Wednesday, May 30, 2012

One Month On

My, my, how time does fly.....

One month ago today, my second book The Mainline ( was released.  To say that I am a very pleased author thus far is an understatement.

First, a thank you to all who have purchased a copy thus far.  It is an honor to be an author, and for family, friends, your professional peers, students, and strangers to buy a copy of your book is not something I believe comes with a good deal of responsibility to produce a quality product (and be ready to discuss points that it raises).  Hence, I am pleased that long before official reviews have appeared, thanks to blogs, there has already been some engagement with the core of the book....I'm also pleased that (generally) where there has been disagreement, there has also been a sense of professionalism:  That is, that we can differ on things and not resort to name calling, dismissing arguments out of hand, or professional slander mongering.

Secondly, I also pleased to say that it appears as though there is going to be more opportunities for that kind of discussion.  I have been asked, and, while no date has been set, I have accepted the invitation to speak about the book at the Congregational Library in Boston!  I am very excited about getting to go back to both Boston (a city I love) and to the Congregational Library (where I got to do some of the initial research for this book).  I hope that this leads to other speaking opportunities as well.

Lastly, for tonight, I keep thinking about how this experience compares to the release of my first book.  There are no doubt differences, in large part because this time I know what to do better (and better know what is expected of me).  There are also better tools at my disposal ( has created an AWESOME author's page system).  But I can say, that at the end of this first month, the book is currently in libraries in 28 states (and the District of Columbia) as well as at least in two foreign countries.  And I think that coverage area is wider, than where book 1 was at this time. 

For the ability to reach such an audience as I have already, and to the one that remains to be reached, I am truly thankful.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Theological Response

Earlier today I came upon the Gaudete Theology blog (, which made mention of my post on Religion in American History blog.  The post took issue with my use of "Mainline" to mean majority, arguing instead that it should be understood in theological terms rather than sociological terms.

Now, I admit that my time in graduate school exposed me to the work of a good number of scholars whose field was the sociology of religion.  And unlike the Gaudete blogger, I'm not a theologian in training.  I am, first and foremost, an Historian, and to me the "Mainline as majority" idea makes a good deal of intuitive sense...obviously, since I just wrote a book about it!  But let me take up, at least to a degree this theological critique of a book that the blogger has no doubt not yet read.

The Mainline of the Seven Sisters was not a cohesive theological movement.  It included, at its creation Christians with a broad spectrum of ideas.  The denominations involved all brought to the table a wide variety (and this the blogger noted) of church polity stances (and thus, how they believed the Church should be structured), as well as opinions on doctrine (communion for example), and a host of other things that divided them.  Indeed, while I talk a good deal about the Social Gospel in the book, not even this is a truly binding theological construct on the Mainline (to begin with, not all the members of the Seven Sisters member congregations embraced it, or embraced all of it, or agreed about what it meant).  One could argue that the Social Gospel helped give rise to Modernists (who along with some Moderates) came to control the denominational hierarchies, and so gave birth to "liberal Protestantism" of the mid-twentieth century, but even this is problematic when applied to entire denominations.  If this is what the blogger was getting at, then I have to disagree with them.  Indeed, one of the things I note (though I perhaps could have done more) was the lack of theological discussion I found with the Mainline (even within their heyday of late 19th and early 20th centuries.  As other scholars have noted, American Protestants have long been short on taking theology seriously (I think here of the work of say Mark Noll). It simply wasn't a priority, and as such, I don't think you can make a theological argument for the creation of the Mainline (or that theology somehow sustained it).

That being said, I hope the blogger will take a look at the book.  Perhaps they'll change their mind.  Or perhaps we'll be able to have a better informed discussion about the importance/significance of theology within the Mainline (past and present).  I would welcome that, indeed, prompting scholarly interest, debate, and discussion about the nature of American Christianity was one of my goals with the book to begin with.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Props from Butler!

This appeared tonight on the Butler University homepage: