Okay, I waited a couple of days to drop a big one on you. Here it is.
And, I would posit, this makes us especially ignorant of religious history in our public discourse. This is a problem, especially when terms like “evangelical” get thrown around by people who have no idea what they mean.
Christians tend to act like the timeline of our religion goes something like:
Jesus……………………………………….Martin Luther* ………….Our Church As It Exists Today!
However, sometimes those critiquing us are just as ignorant. Case in point:
So, I really think everybody — no matter what you believe — should do a bit of reading about the history of Christianity in America. Smart books like Hatch’s present a compelling, well-supported argument about how to understand the past in a way that can help us make sense of the religious landscape of the present day.
This book is dense, but very readable. There’s even a story about Thomas Jefferson and a giant cheese! If that doesn’t whet your appetite, I don’t know what will.
* Or John Calvin, Menno Simons, John Wesley, or whoever, depending on your denomination. It is possible that Catholics don’t have this problem…but then they didn’t score very high on the Pew Forum’s religious knowledge test either.