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Recent Works by Our Researchers

The Presbyterian Historical Society’s holdings support scholarship on a vast range of topics. On this page, we present a selection of recent publications by researchers who have worked with our collections.

Enlisting Faith: How the Military Chaplaincy Shaped Religion and State in Modern America by Ronit Y. Stahl (Harvard University Press, November 2017)

Enlisting Faith cover imageA century ago, as the United States prepared to enter World War I, the military chaplaincy included only mainline Protestants and Catholics. Today it counts Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Christian Scientists, Buddhists, Seventh-day Adventists, Hindus, and evangelicals among its ranks. Enlisting Faith traces the uneven processes through which the military struggled with, encouraged, and regulated religious pluralism over the twentieth century.

Moving from the battlefields of Europe to the jungles of Vietnam and between the forests of Civilian Conservation Corps camps and meetings in government offices, Ronit Y. Stahl reveals how the military borrowed from and battled religion. Just as the state relied on religion to sanction war and sanctify death, so too did religious groups seek recognition as American faiths. At times the state used religion to advance imperial goals. But religious citizens pushed back, challenging the state to uphold constitutional promises and moral standards.

Despite the constitutional separation of church and state, the federal government authorized and managed religion in the military. The chaplaincy demonstrates how state leaders scrambled to handle the nation’s deep religious, racial, and political complexities. While officials debated which clergy could serve, what insignia they would wear, and what religions appeared on dog tags, chaplains led worship for a range of faiths, navigated questions of conscience, struggled with discrimination, and confronted untimely death. Enlisting Faith is a vivid portrayal of religious encounters, state regulation, and the trials of faith―in God and country―experienced by the millions of Americans who fought in and with the armed forces.

 

Protestants Abroad: How Missionaries Tried to Change the World but Changed America by David A. Hollinger (Princeton University Press, October 2017)

Protestants Abroad cover imageBetween the 1890s and the Vietnam era, many thousands of American Protestant missionaries were sent to live throughout the non-European world. They expected to change the people they encountered, but those foreign people ended up transforming the missionaries. Their experience abroad made many of these missionaries and their children critical of racism, imperialism, and religious orthodoxy. When they returned home, they brought new liberal values back to their own society. Protestants Abroad reveals the untold story of how these missionary-connected individuals left an enduring mark on American public life as writers, diplomats, academics, church officials, publishers, foundation executives, and social activists.

David A. Hollinger provides riveting portraits of such figures as Pearl Buck, John Hersey, and Life and Time publisher Henry Luce, former "mish kids" who strove through literature and journalism to convince white Americans of the humanity of other peoples. Hollinger describes how the U.S. government's need for citizens with language skills and direct experience in Asian societies catapulted dozens of missionary-connected individuals into prominent roles in intelligence and diplomacy. Meanwhile, Edwin Reischauer and other scholars with missionary backgrounds led the growth of Foreign Area Studies in universities during the Cold War. The missionary contingent advocated multiculturalism and anticolonialism, pushed their churches in ecumenical and social-activist directions, and joined with Jewish intellectuals to challenge traditional Protestant cultural hegemony and promote a pluralist vision of American life. Missionary cosmopolitans were the Anglo-Protestant counterparts of the New York Jewish intelligentsia of the same era.

Protestants Abroad reveals the crucial role that missionary-connected American Protestants played in the development of modern American liberalism, and how they helped other Americans reimagine their nation's place in the world.

 

The Presbyterian Experience in the United States: A Sourcebook by William Yoo (Westminster John Knox Press, September 2017)

The Presbyterian Experience in the United States cover imageThe Presbyterian Experience in the United States introduces readers to the Presbyterian movement in the United States as told by those who lived through and contributed to its history. William Yoo has drawn together essential documents from the colonial period to the present that illustrate and illumine U.S. Presbyterianism across diversities of race, ethnicity, geography, gender, age, and theological position. Readers will follow the church's journey from modest origins as a Scots-Irish immigrant church to prominence on the national stage, from early revivals and tent meetings to large-scale theological debates, from defense of slavery and racial intolerance to the pursuit of social justice and racial reconciliation, and from retreat into theologically narrow enclaves to active engagement with national and international politics and culture. Yoo weaves together a coherent and compelling narrative using the voices of those who sought a faithfully Presbyterian witness to the gospel. Arranged both chronologically and thematically with historical maps and photos, this book provides a lively and accessible vista into the making and shaping of Presbyterianism in the United States.

 

Samuel Davies: Apostle to Virginia by Dewey Roberts (Sola Fide Publications, August 2017)
 
Cover image for Samuel Davies: Apostle to VirginiaSamuel Davies: Apostle to Virginia is the first full-scale biography ever produced on Samuel Davies, America's greatest ever preacher. It is a meticulously researched work which presents the story of Davies' life from cradle to grave. With the publication of this biography, the great Samuel Davies will no longer be an obscure figure from the past. It deserves a place on the bookshelves of those who have read the biographies of Whitefield, Spurgeon, McCheyne, Edwards, Lloyd-Jones, and other great Christian ministers.
 
Dewey Roberts is the founding pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, Florida, where he has served since 1995. Samuel Davies: Apostle to Virginia is Dewey Roberts' second book. In 2015 he published Historic Christianity and the Federal Vision: A Theological Analysis and Practical Evaluation.
 
 
Congo Love Song: African American Culture and the Crisis of the Colonial State by Ira Dworkin (University of North Carolina Press, June 2017)

Cover image for Congo Love SongIn his 1903 hit "Congo Love Song," James Weldon Johnson recounts a sweet if seemingly generic romance between two young Africans. While the song’s title may appear consistent with that narrative, it also invokes the site of King Leopold II of Belgium’s brutal colonial regime at a time when African Americans were playing a central role in a growing Congo reform movement. In an era when popular vaudeville music frequently trafficked in racist language and imagery, "Congo Love Song" emerges as one example of the many ways that African American activists, intellectuals, and artists called attention to colonialism in Africa.

In Congo Love Song, Ira Dworkin examines black Americans’ long cultural and political engagement with the Congo and its people. Through studies of George Washington Williams, Booker T. Washington, Pauline Hopkins, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, and other figures, he brings to light a long-standing relationship that challenges familiar presumptions about African American commitments to Africa. Dworkin offers compelling new ways to understand how African American involvement in the Congo has helped shape anticolonialism, black aesthetics, and modern black nationalism.

Read Ira Dworkin's post Congo Love Song on the PHS blog.

 

Unity in Christ and Country: American Presbyterians in the Revolutionary Era by William Harrison Taylor (University of Alabama Press, June 2017)

Cover image for Unity in Christ and CountryIn this compelling account, William Harrison Taylor examines the interdenominational pursuits of the American Presbyterian Church from 1758 to 1801 to highlight the church’s ambitious agenda of fostering and uniting a host of New World values, among them Christendom, nationalism, and territorial exceptionalism.

Taylor engages a variety of sources, including the published and unpublished works of both the Synods of New York and Philadelphia and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, as well as numerous published and unpublished Presbyterian sermons, lectures, hymnals, poetry, and letters. Scholars of religious history, particularly those interested in the Reformed tradition, and specifically Presbyterianism, should find Unity in Christ and Country useful as a way to consider the importance of the theology’s intellectual and pragmatic implications for members of the faith.

 

Project Eagle: The American Christians of North Korea in World War II by Robert S. Kim (University of Nebraska Press, May 2017)

Project Eagle cover imageProject Eagle tells the story of American missionaries in Korea from 1884 to 1942. They brought a new religion, modern education, and American political ideals to a nation conquered and ruled by the Japanese Empire. The missionaries’ influence inextricably linked Christianity and American-style democracy to Korean nationalism and independence, meanwhile establishing an especially strong presence in Pyongyang. Project Eagle connects this era for the first time to OSS-Korean cooperation during the war through the story of its central figures: American missionary sons George McCune and Clarence Weems and one of Korea’s leading national heroes, Kim Ku. Project Eagle illuminates the shared history between Americans and Koreans that has remained largely unexamined since World War II. The legacy of these American actions in Korea, ignored by the U.S. government and the academy since 1945, has shaped the relationship of the United States to both North Korea and South Korea and remains crucial to understanding the future of U.S. relations with both Koreas.

 

Maintaining Segregation: Children and Racial Instruction in the South, 1920-1955 by LeeAnn G. Reynolds (LSU Press, May 2017)

Cover image for Managing SegregationIn Maintaining Segregation, LeeAnn G. Reynolds explores how black and white children in the early twentieth-century South learned about segregation in their homes, schools, and churches. As public lynchings and other displays of racial violence declined in the 1920s, a culture of silence developed around segregation, serving to forestall, absorb, and deflect individual challenges to the racial hierarchy. The cumulative effect of the racial instruction southern children received, prior to highly publicized news such as the Brown v. Board of Education decision and the Montgomery bus boycott, perpetuated segregation by discouraging discussion or critical examination.

As the system of segregation evolved throughout the early twentieth century, generations of southerners came of age having little or no knowledge of life without institutionalized segregation. Reynolds examines the motives and approaches of white and black parents to racial instruction in the home and how their methods reinforced the status quo. Whereas white families sought to preserve the legal system of segregation and their place within it, black families faced the more complicated task of ensuring the safety of their children in a racist society without sacrificing their sense of self-worth. Schools and churches functioned as secondary sites for racial conditioning, and Reynolds traces the ways in which these institutions alternately challenged and encouraged the marginalization of black Americans both within society and the historical narrative. 
In order for subsequent generations to imagine and embrace the sort of racial equality championed by the civil rights movement, they had to overcome preconceived notions of race instilled since childhood. Ultimately, Reynolds’s work reveals that the social change that occurred due to the civil rights movement can only be fully understood within the context of the segregation imposed upon children by southern institutions throughout much of the early twentieth century.
 

A History of Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Middle East by Heather J. Sharkey (Cambridge University Press, April 2017)
 
Cover image for History of Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Middle EastAcross centuries, the Islamic Middle East hosted large populations of Christians and Jews in addition to Muslims. Today, this diversity is mostly absent. In A History of Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Middle East, Heather J. Sharkey examines the history that Muslims, Christians, and Jews once shared against the shifting backdrop of state policies. Focusing on the Ottoman Middle East before World War I, Sharkey offers a vivid and lively analysis of everyday social contacts, dress, music, food, bathing, and more, as they brought people together or pushed them apart. Historically, Islamic traditions of statecraft and law, which the Ottoman Empire maintained and adapted, treated Christians and Jews as protected subordinates to Muslims while prescribing limits to social mixing. Sharkey shows how, amid the pivotal changes of the modern era, efforts to simultaneously preserve and dismantle these hierarchies heightened tensions along religious lines and set the stage for the twentieth-century Middle East.

 

A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi's Black Freedom Struggle by Crystal R. Sanders (University of North Carolina Press, April 2016)

Cover image for Chance for ChangeIn her innovative study, A Chance for Change, Crystal Sanders explores how working-class black women, in collaboration with the federal government, created the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM) in 1965, a Head Start program that not only gave poor black children access to early childhood education but also provided black women with greater opportunities for political activism during a crucial time in the unfolding of the civil rights movement. Women who had previously worked as domestics and sharecroppers secured jobs through CDGM as teachers and support staff and earned higher wages. The availability of jobs independent of the local white power structure afforded these women the freedom to vote in elections and petition officials without fear of reprisal. But CDGM’s success antagonized segregationists at both the local and state levels who eventually defunded it.

Tracing the stories of the more than 2,500 women who staffed Mississippi's CDGM preschool centers, Sanders’s book remembers women who went beyond teaching children their shapes and colors to challenge the state’s closed political system and white supremacist ideology and offers a profound example for future community organizing in the South.

Read Crystal Sanders' post Head Start and Civil Rights on the PHS blog.

 

The Suburban Church: Modernism and Community in Postwar America by Gretchen Buggeln (University of Minnesota Press, December 2015)

Cover image for Suburban ChurchAfter World War II, America’s religious denominations spent billions on church architecture as they spread into the suburbs. In this richly illustrated history of midcentury modern churches in the Midwest, Gretchen Buggeln shows how architects and suburban congregations joined forces to work out a vision of how modernist churches might help reinvigorate Protestant worship and community. The result is a fascinating new perspective on postwar architecture, religion, and society.

Drawing on the architectural record, church archives, and oral histories, The Suburban Church focuses on collaborations between architects Edward D. Dart, Edward A. Sövik, Charles E. Stade, and seventy-five congregations. By telling the stories behind their modernist churches, the book describes how the buildings both reflected and shaped developments in postwar religion—its ecumenism, optimism, and liturgical innovation, as well as its fears about staying relevant during a time of vast cultural, social, and demographic change.

While many scholars have characterized these congregations as “country club” churches, The Suburban Church argues that most were earnest, well-intentioned religious communities caught between the desire to serve God and the demands of a suburban milieu in which serving middle-class families required most of their material and spiritual resources.

 

The Contested Origins of the 1865 Arabic Bible: Contributions to the Nineteenth Century Nahḍa by David D. Grafton (Brill, November 2015)

Cover image for Contested Origins of the 1865 Arabic BibleThis study examines the history of an Arabic Bible translation of American missionaries in late Ottoman Syria. Comparing the history of this project as recorded by the American missionaries with private correspondence and the manuscripts of the translation, The Contested Origins of the 1865 Arabic Bible provides new evidence for the Bible’s compilation, including the seminal role of Syrian Christians and Muslims. This research also places the project within the wider social-political framework of a transforming Ottoman Empire, where the rise of a literate class in Beirut served as a catalyst for the Arabic literary renaissance (Nahḍa), and within the international field of New Testament textual studies.

 

Saving Faith: Making Religious Pluralism an American Value at the Dawn of the Secular Age by David Mislin (Cornell University Press, October 2015)

Cover image for Saving FaithIn Saving Faith, David Mislin chronicles the transformative historical moment when Americans began to reimagine their nation as one strengthened by the diverse faiths of its peoples. Between 1875 and 1925, liberal Protestant leaders abandoned religious exclusivism and leveraged their considerable cultural influence to push others to do the same. This reorientation came about as an ever-growing group of Americans found their religious faith under attack on social, intellectual, and political fronts. A new generation of outspoken agnostics assailed the very foundation of belief, while noted intellectuals embraced novel spiritual practices and claimed that Protestant Christianity had outlived its usefulness.

Faced with these grave challenges, Protestant clergy and their allies realized that the successful defense of religion against secularism required a defense of all religious traditions. They affirmed the social value—and ultimately the religious truth—of Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. They also came to view doubt and uncertainty as expressions of faith. Ultimately, the reexamination of religious difference paved the way for Protestant elites to reconsider ethnic, racial, and cultural difference. Using the manuscript collections and correspondence of leading American Protestants, as well the institutional records of various churches and religious organizations, Mislin offers insight into the historical constructions of faith and doubt, the interconnected relationship of secularism and pluralism, and the enormous influence of liberal Protestant thought on the political, cultural, and spiritual values of the twentieth-century United States.

 

The Cross of War: Christian Nationalism and U.S. Expansion in the Spanish-American War by Matthew McCullough (University of Wisconsin Press, August 2014)

Cover image for Cross of WarThe Cross of War documents the rise of “messianic interventionism”—the belief that America can and should intervene altruistically on behalf of other nations. This stance was first embraced in the Spanish-American War of 1898, a war that marked the dramatic emergence of the United States as an active world power and set the stage for the foreign policy of the next one hundred years. Responding to the circumstances of this war, an array of Christian leaders carefully articulated and defended the notion that America was responsible under God to extend freedom around the world—by force, if necessary. Drawing from a wide range of sermons and religious periodicals across regional and denominational lines, Matthew McCullough describes the ways that many American Christians came to celebrate military intervention as a messianic sacrifice, to trace the hand of God in a victory more painless and complete than anyone had imagined, and to justify the shift in American foreign policy as a divine calling.

 


Please contact us to let us know about forthcoming publications. We will update the list periodically but will always aim for about a dozen books published within the last five years.