those religiously based cases were small relative to those immigrants facing exclusion or deportation based on their poverty or on medical grounds, they suggest that religious bias has long been a significant factor in early federal immigration policies. Continue Reading Deirdre M. Moloney: The Muslim Ban of 1910
A few months after the Pearl Harbor attack, the FBI took my grandfather away from his wife and seven children and confined him and hundreds of other Buddhist priests apart from their families and congregations. Their main “crime” was to be leaders of an enemy religion. There was no evidence produced to implicate my grandfather or any Buddhist priest of wrongdoing. Continue Reading Lon Kurashige: When Buddhism Was an Enemy Religion
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Headlines of racial violence and the unabashed racism within Donald Trump’s campaign for the U.S. presidency do not allow Americans to escape the fact that our nation’s value of pluralism lies on shaky ground. The U.S. Constitution, of course, did not originally allow for the full rights of women or people of African, Asian, or Native American descent, but the notion of America as a land of opportunity for all persists. Continue Reading Anne M. Blankenship: E Pluribus Unum?
We welcome a guest post from Bruce B. Lawrence, author of Who is Allah? This vivid introduction to the heart of Islam offers a unique approach to understanding Allah, the central focus of Muslim religious expression. Drawing on history, culture, theology, politics, and the media, Lawrence identifies key religious practices by which Allah is revered and… Continue Reading Bruce B. Lawrence: Daily Mercy: Allah in the Cracks
Whether or not you reading this post believe in them, ghosts fascinate Americans. A century and a half before the popularity of ghost-hunter shows on the SyFy Network and NBC’s award-winning show “Medium,” belief in spirit communication was serious and widespread in the United States. Spiritualism swept across the United States in the mid-nineteenth century and remained popular into the twentieth century. Put simply, a Spiritualist is one who believes that communication with the spirits of the dead is not only possible but also desirable. Popularized by the Fox Sisters and their “Rochester rappings,” Spiritualism interested Americans young and old, white and black, male and female, rich and poor. Much of this appeal came from Spiritualism’s ability to bridge the world of the living and the world of the dead. Continue Reading Emily Suzanne Clark: I Don’t Believe in No Ghosts: America and Spirits
Donald Trump’s suggested ban on Muslims entering the United States and the creation of a Muslim “registry” has been widely (and wisely) condemned. But from my perspective in the classroom, I see how the ideas are already affecting young people. Amid the rows of Catholics, Jews, agnostics, and evangelicals in my religion courses sit dozens of students hailing from the Middle East and South Asia. Their presence is a very good thing. Like most of my students, they are open, curious, and eager to learn. And they are baffled and intimidated by Trump’s rhetoric. Continue Reading Elizabeth Hayes Alvarez: Muslims in the Classroom
Recently, a blogosphere debate erupted on headscarves/hijab among various Muslim women. The debate was preceded by physical harassment against visibly Muslim women. The worsened climate of Islamophobia was greeted with shock and disgust by a number of Americans. A number of non-Muslim women—Dr. Larycia Hawkins of Wheaton College, for instance—put on the headscarf as a gesture of solidarity with Muslims. While some Muslims critiqued hijab solidarity as a form of appropriation, many welcomed it as a well-intentioned and courageous gesture in difficult times. Continue Reading Shabana Mir: The Headscarf/Hijab Debate
Patricia Appelbaum, author of St. Francis of America: How a Thirteenth-Century Friar Became America’s Most Popular Saint, talks to Peggy Bendroth as part of the History Matters series at the Congregational Library and Archives. Continue Reading Video: Patricia Appelbaum on St. Francis, America’s Most Popular Saint
Protestant aversion to organized religion is everywhere, even on the sign on the front lawns of churches. Smart congregations are dropping the Baptist or Methodist or Presbyterian label and replacing it with soft generic names like Willow Grove or Saddleback. They are becoming nonspecific “communities” and “fellowships” associating themselves with some broad spiritual aspiration, like “resurrection” or “hope” or “reconciliation.” Continue Reading Margaret Bendroth: Disorganized Religion
I started out thinking that the garden statue was kind of a cliché. Imagine just going out and buying a mass-produced plastic image and thinking there is something special about it! Commercial statuary seemed to trivialize Francis’s meaning, to make him less challenging. Instead of a figure who calls for drastic change, radical poverty, and absolute devotion—a saint who was active in the wider world—our vision is limited to a pretty statue and birdbath on our private property. But I came to change my views. There’s a real spiritual side to this, and also a cultural critique. Continue Reading Interview: Patricia Appelbaum on St. Francis of America
In the following video, Rizvi talks with Marilyn Wilkes about The Transnational Mosque in an episode of The MacMillan Report, produced by the MacMillan Center at Yale University. Continue Reading Video: Kishwar Rizvi on Islamic Architecture and Historical Memory
This past summer, Pope Francis released his very welcome encyclical on climate change. Supporters and opponents have both noted his attention to science. What I find more interesting is his attention to theology and religion. Continue Reading Patricia Appelbaum: Pope Francis and the 1967 Theologians
It’s the season of blessings again. In many places there are blessings of backpacks for the new school year. Here and there, bicycles that were not blessed in spring will have another chance. In October, religious groups all over the country and around the world will hold “blessings of the animals” in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. What I find remarkable is how many of these ceremonies take place in Protestant churches. It wasn’t always like this. Continue Reading Patricia Appelbaum: Protestant Blessings and Cultural Change
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As I walk around Philadelphia this week, I marvel at the signs, merchandise, and promotions welcoming Pope Francis. It’s hard to believe that just over a century and a half ago, Catholics were the target of violence in this city. Continue Reading Elizabeth Hayes Alvarez: Catholics and Protestants in Philadelphia: From Conflict to Collaboration
This shift of Pope Francis is significant—even radical. He is focused on the pastoral outreach to people, especially those who are judged as not being in communion with church teaching through divorce, use of contraception, and gay unions. He tells us to “stop the obsession” with sex and to find a way to welcome and heal those who have been marginalized because they do not measure up to the ideal state of church teaching on every issue. Continue Reading Sam Miglarese: Looking Ahead to the Visit of Pope Francis
The oatmeal market suffered under the weight of too many competitors, with prices often falling below production costs. Crowell saw the solution in the mill’s overlooked Quaker trademark. And so, at a time when most consumers shoveled their oatmeal from open barrels, Crowell’s product appeared on shelves in sealed, two-pound boxes. Richly illustrated advertisements saturated local, then national, print media. Both package and ad featured the iconic Quaker, always smiling jovially and holding a scroll on which was written the single word “Pure.” Continue Reading Excerpt: Guaranteed Pure: The Moody Bible Institute, Business, and the Making of Modern Evangelicalism, by Timothy Gloege
During recent debates over the flag, the history of the South sometimes appears as a straightforward tale of unrelenting proslavery leading up to the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era. But there’s another aspect of southern history that is sometimes overlooked—the antislavery of the early antebellum era. Continue Reading Kim Tolley: What If There Had Never Been a Confederate Battle Flag?