John Schmalzbauer

Sociologist John Schmalzbauer teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Missouri State University, where he holds the Blanche Gorman Strong Chair in Protestant Studies. He is the author of People of Faith: Religious Conviction in American Journalism and Higher Education (Cornell University Press, 2003). He is completing a book on the return of religion on campus with historian Kathleen Mahoney. He is also co-investigator on the National Study of Campus Ministries, a survey of campus ministers in six denominations and two parachurch groups. His commentary and reviews have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the PBS NewsHour's Patchwork Nation Project, and Comment. Recent publications include chapters for The New Evangelical Social Engagement, edited by Brian Steensland and Philip Goff (Oxford, 2013) and The Post-Secular in Question, edited by John Torpey, David Kyuman Kim, and Jonathan VanAntwerpen (NYU Press, 2012).

Posts by John Schmalzbauer:

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Remembering a different evangelicalism

Celebrating the ideological diversity of contemporary evangelicalism, Marcia Pally heralds the advent of a religious non-right. Shattering stereotypes of a monolithic conservatism, she performs a valuable service.

As Pally notes in her essay, this isn’t the first time evangelicals have hoisted the banner of social reform. Recalling the activism of nineteenth-century American Protestants, she sees the “new evangelicals” as their contemporary successors.

You don’t have to go back to the nineteenth century to find evangelical progressives. Like Jim Wallis and Ron Sider, many got their start in the 1970s, building institutions that are still around today (Sojourners, Evangelicals for Social Action, Bread for the World).

Read the rest of Remembering a different evangelicalism.
Monday, October 24th, 2011

Updating Dorothea Lange

The past two decades have witnessed the publication of several fine studies of religion and material culture. Thanks to the work of David Morgan, Sally Promey, and Colleen McDannell, we know a lot more about the place of visual piety in American religion.

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Friday, May 6th, 2011

O is for Ozarks

O is for Oprah. O is for Ozarks. Can the second embrace the first? Though Lofton stays away from the issue of audience reactions, it is an intriguing question. Dubbed an “Evangelical Epicenter” by the Patchwork Nation project, my Ozarks county is a long way from Oprah’s Chicago studio.

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Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

NPR’s religion reporters are not anti-religious

Last month, conservative trickster James O’Keefe caught NPR fundraising executive Ron Schiller saying this: “The current Republican Party, particularly the Tea Party, is fanatically involved in people’s personal lives and very fundamental Christian—I wouldn’t even call it Christian. It’s this weird evangelical kind of move.” Yesterday, these secretly-taped remarks were made public, leading to the resignation of both Schiller and NPR CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation).

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Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Why the Assemblies of God is like the Democratic Party

New York Times columnist Charles Blow began his Saturday piece with a surprising question: “Which political party’s members are most likely to believe that Jesus will definitely return to earth before midcentury?” Answer: the Democrats.

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Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Mapping religion in American places

From H. Paul Douglass to Nancy Ammerman, sociologists have mapped the spiritual and religious ecology of American places. In the 1990s, the Polis Center’s Project on Religion and Urban Culture at IUPUI painted a systematic portrait of religion in Indianapolis. Led by a team of sociologists and historians, it produced university press books, videos, photography […]

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Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Kinkade Studies comes of age

Last Friday mass market painter Thomas Kinkade was arrested on the suspicion of driving under the influence. In light of previous allegations of “seamy personal conduct,” he is destined to remain a controversial figure. [...]

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Friday, May 21st, 2010

Glenn Beck’s history book club

What’s the number one bestseller on Amazon.com? Give up? As of May 20, 2010, it was George Washington’s Sacred Fire by Peter A. Lillback, a work arguing that our first president “was indeed a devout, practicing Christian,” a view rejected by many scholars of colonial America. How did a seminary president become Amazon’s bestselling author? On Tuesday, May 18, Lillback made an appearance on the Glenn Beck Program with Jerry Falwell, Jr., chancellor of Liberty University. Though the focus was on the roots of social justice, Beck took the opportunity to plug Lillback’s George Washington’s Sacred Fire. Lillback thanked him for the exposure.

Read the rest of Glenn Beck’s history book club.
Friday, April 30th, 2010

Higher times in the Bible Belt

Rich in interdisciplinary breadth, Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age offers an opportunity to reflect on the reception of Charles Taylor’s magnum opus. Edited by an English professor and two social scientists, it includes contributions from a political philosopher, a sociologist, a theologian, and a literary critic. Given the many reviews of A Secular Age in these disciplines, this mix of contributors is not surprising.

Somewhat more surprising is the inclusion of two historians, members of a discipline that has largely ignored Taylor’s book. Three years after its publication, A Secular Age has yet to be reviewed in the Journal of American History and the American Historical Review.

What explains this lack of interest?  Writing in Church History, Martin Marty notes that while “the ordinary historian has very much to learn from Taylor’s use of history,” it cannot be appropriated “without undertaking a significant act of translating and organizing the material.”

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Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Beck, Falwell and “Christian America”

Back in 2004, evangelical educator Richard Mouw brought a message of friendship and reconciliation to Mormon America, speaking to a packed house at the Salt Lake City Tabernacle. Apologizing for the way conservative Protestants had treated Mormons, Mouw said, “We evangelicals have sinned against you.” Six years later, a very different speaker will cross over in the other direction. On May 15, Mormon broadcaster Glenn Beck will deliver the commencement address at Liberty University, the Virginia school founded by the late Jerry Falwell.

Read the rest of Beck, Falwell and “Christian America”.