[3/16/2010] Religion: Hot Historical Topic

March 25, 2010 by Bruce Gourley

As a recent story in Christianity Today notes, religion is the hottest topic among members of the American Historical Association.

Here are a few quotes from the story:

“The study of religion is too important to be left in the hands of believers.

So claims David A. Hollinger, a professor of American history at the University of California at Berkeley, in his response to religion emerging as the hottest topic of study among members of the American Historical Association (AHA).

Perhaps surprisingly, leading evangelical scholars voiced general agreement with his basic premise.

“The practice of history is best served by many historians working from all their separate angles,” said Rick Kennedy, president of the Conference on Faith and History (CFH) and a professor of history at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. “What is good about the new surge in religious history is that something that was neglected is now gaining its rightful place.” ….

In an annual survey of AHA members, 7.7 percent of respondents selected religion as one of three areas of interest. That topped the 7.5 percent who chose cultural history, ranked number one for 15 years.”

Many Baptist historians will certainly welcome this news. In many respects, Baptist history is the story of America, sharing central themes such as democratic principles, freedom of conscience, religious liberty, and separation of church and state.

Furthermore, the current landscape of religion worldwide – growing fundamentalism, religious violence, denial of separation of church and state among a large segment of American Christians, cultural issues, post-denominational trends, and more – indicate that faith groups face serious challenges in the 21st century. As central players in the narrative of forming shared values and principles of freedom now cherished by many nations across the globe, Baptists have an opportunity to speak and be heard in a redemptive fashion in our world today and in the future.