New Semester, New Post

The Fall Semester is now 1 week old. Classes have all met several times.

With the new semester comes a new blog post, connected to one of my classes this semester.

In this post, I talk about a new book about Cotton Mather that I’ll be using to help students understand colonial New England Puritanism.

Read it here!

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Published in the Wall Street Journal!

I was very pleased to see an article I had written make it into the Wall Street Journal on Friday, April 21.

In the “Houses of Worship” section, my article appeared. I didn’t pick the title, but the editors headed it “In God We Trust, Even at Our Most Divided.”

The article starts reflecting on the addition of “In God We Trust” to American Coinage in 1864, during the Civil War.

It moves on, then, to reflect on what type of religious nationalism was being invoked.

I use that question to point to Lincoln’s religious themes in his Second Inaugural Address. It’s there, I claim that:

The 16th president thus demonstrated that the best religious reflection in public life could lead to humility, self-criticism, care for fellow citizens, and renewal of civic ties. And that seems like a beneficial reminder from the random coins jangling in our pockets.

Thus, when used properly, public religion can serve positive ends.

I’ve been glad to see the response to the article. I’ve heard from readers from Connecticut to Guam. John Fea picked up the article for his Sunday Night Odds and Ends.

Finally, in my bio, I mention the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center. Let me encourage readers to keep them on their radar screen as they plan and build an engaging presence in Philadelphia.

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A note on Religion in Antebellum New York

I enjoyed reading Kyle Roberts’ new book on religion in New York during the Early Republic, titled Evangelical Gotham.

Today at the Religion in American History blog, I make a point about how the book ties together the local story with national and international stories.

This helped my thinking, as I’m simultaneously working on an academic review of the book.

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U.S. Religion Updates

I thought it would be appropriate to provide some updates of blogs I’ve done on U.S. Religious History.

Last September, I reflected on ways I expected to encounter religious beliefs in my “American Revolution and Early Republic” class.

Then, at the end of the class, I was able to turn around and report what had worked out.

In January, I filed a quick note on recent books by Paul Harvey. But note: this Paul Harvey is not a daily news commentator but an historian writing about religion in the American South.

Then, this past month, I returned to the theme of religion in the American Revolution with a notice of Daniel Dreisbach’s new book Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers.

And, in between those posts, I’ve been thinking about new topics to cover here and in my monthly Religion in American History blog entry.

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Visiting St. Vincent College

Let me check in with a report from my trip this week to Latrobe, Pennsylvania—just outside of Pittsburgh.

Now, I learned a number of things about the area.

1. Latrobe is the hometown of Mr. Rodgers. I guess I was literally in “Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood.” I had the privilege of speaking in the “Fred Rodgers Center.” I’m just glad that the dress code did not require a cardigan sweater.

2. Latrobe is also the hometown of Arnold Palmer, the golfer. I was very impressed with the Palmer memorabilia I encountered around town and even at my hotel. My one oversight during the trip was my failure to order a half iced tea/half lemonade.

3. Latrobe is home to the training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers. We walked past the practice fields, where Steelers fans prepare for every season with hope.

4. Latrobe is home to St. Vincent College, my hosts. St. Vincent College was founded by the Benedictine missionary Boniface Wimmer. He founded both a monastery on the site and eventually the college. The monastery is still active, and St. Vincent has been instrumental in encouraging Benedictine spirituality throughout the country.

5. St. Vincent College is home to the Center for Political and Economic Thought, an institute doing really outstanding educational work for their students.

The Center, in cooperation with their Political Science Department, hosted me for St. Vincent’s Constitution Day Lecture. I had the privilege of speaking on “The Other Publius: John Jay’s Constitutional Moment.” Publius was the pseudonym for the authors of The Federalist Papers. While Alexander Hamilton and James Madison regularly get a lot of attention, Jay’s constitutional contributions are often overlooked. I was aiming to remedy that.

My hosts were incredibly gracious, and it was great to address a large auditorium. The questions posed by students and faculty were thoughtful and pushed in ways that helped me unpack some concepts I only gestured towards in the talk.

In short, the experience really made me appreciate another liberal arts college doing impressive things. May they bear good fruit!

Saint Vincent Basillica

The beautiful Basilica at Saint Vincent College. Courtesy Wikipedia.

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Teaching the American Revolution and Early Republic

As I always like to say, “Nothing says up-to-date like two months between blog posts!”

The semester has now begun at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul.

This semester, I’m teaching an “Honors Western Civilization” class, as well as the first half of our U.S. History Survey.

I also have the chance to teach an upper-level class in “The American Revolution and Early Republic.”

Some people have asked about readings. The books I’m assigning are these:

Ellis, Joseph. Founding Brothers. NY: Knopf, 2000.

Fischer, David Hackett. Washington’s Crossing. NY: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Frohnen, Bruce. The American Republic. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002.

Kidd, Thomas. God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution. NY: Basic Books, 2010.

Morgan, Edmund. The Birth of the Republic, 1763-89, 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.

Course Packet. Includes articles and primary sources.

The class already has a great vibe, and I’m looking forward to the class debates that start next week (for instance–“Should America declare independence?”). One other wrinkle that I’ll be throwing is playing selections from the Hamilton musical to keep us all on our toes. And, not to disappoint, we will talk about the Federalists.

Earlier this week I reflected on how I’m also planning to integrate religious history into the course. You can read that post here.

And now…off to class!

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Doing Digital History 2016

One highlight for me this summer is the opportunity to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Seminar called “Doing Digital History 2016.”

I’m joining twenty-three other historians for the next two weeks in Washington, D.C. The seminar has been organized by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. These are some of the leaders of the field, so it’s good to learn from the best.

This seminar is designed for mid-career scholars who are interested in gaining more digital skills for their work in history–this definitely applies to me!

If you’d like to see what we’re doing, you can check out the seminar’s website.

We’re also using the twitter hashtag #doingdh16.

I’m looking forward to developing skills that I can use both in my research and in my teaching at the University of Northwestern.

One day in, and I already have some good ideas. I’m sure more will be coming.

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