Category: Social Issues


Is Religious Freedom Good for Growth? A Panel Discussion

Can religious liberty promote economic growth and long-term development? An expert panel of scholars moderated by Brian Grim discusses various perspectives on this question with the conversation ranging everywhere from the Ottoman Empire to Guatemala, and from Chinese house churches to bourbon. The panel includes noted luminaries Ilan Alon, Timur Kuran, Rachel McCleary, and your fuzzy host Anthony Gill.

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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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Timothy Neary on Race, Sports, and Catholics

Prof. Timothy Neary (Salve Regina University) takes us back to Chicago during the mid-20th century to discuss the creation of the Catholic Youth Organization by Bernard Sheil, and how this sports-oriented organization helped to bridge racial divides in a rapidly changing city. We cover the life and times of Bishop Sheil, some interesting facts on the popularity of boxing, and the legacy of this important religious outreach effort.

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Samuel Gregg on Pope Francis, Argentina, and Economics

Over his first four years in the Vatican, Pope Francis released two important encyclicals dealing, in part, with economic issues. Dr. Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute talks about the nature of Catholic social encyclicals, and the historical context of Argentina that influenced how Francis views economic issues.

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Paul Harvey on Religion in the American South

“The South” is commonly referred to as the Bible Belt in the United States today, and despite New England having a more explicit Christian identity during colonial times, the region from Virginia down to Florida and out to Texas has been shaped by religious dynamics from its most early days.  Prof. Paul Harvey, professor of […]

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Lerone Martin on Preaching on Wax and Phonograph Religion

Beginning in 1925, Columbia Records and a number of other independent record labels began to record and distribute the sermons of African American preachers. These recordings became enormously popular and represented a “folk worship” stream of African American religiosity in the first half of the 20th century. Dr. Lerone Martin (Danforth Center, Washington University) explains the origins of this phenomenon that lasted for several decades, as well as the dynamics and lasting impact of “phonograph religion.” We include three clips from popular preachers in our interview, and more can be found on by clicking “read more” below.

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Roger Luckhurst on Zombies!

The walking undead have swept popular culture in the form of books, movies, and comics in recent decades. Prof. Roger Luckhurst (University of London) discusses the origins of the zombi(e) narrative and how it has developed over time, examining how the cultural and socio-political context of the time drove how we looked at the “unhuman other” and how we envisioned ourselves. We encounter a number of very interesting literary characters along the way and discuss why movies such as “Dawn of the Dead,” “28 Days Later,” and “Warm Bodies” played important roles in rethinking what it means to be dead, yet not dead.

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Brandon O’Brien on Paul Behaving Badly

Paul was a central figure in the progress of early Christianity. Looking back at his writings with 21st century eyes and sensibilities, we often see an individual who was arrogant, gruff, misogynistic, and even racist. Prof. Brandon O’Brien puts Apostle Paul into context for us and discusses his book “Paul Behaving Badly” (co-authored with E. Randolph Richards). We learn about Paul’s history, his cultural context, how he could have written letters while imprisoned in Rome, and whether or not we should pay any heed to what he said back then for our lives today.

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William Reimer on Religion & Violence in Toronto

Sociologists have long noted, and perplexed by, the long-term trend in interpersonal violence in industrializing nations, a pattern that dates back several centuries. William Reimer, author of “Revisiting Toronto the Good,” explains how the spread of religious ideas and themes in the late 19th century helped to mitigate murder rates in this Canadian “city of churches.” We discuss the rise of British Evangelical Protestantism, its influence on proper manliness and prison reform, and how it became infused in the political fabric of the city in the late 1800s.

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Maureen Fitzgerald on Irish Nuns and Welfare

Irish immigration during the 1840s and afterwards had an important effect on the cultural, economic, and political history of the United States. Prof. Maureen Fitzgerald (College of William & Marry) discusses how Irish nuns worked with poor immigrants and the effect they had on transforming New York’s welfare system over the course of the 19th and early 20th century. This seldom told story illuminates the important role women religious played in advocating for women, children, and families during a period of rapid change in American society.

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