Church History

New & Noteworthy

Hagar’s Story
Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk, by Delores S. Williams, now professor emerita of theology and culture at Union Theological Seminary, is a landmark in womanist thought. The recently released 20th anniversary edition has a new foreword by Katie G. Cannon. Orbis

Moving Music
Jon Batiste and his band, Stay Human, have played on the New York subway and in other public spaces in free-ranging, mobile performances they call “love riots.” Their album Social Music offers that same positive spirit and a fresh take on jazz. Razor & Tie

Tears & Fears
Children, sadly, can’t always be protected from loss. What Do We Tell the Children: Talking to Kids About Death and Dying, by grief counselor Joseph M. Primo, offers insights and tools for creating space for age-appropriate grieving and development of coping skills. Abingdon Press

Blows Where It Will
In an overview of church history with her usual eye toward the future, Phyllis Tickle, with Jon M. Sweeney, looks at the power and mystery of the Holy Spirit in The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy is Shaping the Church. Baker Books

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The End of Empire?

Not too long ago, with the rise of science and humanism, some scholars expected Christianity to vanish or at least wane considerably. Yet Christianity is currently enjoying an unprecedented revival, especially in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. With Christianity flourishing in the global South and waning in Europe, the faith, contrary to Hilaire Belloc’s statement, is no longer Europe, and Europe is no longer the faith.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2010
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The Unusual Suspects

When I was a child my mom used to read me stories of Christian martyrs from an Anabaptist history book called Martyrs Mirror. As I have returned to these often gruesome stories at various stages of my life, I find in them an alternate version of church history that contrasts with the history taught in many churches and schools.

Similarly, in A People’s History of Christianity, Diana Butler Bass has spun another alternate history of the church. Taking inspiration from Howard Zinn’s book A People’s History of the United States, which offers a new slant on U.S. history, Bass presents here a fresh version of church history that stands in contrast to the militant Christianity she calls “Big C” Christianity, in reference to the key elements of that history: Christ, Constantine, Christendom, Calvin, and Christian America.

Bass’s excellent introduction on the role of history in the church nicely frames the rest of the book. Here she focuses on the “spiritual amnesia” of the present age and calls the church instead to be a “community of memory.” The structure of the history Bass covers in the remainder of the book is a standard one, dividing the Christian era into five smaller periods: early Christianity, medieval Christianity, the Reformation, the modern era (1650-1950), and the contemporary era (after 1945).

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Sojourners Magazine April 2009
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