Friday, October 31, 2008

History and Faith

The very first post on this blog was looking at the role of subjectivity in the discipline of History. Well, time to look at one of my biases: religion.

When reading about Christian historians this weekend, I flinched away from it. Though I am a Christian and my faith and my faith community is very important to me, I did not like thinking of my faith influencing my more scholarly pursuits. While working through a majority of the essays edited by Ronald Wells in History and the Christian Historian, I dismissed much of what I read. I blame this on my being raised during a time that the Religious Right was on TV and radio constantly. I grew up seeing people who believe in my same God celebrating that the victims of hate crimes where going to Hell. I suppose that I’m just a little more John Winthrop than William Brewster, but I like deeply religious groups to have some self confidence issues or at least a strong tradition of humility.Therefore after reading and thinking about Christian historians, I felt that my faith did not influence my approach to history in any significant way. The only problem is that is not quite true.

In the past two years almost every major history paper I have written has been connected to religion: Augustine’s influence on marriage, the role of Huguenots during Richelieu’s France, Lincoln’s Calvinist upbringing. That is not to say all of my papers were about Christianity, in fact the paper I’ve spent the most time and effort on was about the effects of traditional Kikuyu beliefs on Kenya’s independence. So though I don’t just write about Christianity, I do certainly seem to look at religion. More specifically I seem to take a topic already covered by others I look at it with a religious lens, much like the aforementioned Marxists or feminists might do with their own lenses.

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