Feb 29, 2016

To all points of the fair

Assaulting Satan:


A man dressed as Satan is play-assaulted by two Bible-weilding women, one of them dressed as an angel, as he tries to enter the 1940 New York World's Fair. It is not clear why. The picture comes from the Manuscripts and Archives Division of The New York Public Library.

Feb 25, 2016

Tim LaHaye's call to action

Tim LaHaye gives the standard religious-right pitch for political involvement:


"I believe the reason we're in some of the problems we're in is because Christians have not participated in past elections," LaHaye says in the 2012 video. "I really believe that we can turn this country around. And the reason I say that is, we did, back in 1980, when Jerry Falwell called me and invited me to be one of seven signers of the Moral Majority and help him move across the country. We had the worst president in the history of America. And it was thousands of ministers that participated in their churches that helped us do this. We can do that again."

Feb 19, 2016

Billy Sunday backs women's suffrage

From the Washington Herald on Jan. 9, 1918:


Sunday was holding a revival in Washington D.C. in the winter of 1918 and rallying American support for World War I. He railed against the Germans. He promised to fight the devil until hell froze over and then keep fighting on ice skates. And he said women should have the vote.

The famed evangelist agreed to say an opening prayer at the United States House Congress before a vote on women's suffrage. He took the opportunity to reiterate his support for women's participation in the political process.

"I see no reason why the men and women of the nation should not walk side by side," Sunday said, according to the newspaper, "in the matters of law enactment as well as in the home and social life."

Sunday also cited the war effort as reason to give women the vote. "Without their co-operation," he said, "the war could not be waged to a successful conclusion."

Sunday was not alone among evangelicals (or those who might today be called evangelicals) in supporting extending the franchise to women. William Jennings Bryan -- of Scopes trial fame -- wanted women to vote. One of the largest groups of advocates on the issue was the Women's Christian Temperance Union, social activists who used scripture reading and prayer and sang hymns like "Jesus the Water of Life Will Give." Both the Southern Baptist Conference and the Southern Methodist General Conference were in favor of women voting. This wasn't a universal evangelical position, by any means, but Sunday's stance wasn't uncommon.

The House passed the 19th Amendment, allowing women to vote, by the necessary two-thirds majority. The Senate voted against the Amendment later that year.

Feb 12, 2016

Not of yourselves, it is the gift of God

A white Lutheran minister with his mostly black confirmation class in 1926:


From a collection documenting African-American Lutherans in the Schomburg General Research and Reference Division of The New York Public Library.

Feb 8, 2016

From the German presses of early America

A German edition of the Psalms, published in Philadelphia in 1762:

This edition was printed by Nicolaus Hasselbach, who learned his trade from Christopher Saur. Saur, a Pietist, was the first to print with the German-Fraktur typeface in North America. He was competition for Benjamin Franklin, who had a monopoly on the the German-language print market until Sauer got a press and type from radical pietists in Germany. He is known for printing the first German-language Bible in America.

Hasselbach started his business in Philadelphia, where he was part-owner of a print shop in Chestnut Hill and an investor in a paper mill in Germantown. He moved to Baltimore in 1765, a few years after printing this psalter. He set up in business for himself and was Baltimore's first printer in any language. Hasselbach printed a number of almanacs and possibly some religious tracts, including one called Zwey wahrhafte von gantz besondrn Himmels-Zichen (Two true, very special Heaven-Signs), an apocalyptic text which has been attributed to him on typographical evidence. 

Hasselbach died only four or five years after getting started in Baltimore. On a business trip back to Europe, he was died at sea. His widow sold the printing shop to William Goddard, a New Englander, who used it to print Baltimore's first newspaper in 1773, The Maryland Journal.

The book of psalms sold at a New York auction last week. It brought $938.

Feb 5, 2016

Obama preaches about fear


The full speech at the National Prayer Breakfast can be seen here.

Feb 3, 2016

An atheist's questions for presidential candidates

As presidential candidates spent weeks in Iowa, many of them let their religious flags fly high. Donald Trump brought out the Bible his mother gave him. Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton both spoke about their faith. Even Bernie Sanders, who doesn’t participate in organized religion, spoke up about his personal beliefs.

One voter wondered where all this God talk left Americans who were not religious. What about atheists and other nonbelievers? So he decided to ask the candidates.

Justin Scott, a self-employed photographer and Iowa native, spoke to every major presidential contender and more than a few of the minor ones. At pizza parlors and coffee shops, meetups and rallies, Scott asked the candidates about atheists. He asked them if they support the separation of church and state and why an atheist voter should vote for them.

Political observers parsed the answers, speculating on how they would play with various religious voters. But what about atheists?

I spoke on the phone to Scott, who lives in Waterloo, Iowa, a few hours before the caucuses began on Monday.

The interview can be read at the Washington Post: "Meet the atheist who quizzes presidential candidates about their faith."