Category: Christianity


Steven Pfaff on the World of 1517

What did Europe look like economically, politically, and religiously on the eve of the Protestant Reformation? What broad historical trends facilitated the success Martin Luther’s schismatic break from the Catholic Church where others in the past had failed? Prof. Steve Pfaff (Sociology, University of Washington) discusses the factors spurring on the Protestant Reformation, sharing some of the most up-to-date research on how social movements spread.

The second in our series devoted to the people and events of the Protestant Reformation. Great for classroom use.

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Robert D. Rubin on Judicial Review & the Religious Right

Prior to the 1980s, the incipient Religious Right was skeptical of the US judicial system given a variety of decisions that went against their interests. Dr. Robert Daniel Rubin examines how Southern Christians came to embrace judicial review using two crucial court cases involving education in Mobile, Alabama, and Judge Brevard Hand who decided them. This discussion is both a microcosm of social and political change brewing in the South in the 1980s, but also a reflection of broader trends developing in American society.

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Sarah Dreier on Anglicans, Lutherans, and African Churches

As certain Christian denominations in Europe and America turn towards progressive values such as the support for same-sex marriage and other LGBTQI rights, how do their affiliated churches in Africa manage this cultural change? Sarah K. Dreier, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington, explores this often overlooked tension within transnational organizations. She discusses how African Anglican and Lutheran churches that have a stable source of funding and/or are facing significant competition from Pentecostal churches are more likely to vocally oppose progressive policies on sexuality and gender issues.

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Cara Lea Burnidge on Religion and Woodrow Wilson

To what extent did President Woodrow Wilson’s southern Presbyterian upbringing play in shaping his political attitudes and American foreign policy? Prof. Cara Burnidge (U of Northern Iowa) addresses this question in a fascinating discussion that tracks the former Princeton University president through a period of dynamic religious and political change in American history. A strong Calvinist influence combines with the burgeoning thought of the social gospel movement in the late 19th century and leads to a vision for a “new world order.”

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Marion Goldman on Martin Luther and Spiritual Virtuosity

With the quincentennial anniversary of the Protestant Reformation (dated from October 31, 1517), we begin an occasional series looking at the events and people that made up this historic event. We start with Prof. Marion Goldman (sociology, University of Oregon) who argues that Martin Luther had the characteristic of a “spiritual virtuoso” and that this factor was critical to the split that transpired between the Catholic Church and Protestants. Spiritual virtuosos are individuals who are concerned with personal sanctification, are reluctant leaders, but do acknowledge their role in inspiring social movements. Our conversation also covers other similar individuals such as leaders of the Abolitionist Movement and Steve Jobs of Apple fame.

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Markus Schafer on Religion, Doing Good, Networks, & Triadic Closure

Is your trans-congregational triad closed? What does that even mean?! Prof. Markus Schafer (U of Toronto) explains how all of this relates to how we are networked to other people in our congregations and community. He shares the results of several network studies that show religious traditionalists exhibit more prosocial behavior than expected given how they are connected to other individuals beyond merely their own church. He also reveals that evangelical Christians are not only good at making friends, but good at helping their friends make more friends. A fascinating study of the wide web of connectedness that religion helps promote!

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Does America Need a Christian Democratic Party?

With all the tumult in the American political landscape recently, is the United States pump primed for a Christian Democratic party similar to those in Europe? Three scholars debate this topic based upon a scholarly symposium published in the journal “Perspectives on Political Science.” Prof. Hunter Baker (Union University), the organizer of the symposium, argues that the time is right for Christian Democracy in America. Prof. Bryan McGraw (Wheaton College) notes that while Christian Democracy (CD) was helpful in Europe for consolidating democracy during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the conditions in the U.S. are not ripe for CD. Finally, Prof. Micah Watson (Calvin College) takes a decidedly negative position towards the concept of CD. Your host, Tony, chimes in with his own thoughts at the end.

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Marion Larson on Bubbles, Bridges, and Multifaith Engagement

In an increasingly pluralistic world, can Christians break out of their bubble and engage individuals from different faiths while still retaining their own spiritual identity. Prof. Marion Larson of Bethel University discusses how she and her co-author, Prof. Sara Shady, have approached this subject theoretically and as a matter of practical experience. Prof. Larson shares her thoughts on the topics of ecumenism, tolerance, and approaching others with an attitude of hospitality.

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Jim Papandrea on the Catholicism of Early Christianity

Protestants have often been critical of the Roman Catholic Church for adding on a number of traditions, rituals, and theologies that were not part of early Christianity. Prof. Jim Papandrea of the Garrett-Evangelical Seminary (Northwestern University) argues that many of these critiques are misplaced and that early Christianity was very Catholic (capital C) in nature. He discusses issues such as tradition, faith and works, the papacy, and veneration of the Saints. The conversation is very interesting given that Prof. Papandrea was once Protestant and is now Catholic, why Tony was once Catholic and is now Protestant. Ecumenical understanding is a theme running throughout our discussion.

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Kyle Roberts on Evangelical Gotham

Gotham. The Big Apple. The City that Never Sleeps.  New York City. We have many images of New York City, but how many of us as thinking of that worldly city having a vibrant evangelical community in the 19th century?  Kyle Roberts, an assistant professor of history at Loyola University (Chicago), takes us on a journey […]

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