Blog Theme: Getting History Right – Interview with John Fea

This is the sixth interview in my series reflecting on 15 years of blogging. Messiah University history professor John Fea joined me to discuss getting history right, court evangelicals, and much more. John is a prolific writer and you can read his publishing credits in the bio below. He also hosts a podcast called The Way of Improvement Leads Home and writes frequently at his blog by the same name.

John has been an active public historian during his tenure at Messiah. He has confronted the historian misadventures of David Barton and Eric Metaxas. I became acquainted with John in 2011 when I first started to fact check David Barton’s historical claims. Not long after that, he endorsed Getting Jefferson Right, my book with Michael Coulter that addressed many claims in David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies. Along with my history professor colleagues at Grove City College, John is one of several historians who have helped me along the way.

I believe historians doing history properly can provide our nation an extraordinary service. We need to know our rights and the heritage of free speech and protest. What does the Consitution say and what took place when the framers debated that document? Without full context, people are vulnerable to ideologues who selectively use historical events and quotes to create what John calls a “usable past,” a past which supports their current political aims.

As an evangelical, John has special focus on evangelicals in public life. He coined the term “court evangelical” to refer to evangelical leaders who fawn over Donald Trump and never hold him accountable. John provides a valuable overview of this concept in the interview. I hope you benefit from it.

John Fea is Distinguished Professor of American History at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, where he has taught since 2002.

He is the author or editor of six books, including Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical IntroductionWhy Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past; and Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

John’s essays and reviews on the history of American culture have appeared in The Journal of American History, The Atlantic, Inside Higher Ed, The William and Mary QuarterlyThe Journal of the Early RepublicSojourners, Christianity Today, Christian Century, The Washington Post,  USA Today,  He blogs daily at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, a blog devoted to American history, religion, politics, and academic life.

John has lectured widely and speaks regularly to churches, school and teacher groups, civic groups, and historical societies. He appeared on NBC News, CNN, C-SPAN,  MSNBC, National Public Radio, and dozens of radio programs across the country.

To watch all interviews reflecting on 15 years of blogging, click here.

16 thoughts on “Blog Theme: Getting History Right – Interview with John Fea”

    1. Liberty U Chariman of the Board of Trustees, Jerry Provo released this: (WSLS)

      “In the 13 years that Jerry Falwell, Jr. has served as president of Liberty University, Liberty has experienced unprecedented success, not only academically and financially, with a world-class campus, but also spiritually. As we enter our 50th Anniversary year, we have been blessed to grow to a record 120,000 students, both residential and online, and continue to fulfill our founder’s mission to Train Champions for Christ across the world.

      Unfortunately, with this success and the burdens of leading a large and growing organization comes substantial pressure. Today, my colleagues and I on the Liberty University Board of Trustees and Jerry mutually agreed that it would be good for him to take an indefinite leave of absence. This was a decision that was not made lightly, and which factored the interests and concerns of everyone in the LU community, including students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff, leaders of the Church, as well as the Falwell family.

      To support Jerry through this period, we ask that our entire community lift him up in prayer so he may be able to fulfill God’s purpose for him and for Liberty University.”

      I suspect Falwell will get a brief time out – publicly ‘repent’ and go back to business as usual.

      1. Probably it will come down to a calculation of whether bringing him back or letting him go will be better for the school’s finances.

        Not that Liberty would be unique among schools in being driven primarily by that bottom line — I know a much smaller school with a Christian heritage that brought back a former President who had left after having an affair with a young faculty member (while pushing “character education”) because he was a good fundraiser.

      2. I have wondered for some time whether Jerry Falwell has been dealing with some addiction (alcohol/drug) issues and/or mental health issues. His comments and conduct seem to have become more and more bizarre over the last 4 or so years. Obviously I have no inside information to support this, but the wording of the above announcement certainly wouldn’t be inconsistent with that.

        The next few months should be very interesting … I hope your prediction of merely a “time-out” turns out to be a false prophesy! 🙂

          1. As my Sociopath brother put it, “Power means I Can Do Anything I Want. ANYTHING.”

            Best example of this attiude: Caesar Caligula and/or Uday ibn Saddam.
            Fictional example: Joffrey Baratheon-Lannister, boy king of Westeros.

    2. More like the straw that broke the camels back. Looks like there is a limit to how far the religious right can be pushed. Wonder if Trump is taking notice.

  1. Not O/T:
    “Study: Christian Nationalism is “Leading Predictor” of Negligent COVID Response”

    Or, for those of you who wouldn’t be caught near an atheist website, there’s:
    “Americans with Christian nationalist views more likely to flout COVID-19 precautions: study”

  2. Let me chime in with all the other folks here and state: “Thanks! That was excellent.”

  3. Thank you for this interview, and I thank Professor Fea for the term Court Evangelicals. It is spot on.

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