Religion in American History

Magv22n1cvrThe history of religion is one of those topics that tends to get short thrift in my survey courses.  This is not for a lack of primary sources which actually I use quite a bit of throughout the year.  My difficulty is in shaping those sources into coherent lesson plans.  I spend quite a bit of time discussing the connection between government and religion when focused on the Constitutional Convention and Bill of Rights.  I’ve found Jon Meacham’s American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation to be quite helpful.  It does a good job of steering a middle course and students can easily read it.  Of course, religious themes enter at other times. 

The new issue of the OAH’s Magazine of History concentrates on the history of American Religion and it is clearly just what the doctor ordered.  I’ve said before that if you teach American history on the high school level you should have a subscription to this publication.  Each issue is structured around a specific theme and includes short summary articles written by very competent historians as well as lesson plans.  This issue is edited by Phillip Guerty and includes short essays on religious diversity in antebellum America, new religious movements, and religious pluralism and globalization.  The lesson plans are first rate and focus on the religious clause of the First Amendment as well as evangelicalism.  I am very excited about one lesson plan in particular which provides ways to integrate Islam and Muslims into the survey course.

I absolutely love that cover.

4 comments… add one
  • Kevin Jan 23, 2008 @ 17:07

    TL, — I also get the JAH and while I try to read as many of the articles as possible I tend to read through most of the review. I use my collection of Magazines over and over. Give it a shot.

    Larry, — Thanks so much for the link.

  • Larry Cebula Jan 23, 2008 @ 12:22

    Short shrift.

    In my part of the world the danger with talking about religion and history is that many students have already learned THE TRUTH in their churches: this nation was founded on the Bible, the founders were full immersion baptists or maybe Pentecostals, every American walked happily together to church on Sunday mornings until Roe v. Wade unraveled the moral fabric on the nation, and when you get to college your liberal atheist professor is going to lie to you about all of this.

    In my History 110 survey I talk a lot about religion anyway, but I am extra careful to assign primary sources that back up what I teach in class. In particular I assign a document pack about the religious beliefs of the Founders that I put together. It is online at

  • Tim Lacy Jan 23, 2008 @ 10:38


    When renewing with OAH I’ve always opted for JAH, but perhaps I should reconsider for the coming renewal.

    – TL

  • Craig Jan 23, 2008 @ 9:20

    My grandfather on my father’s side, and my great grandfather and my great great grandfather on my mother’s side were evangelical ministers ordained through the old Evangelical Association. I’ve got pictures posted on my blog from family reunions on my mother’s side held in 1902 and in 1927. It was a coherent movement between the Civil War and WWII.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *