In this episode, two of my favorite Church Historians join the podcast for a tricky but needed conversation on the changing shape of American religion. It is so much fun!

If you enjoy this, check out the upcoming lent group with Diana and me – Empty Altars: American Saints in a Cynical Age.

We live in iconoclastic times. All around us, saints and heroes are being knocked off or taken down from public altars. It seems that nearly everyone we once admired or held in esteem has failed us. We’ve stripped the altars of both state and church. America’s spiritual landscape is now marked by empty altars everywhere.

Taking down statues is nothing new, especially in Christian history. Cynicism and anger at failed institutions and flawed heroes is nothing new. But human beings rarely leave altars empty very long — there’s almost a pressing need to re-sanctify the geographies we inhabit. People always put statues back up.

But of who? And to commemorate what? How do we move ahead with new saints and a less troublesome iconography? What “saints” can inspire us to address the hurts of our hearts, the brokenness of our communities, and the pressing issues of our times?

Shouldn’t we just give up on the whole idea of saints anyway? Why bother?

Join Diana and Tripp this Lent as they explore “sainthood” for an American — and global — future. We’ll share stories that need to be told of “saints” you know and those you need to know in a quirky learning journey through American religious history.

Dr. Bill Leonard is Founding Dean and Professor of Divinity Emeritus at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity. Leonard’s research focuses on Church History with particular attention to American religion, Baptist studies, and Appalachian religion. He is the author or editor of some 25 books including Christianity in Appalachia (1999); Baptist Ways: A History (2003); The Challenge of Being Baptist (2010); Can I Get a Witness?: Essays, Sermons and Reflections (2013); and  A Sense of the Heart: Christian Religious Experience in the U.S., (2014). In March 2015 he delivered the William James Lecture on Religious Experience at Harvard Divinity School and in February 2017 he gave the William Self Lectures on Preaching at McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University. His newest book, The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Church History: Flaming Heretics and Heavy Drinkers, was  published by Fortress Press in July 2017. Leonard is on the board of the Journal of Disability and Religion, The Baptist Quarterly (England), the Day1 Preaching Network, the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, and the Governing Board of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. His sabbatical research focuses on a new book, tentatively entitled: “Security or Idolatry?: A History of Religion and Firearms in the U.S.”  Leonard writes a twice-monthly column for Baptist News Global, is an ordained Baptist minister, and a member of First Baptist Church, Highland Avenue (American Baptist Churches, USA) in Winston-Salem.

Check out these books by Dr. Leonard:

Previous Podcasts w/ Dr. Leonard

Previous Episodes with Diana & Tripp

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