American Evangelicalism from a Catholic Perspective

Hi everyone!

I’m continuously apologizing for taking such long breaks in writing – this semester truly has been insane. This week alone, I’ve written several papers and presented at a conference, so I’m glad that I’ve found some time amidst the chaos to write.

This semester, I’m taking several interesting history courses, including the History of American Evangelicalism. This class has been quite the learning experience for me. As a Catholic attending a Christian College, it can be a challenge to find your place at school and to understand some of the practices and language of students. When registering for classes for this semester, I had no idea what I was going to be getting myself into when I registered for Evangelicalism. To be honest, it took me at least a month to be able to say the word “Evangelicalism.” When the class began, I was very concerned that I would not be able to make it through, and I seriously considered dropping. The class itself is very small, with four students, one auditor, and a student who sits in on the class. Though it is not the smallest class I have taken at Messiah, it is one of the smallest, and being the only Catholic in a course on religious history can be intimidating. I constantly struggle with finding where my voice fits into the conversation, and trying to understand the concepts placed before me. The initial conversations we were having in class left me confused and topics were entirely new to me. After a discussion with my professor, I quickly realized that I should remain in the class. In talking to Dr. Fea, the professor of this course, he took me back to the first class I ever took with him, Introduction to History. In this class, we discussed the idea that studying the past was like studying a foreign country – you don’t know the people or the places or the customs, but that’s exactly why you study them. Dr. Fea reminded me that American Evangelicalism was just like that for me – studying a foreign country.

Once I had gained some perspective on the class, I found myself really enjoying it. There are still days where I go into class thinking “I have no idea what the readings were about for today,” but I still felt compelled to read. I, fortunately, am able to leave class with a much better understanding of the readings and discussions. As this is a reading and discussion-based class, I have actually found myself taking the time to do an in-depth reading of the assignments, born out of both my desire to fully understand everything that is happening and a strong interest in the subject matter. The characters and topics we meet in this class are fascinating, and delving into this topic has taught me so much, not only about American Evangelicalism and how to say “Evangelicalism,” but also about American history itself. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I will say that I am very thankful that I am taking this class.

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