The Hendricksonians

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cat Fight!!

Turn your speakers on for this one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Books: Encounters of the Spirit

Richard W. Pointer's excellent book is a collection of several chapters all in service of a basic thesis: "the European and the Native American in the course of their encounter had each altered each other's religious life, not in duplicate manners or to comparable degrees but nevertheless in identifiable ways" (p. 2).

He notes that this is not a particularly shocking thesis--of course colonial contact led to two-way exchanges. In spite of what should be obvious, this is a relatively new area of scholarly attention. My own dissertation about exchange of religious and folk healing practices in the borderlands will comprise another chapter in this new history.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Books: Fundamentalism and American Culture and Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

I've just completed teaching a course on American Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism at Eden Seminary. These were a couple of the books I assigned.

Marsden's Fundamentalism and American Culture is the classic treatment of the roots of fundamentalism as well as the eventual conflict in the 1920s between fundamentalists and liberals in U.S. Protestant churches. I love this book. Marsden's writing is clear and thought-provoking, and he makes the kind of argument that I always appreciate: ideas matter to people.

Balmer's book, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, is a sort of travelogue through various expressions of evangelical life in the late 20th century. He does a fantastic job of showing the breadth of evangelical experience, from strict dispensationalists to Pentecostal faith healing to megachurch generic pietism. This book is the rare scholarly book that would also make enjoyable vacation reading.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Old Courthouse

Last week, we visited the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the riverfront in St. Louis. Operated by the National Park Service, this memorial includes the Gateway Arch as well as the Old Courthouse. The Old Courthouse if famous primarily for a trial that was held there: the Dred Scott case, one of the contributing factors to the Civil War.

Here's a photo I took of the Courthouse that I subsequently doctored with a website that turns your pictures into tilt-shift style miniatures.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Books: That Old-Time Religion

That Old-Time Religion in Modern America: Evangelical Protestantism in the Twentieth Century is by D. G. Hart, a historian and member of an evangelical church, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

The book is ok. It's a highly readable narrative of the move of born-again Christians from the shame of the Scopes trial to the prominence of the Christian Coalition. Hart's argument that evangelical pietism has led to many conundrums for modern-day evangelicals (who piously refuse to keep their faith separate from other areas of "secular" life) is a reasonable explanation for their tense relationship with modernity.

He also argues that fundamentalists and evangelicals preserve the basic character of Christianity from the American past while Liberals and other non-evangelical Christian groups have been the ones who have deviated from the historical norm. This argument, besides being pretty incredible, is not supported with evidence in this book. To my mind, all Christians in America had to change to deal with science, modern historical methods, and biblical criticism. Even retrenchment is a kind of change. Hart's failure to see how the "old-time religion" is also a construction of modernity keeps the book from being truly a worthwhile read.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

2009 Books

Following the example of my spouse, I'll try to keep track here of the books I read (or re-read) this year.

Yesterday, I finished When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. Like his other hilarious books, this is a collection of essays that draw on Mr. Sedaris's unbelievably funny interactions with the world. This one ends with a long essay about how he quit smoking by moving for three months to Tokyo.

Baptism of the Lord

The day in the liturgical year is coming up when we celebrate and remember Jesus' baptism. I've never quite understood why Jesus was baptized--in this I feel an affinity with John:

"Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’"

More than that, I know why I was baptized: to unite me with Christ in his death, to cleanse me from sin, to tie me forever to the community of faith. None of these seem to apply to the one in whose name I am baptized. It doesn't really matter if I understand, though.

The photo below is today's photo of the day from National Geographic. It's called "Christ of the Abyss." Maybe this helps me understand: Christ was baptized to meet me when I am under the baptismal waves.