Review of The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History

The religious historian Matt Sutton has reviewed The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History, for the Christian Century. You can read the review here. A little excerpt:

There are probably few reference books that vacationers will drag down to the beach this summer. And though I make a living in academia, there aren’t many works of reference that I want to read from cover to cover. I love history because I love stories, storytelling and engrossing narratives- not because I’m taken with the facts, figures and dates that populate reference books. But once I agreed to review The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History I had no choice but to crack the spine. I am glad I did.

The guide, edited by Paul Harvey and Edward J. Blum- the former a highly respected and accomplished historian of American religion, the latter one of the rising stars in the profession-provides an excellent overview of many of the most important trends, topics and issues in American religious history.

Read more:

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Youtube Interview on Moses, Jesus, and the Trickster

Here’s a Youtube interview done with me about my book Moses, Jesus, and the Trickster in the Evangelical South (University of Georgia Press,2012).


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Faces and Places of Christ: An Introduction

My co-author Ed Blum’s introduction to 8-part blog series “Faces and Places of Christ,” to feature posts by artists, scholars, and writers, starting today and through next Sunday. This is in part a tribute to those who influenced us in writing The Color of Christ. A little excerpt:

 So with Easter season upon us and the importance of “looks” all around us, I decided to contact some of the scholars and artists who influenced the making of our book. These are people who have grappled with the image of Christ in their own lives and works, and who taught Paul and me so much. The guiding questions to them were: “how do visual images of Jesus and where they are placed address religious, social, political, and theological questions? What is your first memory of encountering Jesus in visual form and how do you make meaning of that event now? What does the process of Jesus image making mean in the contemporary world and how does it continue to impact people?”

Each day from tomorrow to Easter, we will feature a different scholar or artist. David Morgan will reflect on his long relationship with the art of Warner Sallman, while Anthony Pinn will call for us to stop looking at Christ and start looking at ourselves. Janet McKenzie will discuss why she painted her now-famous Jesus of the People (1999), while Chad Hawkins will relate how his drawings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints temples tries to reflect the timelessness of Christ that calls out to him for humility. We will sit with Arlene M. Sánchez-Walsh as she visits her great-grandmother’s home and sees her Jesús, and we’ll fly back in time to Gary Vikan’s days as a boy scout from Minnesota and the variety of Jesus figures he encountered.

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My Friend, the Bancroft Prize Winner

(Crossposted from Religion in American History):

My Friend, the Bancroft Prize Winner

Every once in a while a good and generous person gets their just reward in this life. I’m happy to recognize such a gift today, with the announcement of this year Bancroft Prize winners.

There are three, but I want to highlight one: Anne Hyde’s Empires, Nations, and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860 (University of Nebraska Press).

From today’s New York Times:

The Bancroft Prize, one of the most prestigious annual honors for historians, has been awarded to three scholars for books published last year.

The winners are Anne F. Hyde for “Empires, Nations and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860” (University of Nebraska Press); Daniel T. Rodgers for “Age of Fracture,” an intellectual history of 1970s and 80s America (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press); and Tomiko Brown-Nagin for “Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement” (Oxford University Press).

blogged last year about Empires, Nations, and Families, just as it was coming out, and recommended it to all; a good description of the book and of Anne’s career is here. Since then, it has not gotten nearly as much attention as the other two (very deserving, obviously) recipients, but I bet it will now. There’s something for everyone in the work, including for you religious history scholars, including a major effort to place Mormonism and Indian religions in the broader context/history of “the West” during this period, as it moved from “nations” to “nation,” as well as stories about the intermingling of families which thereby became the intermingling of religious traditions.

The author, Anne Hyde, has been my friend since my first week of graduate school, just a few (28, to be precise) years ago now (she started two years ahead of me at Berkeley, but finished four years ahead of me, a testament to her discipline and my interest in being a jazz hound more than a scholar). We both moved to Colorado Springs close to the same time — myself to take a temporary position at Colorado College, where I filled in for a retired professor until the new permanent replacement came on board — which just happened to be Anne. A few years later I chanced, by the vagaries of the job market, to arrive back in COS to take my position at the little state university on the bluffs overlooking the city, but continued to haunt the Colorado College library as my hideaway for research and writing.

Over the last few years, I sat up on the third floor of the CC library, hacking away at my much shorter and less ambitious books, in a state of constant nervous exhaustion and sartorial disarray, and anxious for 11:45 a.m. to arrive so I could sprint across campus to my NBA (Noon Ball Association) basketball game. Meanwhile, Anne sat a few tables away,  as gracious and evidently serene and composed as ever as she put the finishing touches on a book I assumed would be a very good one, but turns out to be that and more: a 500+ page work that masterfully juxtaposes and weaves together the social, economic, cultural, religious, and political histories of Anglo-American, Native American, Mexican, and other peoples in the trans-Mississippi West from 1800 to 1860. Last summer I sat camped at my 3rd floor library perch and spotted Anne coming to my table with her book, which I knew was just coming out then. She handed me a signed copy; I began reading and was immediately humbled by what an amazing work she had accomplished. I’m thrilled for my friend and colleague and recommend this work to all.

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Barack v. the Bible, says Barton: My Latest at Religion Dispatches

Paul Harvey

Some of you who find me here may be interested in following my short essay pieces for the onlinReturn to Religion Dispatches Homee journal Religion Dispatches. The most recent one concerns David Barton, a self-styled historian and one-man intellectual entrepreneur from Texas, who recently declared that Barack Obama is America’s all-time most “biblically-hostile President.” The piece, a classic of bad history writing (I plan to use it in future classes to demonstrate the kinds of fallacies that historians should avoid) , is perhaps more importantly placed within the context of a history of hyperbolic rhetoric about the religiosity (or lack thereof) of American presidents. My essay “It’s Barack v. the Bible, Says Barton,” tries to set the current furor over a supposed “war on religion” in historical context. News flash: we have plenty of arguments about religion and politics all through American history, including now, but there is no “war on religion” going on. Indeed, as the excellent historian John Fea has recently explained, Obama may be the most explicitly Christian president in American history (even as he criticizes the administration’s lack of follow through in certain areas of faith-based initiatives).

Here are my other contributions to Religion Dispatches thus far; click on the link to read any of them. The topics range from pieces on the band Arcade Fire and the singer/performer Gillian Welch, to the superstar Christian financial advisor Dave Ramsey, to a review of the PBS series God in America, to the meaning of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. While you’re at it, my blog Religion in American History is going on 5 years old now, and I’ve got a roster of about 25 top scholars from across the country who contribute there, so make sure to check it out.

It’s Barack v. the Bible, Says Barton
Keeping the “Southern” in Southern Baptist Convention
Martin Luther King in the Era of Occupy
Why 9/11 Changed Everything Nothing
Fix the Economy GOD’$ WAY: Dave Ramsey’s Great Christian Recovery
Blessed With a Dark Turn of Mind: Gillian Welch’s Spiritual Strivings
Selling the Idea of a Christian Nation: David Barton’s Alternate Intellectual Universe
Arcade Fire and the Suburban Soul
Martin Luther King: Libertarian and Anti-Abortion Social Conservative
Congress Reads the Constitution, Tea Party-Style
“Liberal Nazis”: The Republican Crusade Against NPR
Country Music Minus the Culture Wars: A Lesson from a Legend
The Brutality of the American Eden
White Rockers in Search of Soul Salvation

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Call Me Any Time

If you are checking out this site, I hope you will follow me elsewhere:

Follow me on Twitter
“Like” my co-authored book The Color of Christ here
Follow podcasts on my books here
Read my group blog Religion in American History, which “directs the scholarly conversation” in the field
Read our blog from the History Department at the University of Colorado
More about me at my faculty website
Check out my Amazon book page 

And thanks for your support

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Paul Harvey’s Podcasts

Paul Harvey

The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History (Columbia Guides to American History and Cultures)Here’s at least part of the rest of the story, folks. Art Remillard, editor of the Journal of Southern Religion, has recorded a podcast with me here, about my book Moses, Jesus, and the Trickster in the Evangelical South. Click here for more information. The podcast is about 20 minutes.

Then, John Wilson and Stan Guthrie, editor of the fine journal Books and Culture, discuss the edited volume compiled by myself and Edward J. Blum, the Columbia Guide to Religion in American History, in this podcast (about 5 minutes). About the book, in a promo for the podcast, they write the following:

In this week’s podcast, Stan Guthrie and I discussThe Columbia Guide to Religion in American History, edited by Paul Harvey and Edward Blum, who have brought together a terrific lineup of contributors. Books of this sort rarely invite sustained reading. Here is a sterling exception. I know this volume will soon be on the shelves of many contributors to Books & Culture.

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Moses, Jesus, and the Trickster

I’m very pleased to announce the publication of my book Moses, Jesus, and the Trickster in the Evangelical South (University of Georgia Press, 2012). I just received my hot-off-the-press copy today; the book should be generally available for purchase in about 2-3 weeks. The book represents the published/expanded form of lectures given at Mercer University back in the fall of 2008; in fact, chapter 2 was a lecture I gave on the evening of Tuesday evening, November 4, 2008. One of my best friends from college, Bill Underwood, formerly interim president of Baylor University, is now president of Mercer University, and graciously hosted a post-lecture election watching party on that historic evening.

Images from the book will be posted here soon. Because I put in a number of paintings in the book, I thought I would use the opportunity provided by my personal website/blog to post some of this artistic material in color, since it had to be reproduced in black and white for the book.

Here is just a little bit from the introduction, summarizing some of the major themes of this work, which incorporates historical primary sources, literature (including extended analyses of Absalom, Absalom!, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Edward P. Jones’s The Known World), art (including paintings by Clementine Hunter, Purvis Young and Sister Gertrude Morgan), film, music (a lot of that), and material culture:

Won’t somebody tell me, answer if you can!
Want somebody tell me, what is the soul of a man
I’m going to ask the question, answer if you can
If anybody here can tell me, what is the soul of a man?
I’ve traveled in different countries, I’ve traveled foreign lands
I’ve found nobody to tell me, what is the soul of a man

 When the pioneering gospel blues slide guitarist Blind Willie Johnson recorded “What Is the Soul of Man?” for Columbia records in the late 1920s, he challenged listeners to ponder a question central to the religious experience.  . . . This book tours some of the answers Protestants in the American South historically have given to the philosophical quandary posed by Blind Willie Johnson. How did southern Protestants, black and white, from the eighteenth century to the civil rights era, grapple with the intractable religious and philosophical questions, through religious expression and belief? How did they come to terms with questions about the soul of man? Most particularly, how did they do so through religious institutions, thought, and culture? How did they do so through theology, folklore, music, art, drama, and film? And why did their cultural expressions of religious faith characteristically take on an intensity and vivacity that continues to attract our attention today, giving the South its Bible Belt image. . .

To understand fully how southern believers have defined the soul of man, we must broaden our field of vision beyond the usual suspects in the study of southern religion. Here, we will do so through an examination of four historical literary archetypes: Moses, Jesus, the Trickster, and Absalom. Moses and Jesus are familiar, Absalom and the Trickster less so, yet they too have been formative to creating the southern sacred. Southerners’ answers to questions about the soul of man suggest the power of evangelical Protestantism in southern history, as well as the ways in which that power consistently has been challenged and questioned. Skeptics have nibbled around the edges of the evangelical culture that came to cultural dominance after the Civil War. Literary figures, cultural archetypes, and musical explorations have added layers of cultural complexity to what otherwise might be seen as a solid South of evangelicalism.

. . . .  Absalom, Absalom! (Vintage Paperback Edition) If Jesus has been a pure figure in white southern theology, he could become a trickster of the trinity in black thought and lore. If Moses has represented deliverance, then Absalom has shown how the Egyptians and the Israelites in fact were entangled in one narrative. Absalom suggests that the southern drive for purity, and the obsession with miscegenation, covered over the fact that no people were more impure. The design of the masters of southern history–for racial and religious purity, and for a definition of freedom that depended on order, obedience, and hierarchy–was a hoax. Throughout southern history, the soul of man has burst those bonds, and produced a rich cultural history in song, sermon, art, tale, dance, and literature.

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Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey, Professor of History and Presidential Teaching Scholar at the University of Colorado.

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