Thursday, October 25, 2007

John Hagee's Zionism Sinks To New Level of Insanity

Pheasant Season

I took JR the lab out on Saturday and Monday to see if he could flush any pheasants for me to shoot and him to retrieve. So far, no luck, but it's been interesting using a "duck" dog for upland style hunting. I don't have a good enough command over the Pointers and Setters at the farm to really use them, plus since the PA Game Commission releases the birds, they aren't exactly wild which means the pheasants run instead of fly. Therefore, a flushing dog can be more effective than a pointer. We will get some birds since we have until the end of November.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Review: Democratization of American Christianity

The Democratization of American Christianity, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989 by Nathan O. Hatch, xiii-312.

The American Protestant religious landscape can be described as fractured. Perusing the Yellow Pages in most American towns and cities will yield scores of Baptist groups, Methodists, Presbyterians and many other varieties of Protestantism. How this happened is a difficult thing to explain. However, it is the subject matter of The Democratization of American Christianity as Nathan Hatch weaves a complex tale to demonstrate the genesis of this fracture. In this work Hatch argues that the consequences of the Great Awakening, Enlightenment and American Revolution led to a populist, anti-establishment, informal Christianity which still impacts the present.

Hatch arranges his material topically and chronologically in each chapter. The work is divided into four sections: Context, Mass Movements, Audience, and Legacy. The topical-chronological organization works well in his presentation. This is largely due to the fact that Hatch deals with a broad swath of groups, movements, leaders and publications. This approach works well because Hatch is able to present a complex picture of the American religious landscape without oversimplifying explanation.

Hatch grounds his arguments in several concepts and movements. First, he cites innovations in methodology during the Great Awakening as laying the groundwork for populist movements in the 19th Century. He explores the impact of newer musical styles which began during the Great Awakening and the subsequent rejection of previous worship traditions which sprang from the Reformation and were practiced by “established” churches. He also showed the transformation from revival during the Great Awakening to revivalism after the Revolution. The difference between the two being that revivalism placed a greater emphasis on conversion and personal experience.

Second, he argues that the Enlightenment emphasis on the individual as a rational being capable of employing reason to gain understanding provided a framework for dissent. To prove this, he offers examples of anti-clerical movements which swept through the young Republic. These movements eschewed formal training of ministers, decried the use of traditions such as creeds and confessions, and adopted common vernacular in sermons and teachings. This anti-clerical sentiment led to a rise in uneducated ministers and church movements which sought to release themselves from the imposed orthodoxy of the learned clergy. Traditionally, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists were classically educated, well-read, and schooled in their respective tradition. As anti-clericalism became dominant, these groups found themselves losing membership and receiving disdain from the new clerical class “of the people.”

Third, Hatch grounds material in the American Revolution. He explains the popularity and rise of Jeffersonian republicanism, which created a nation “by the people, for the people” and subsequently led to a desire for a faith that was “by the people, for the people.” This went hand in hand with anti-clericalism and radical individualism, but had its own nuance. Hatch argues that Christian adaptation of populist Jeffersonian ideals led to a marriage of American patriotism with Christian Protestantism. This was reflected in sermons, pamphlets and religious newspapers as Biblical explanation was couched in Jeffersonian terminology. Ideals such as liberty and the pursuit of happiness were presented in a way that threw off the shackles of the “old guard” that held close to its orthodoxy in favor of personal faith, experience and the right of the individual to interpret Scripture for his or her own self.

Hatch’s explanation is quite compelling, particularly in light of his use of primary sources. While there is a general historiography interpreting this era of American Christianity, Hatch deals mostly with materials produced during this time: religious newspapers, printed sermons, and pamphlets. This does not mean he neglects important works by other scholars, but his focus is to reevaluate previous understanding of this era as it relates to Christianity. One of the strongest areas of this work is his use of new hymns and poems produced by the “new” movements in American Christianity. These materials are not only cited, but placed into an appendix to demonstrate the radicalism of their nature. This gives the reader and the researcher a better understanding of how his subject should be understood.

One area which could be strengthened is Hatch’s presentation of the Mormon faith. He places this group in context as a radical Protestant splinter, but leaves the impression that Latter Day Saints never saw themselves outside that movement. It is right to have this group presented as initially Protestant, but a short time later, they were seen as outside Protestant Christianity.

Despite this minor quibble, Democratization is worthy of the many awards it received. It is well-organized, compelling and provides a good background for the person who wishes to understand how social and religious movements at the end of the 1700s led to mass movements in the 1800s that affect American Christianity and society even today. This book is a worthy companion to Patricia Bonomi’s Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Politics, and Society in Colonial America, and Mark Noll’s America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln. It also provides a stark contrast to Perry Miller’s “New England Mind” thesis, as the stoic, educated clergy class was later overthrown in favor of a clergy who mixed Jefferson, Jesus, and America to create a plethora of groups competing for souls and forging new religious identities.

Just in case you didn't know

Dumb...

I installed wordpress to my host. I can get into the dashboard, etc, but cannot seem to get the page correct. Hopefully it won't be long until this redirects you to bobbygriffith.com which will be the site for my blog. That is, if I can figure out how to make that happen.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom!

Here's to 50 great years and 50 more!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Coolness

Today I received my complementary copy of The Encyclopedia of Religious Revivals in America for the transcription work I did for the project. This is a great two-volume resource with entries on revivals and revival type movements from the 1500s to present. The first volume is simply encyclopedia entries, which is well organized and has contributions from top scholars. The second volume is primary documents covering the same time. This, to me, is a great asset to the work because it allows the reader to not only have basic information, but also information originating from that time period, and perhaps by a person with an entry. In addition, there are several amazing bibliographies in the back of the second volume as well as information for locating research materials at archives, denominational contacts, etc. I believe this work will be a serious reference for years to come. Kudos to Dr. Michael McClymond of St. Louis University for heading up this much needed project.

And it was cool to see my name in the acknowledgments section. :)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Happy Birthday Barry Switzer

My former employer, The Oklahoman, has a great article on former OU and Dallas Cowboys coach, Barry Switzer.
I have to say this. Despite his problems, he was still someone who made a part of my childhood special. As silly as that may seem, there was a charming characteristic about him that I, as a child, could relate to. Of course, he's turned that charm into a money-making machine, but at least he's given back to the State and University that "made him" so to speak.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Because I don't have enough on my plate

I recently applied for and accepted a position as Youth Minister at the church we attend, The Greene Valley Presbyterian Church, in PA.

Needless to say, Jen and I are excited for this opportunity.

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