Book Give-away: Wilsey Edition

IVP Academic provided me with an additional copy of John D. Wilsey’s new book American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea.

You may recall that I interviewed Wilsey a few weeks back about the book.

If that piqued your interest, here’s an opportunity to get a copy.

In the comments below, leave a comment about how you would use or define the concept of American exceptionalism.

The best definition will get a copy of the book.

Comments will be open until February 1.

Define away!

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Journal of American History Review

I recently opened up my newly-arrived Journal of American History (December 2015 issue) and scanned the table of contents. I was quite pleasantly surprised to see a review of Patriotism and Piety!

John Compton of Chapman University provided the review. He offered a clear summary of the book’s argument and content. I most appreciated his introductory and concluding paragraphs.

He opened with:

In Patriotism and Piety Jonathan J. Den Hartog casts the familiar story of the Federalist struggle against Jeffersonian “infidelity” in a new light. He shows that leading Federalists, so often depicted as supporters of established religion and theological orthodoxy, staked out a range of positions on the question of religion’s role in public life. Moreover, he demonstrates that Federalist views on the church-state relationship evolved over time and in directions that would continue to shape American politics long after the last of the New England religious establishments had crumbled.

I’m always happy to place things “in a new light.”

Moreover, Compton saw at least one “original insight” in the book:

Den Hartog’s most original insight concerns the voluntarist phase of Federalist religious thought. He ends his study with the provocative claim that the out-of-power Federalists laid much of the groundwork for the Second Great Awakening. Instead of retreating “into an energetic pietism,” Federalist luminaries, including Jay and Boudinot, accepted leadership positions in the American Bible Society and other voluntary associations, thus “direct[ing] religious energy outward, into the world” (p. 204). In the process, they constructed an ecumenical infrastructure that would infuse the nation’s public life with a deeply religious sensibility for generations to come.

I’m appreciative of Compton’s close attention to the book’s claims and figures.

The entire review is available (although perhaps not for long) here.

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Interview with John D. Wilsey

Today at the Religion in American History blog, I posted an interview I did with John D. Wilsey. John is a scholar that I have gotten to know over the past two years, and I consider him a friend.

John has recently published the book American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea.

Readers of this blog would do well to pick it up. I highly recommend the book. For a taste of Wilsey’s concerns, check out the interview!

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Northwestern is Hiring!

In my role as Chair of the History Department at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, I am pleased to announce that our department is hiring. We are looking for an historian of the Ancient World.

Here is the official announcement:

The Department of History at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, Minnesota seeks to make a full-time, permanent appointment at the assistant or associate level in the field of Ancient History. Any area or era of the Near East and Mediterranean world (including late antiquity) will be considered, but the successful candidate should demonstrate the ability to connect his or her knowledge with the world of the Bible and with the field of archaeology. The ideal candidate will also demonstrate the ability to teach an outside field on some region of non-western modern world history (such as the History of the Middle East). The appointee will teach upper-level undergraduate classes in Ancient History, as well as support the department and university by teaching the introductory History of Western Civilization course. In rotation, the faculty member may support the department in teaching classes on historical methods or the senior-level history seminar.

Ph.D. required by time of appointment. ABD applicants will be considered.

For full consideration, applications (including cover letter, curriculum vitae, graduate school transcripts, and the institution-specific form, including supplemental questions) should be submitted by December 18. Position is open until filled.

To view the job description and begin the application process, go to

We are looking for great candidates. We invite applications, and I would encourage readers to forward this announcement to those who might be interested.

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Puritans with Sympathy?

When most Americans think about the Puritans–when they think about them at all–it’s usually to dismiss them as stern, hard-hearted folks–the kind of people who enjoyed plastering Hester Prynne with a “Scarlet Letter.”

One of the burdens of my US History classes is to chip away at this stigma. The Puritans took things seriously–it’s true–because life is serious business. But that didn’t keep them from loving whole-heartedly and feeling deeply.

We have more evidence of this in a recent book by Abram Van Engen called Sympathetic Puritans. Van Engen’s book is all about how Puritans valued sympathy, understood as care and even imaginative identification with others.

I wrote a longer review of the book in my monthly piece for the Religion in American History Blog.

Check it out!

Van Engen Cover

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Historical Fan Art

Before this semester is too far gone, I wanted to share a piece of Student Fan Art that a student produced last spring.

It envisions the History faculty at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul as Comic Book heroes, “The Doctors.”

That would be historian of Russia Matthew Miller as “The Czar.” Historian of Ancient and Medieval History Clyde Billington (now retired) shows up as “The Knight.” Our Egyptian specialist Charles Aling is “The Pharaoh.” And yes, yours truly is a Captain-America inspired “The General.”

One can only imagine what types of adventures these heroes will embark upon, but I can guess they will be to slay historical ignorance and help set the world aright.

Thanks, Ben W., for your creativity!

The Doctors2

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Thomas Hooker, the Puritans, and their “Terrifying” God

Apparently, the preparation for and the beginning of a new semester has reduced my blogging to ZERO.

With the beginning of the new semester, I’m again walking through American history. Early on in the semester, we try to come to terms with the Puritans. In fact, I have John Winthrop’s famous sermon, “A Modell of Christian Charity” ready to go for tomorrow.

On the topic of the Puritans, over the week-end I published a post about a new book by Baird Tipson, Hartford Puritanism: Thomas Hooker, Samuel Stone, and Their Terrifying God.

Tipson Cover

Hooker was the Puritan minister who migrated to New England in the 1630s and founded Hartford as a new Puritan settlement. Stone was his assistant and a systematic teacher. Together, they aimed for an extremely rigorous Puritanism that included an expectation of the New Birth, coupled with a society dedicated to helping all its members on the way to holiness.

I reviewed the book at the Religion in American History blog. Enjoy!

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