Month: September 2019

Moore and Small Study the Relationship between Guns and Evangelicals

Last academic year, Professor Andy Moore obtained a summer research grant from Saint Anselm College’s Center for Ethics in Business and Governance. Moore used part of the grant to pay History major William Small ‘22 a stipend to serve as a research assistant. One Thing after Another asked them about the project on which they worked together.

The blog first asked Professor Moore some questions.

Q: Please tell us about your research topic.

A: Within the past couple of years, I started to notice a public and very distinctive relationship between Protestant evangelicals and the gun rights movement. This project explores that relationship both historically and in its current state. So in a sense, I am exploring the 21st-century culture wars and the nature of the conservative movement now. If we created a Venn diagram of the people I will be studying, there would be considerable overlap between Protestant evangelicals and gun rights supporters. Both groups are politically conservative, both tend to come from rural areas or the South, and both supported Donald Trump by overwhelming majorities in 2016. Beyond simply acknowledging the overlap, however, I hope to tease out some of the theological underpinnings of these evangelicals’ connection to guns and the Second Amendment.

Q: How did a historian come to work with the Center for Ethics in Business and Governance?

A: I have been developing a new course called “Guns in America” that I am teaching for the first time this fall. As part of my interest in guns, I started to notice these examples of Protestant evangelicals closely aligning themselves with gun rights, the National Rifle Association, and defending the Second Amendment. I started to collect news accounts and other sources about this trend, thinking I might come back to it at some point after I finished other projects that I have been working on for a long time.

When the Center for Ethics in Business and Governance (CEBG) announced its summer research grant, I started thinking about the ethical questions inherent in this topic. Because I think this could be a great opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary conversation with another discipline, I reconsidered the project in light of the CEBG’s mission. A good friend who is an ethicist critiqued my original proposal for me, so even in writing the proposal I have engaged in interdisciplinary conversation.

For me, one aspect of the grant that made it attractive was the opportunity to work with a student researcher. Will Small agreed to work with me this summer to track down and analyze sources. Last year, Will had helped me locate primary sources to use in my new course, “Guns in America,” so this gave the chance for us to continue that research and take it in a different direction.

Q: What types of sources were available for this project?

A: Will found a lot of online sources that were relevant. Those include news stories from both Christian and secular publications, as well as blog entries and discussion forums by activists on both sides and by people who have given this issue some theological thought. Also, I visited the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives in Nashville, Tennessee. The Southern Baptists are the largest evangelical denomination, and they have leadership that has been increasingly political the past 40 years. There I found official church publications and letters from lay Southern Baptists from all over the country about gun rights and gun control. About 20 years ago, there was a mass church shooting at a Baptist church in Fort Worth, Texas. I found some information about that shooting and its aftermath.

Q: Given the controversial nature of gun rights in the United States, have you envisioned opening up the discussion of them to Saint Anselm students in any way? If so, how?

A: I hope so. The research grant requires a public presentation of the research. I hope that proves to be an opportunity to engage with students—or anyone with an interest in guns and gun-related issue—in a fruitful dialogue about a controversial topic.

 Q: Besides the public presentation, what are the goals of this research?

A: I hope that an academic journal article will be the ultimate product of this research. By the end of the year, I expect Will and I to have a serviceable article manuscript that we can begin to shop around to potential journals for feedback and eventual publication.

Next, One Thing after Another turned to Will Small for some questions.

Q: What was your experience doing research over the summer? What skills did you develop? 

 A: I was allotted approximately 125 hours of work over the summer, so I decided to schedule this number out to encompass the entire season rather than front or back-load it all. I ended up with a routine that involved working two hours a day every week, minus weekends. Towards August, though, I began to work three hours every other day, including weekends, as I felt that it fit my schedule better. I found, as probably is to be expected, that digging up new materials on the topic was more engaging than taking detailed notes on what I had already found. Throughout the project, I was able to develop efficient methods of online research and further my knowledge use of the college’s databases. I was also able to put some analytical thought into action in attempting to figure out how all of these pieces of research fit into the larger narrative of American or evangelical history or culture.

 Q: Did anything surprise you during this research?

A: As Professor Moore mentioned, the majority of my research involved finding and taking notes on newspapers or other editorial articles that expressed a Christian perspective on gun rights. Surprisingly, much of what I found from evangelical authors supported a more restricted view of gun rights, especially from the Reverend Robert Schenck, president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute and a faith consultant for many officials in Washington, D.C. In fact, according to an August 2017 survey by the National Association of Evangelicals (, although 58% of evangelical leaders live in a home with guns, 55% of them also support stricter gun laws. I was not expecting the sheer volume of pro-gun control (or gun safety, as some prefer to call it) evangelical writings. Additionally, in rifling through public forums, I was a little surprised to find how common concealed carrying in churches is in some places in America. Since I had never come across this phenomenon in my daily life or given it much thought, it was interesting to find a way that others in the country lived differently.

Gibb Reads Spain’s Early Modern History

As History major Nelson Gibb ’21 returns to campus, One Thing after Another decided to ask him about his experience learning paleography (that is, deciphering old handwriting) and transcribing sixteenth-century Spanish documents from the Archivo General de Simancas over the summer for Professor Perrone. Gibb obliged us in this thoughtful interview.

Q: How did you learn paleography?

A: I learned paleography both with the help of Professor Perrone and an online course that covered the basics of the subject. This course, through the website Coursera, highlighted basic steps one should take when presented with a document. It also gave a general overview of the history of medieval Spain which was the period these documents were from. Spending much time in Professor Perrone’s office going over every letter of every document as well as refining my skills throughout the entire summer has made me feel confident in the art of paleography.

Q: What were the challenges of transcribing sixteenth-century documents?

A: By far, the hardest thing about transcribing such documents was the penmanship of the various writers and scribes I was presented with. Each writer had a different writing style from the next, and getting used to each of them was certainly very hard. Another challenge was that these documents featured many abbreviations which could be dealt with only by keeping a list of all of their meanings. Very often I would come across a few letters or even just a symbol that the original scribe had written to avoid writing common words and place names too often; these all had to be memorized or written down. Obviously working 130 hours on this project as well was challenging, as sorting through so much data at times became tedious. Overall, however, I would not trade the experience, and I am very glad that I was able to help with this project.

Q: What did you find most interesting about the archival documents? Did anything surprise you?

A: What was most interesting to me was how thorough the scribes were about their discounting. These documents were filled with very specific amounts that certain monasteries had been discounted—as well as the very date that certain transactions had taken place. I was surprised by how important this information must have been to those who organized and received it. I also appreciated the occasional 500-year-old doodle on the sides of some pages done by the original scribes.

Q: What do you believe you gained from transcribing documents for a data base? What did you learn about Spanish history from using digital images of original sources?

A: I believe that by having the opportunity to transcribe these documents I have learned how to identify early modern Spanish abbreviations, better recognize long strings of Roman numerals, and apply myself for long hours at a time to a project with great significance. Obviously, the online course taught me a lot about the history of medieval and early modern Spain, but nothing could compare to the in-depth look that this paleography project gave me.

Q: How has this research contributed to your studies as a history major?

A: The medieval and early modern periods in Europe have always been very interesting to me, and this subject allowed me to fully invest myself in the day-to-day life of sixteenth-century scribes. There is something awe-inspiring about not only learning about this time period, but immersing oneself in it. The idea that these documents have not been transcribed by anybody before now is also very humbling. I feel that my knowledge of day-to-day affairs in early modern Spain has been deepened, and to look this closely at history is something that I had always hoped my college career would prepare me for. I will also be touring Spain with the Saint Anselm College Choir in the spring, and I look forward to gaining an even deeper understanding of the places and names that popped up often in the documents.

Q: What made you decide to be a history major?

A: I actually started my freshman year as theology major, but I always knew that the history of theology was what truly interested me more than anything else. Because of this, I tended to be more engaged in theology courses that discussed the history of the Hebrews or Christians, or of the church itself. With the help of many amazing history professors, I realized that I could combine history and theology by majoring in one and minoring in the other. Before I had officially switched majors, I took Origins of European Civilization with Professor Perrone and Asian Civilization with Professor Masur. These two classes confirmed that history was what I was truly passionate about, and I am grateful that I have been able to focus heavily on it as well as theology.

Anderson Interns at Old Sturbridge Village

History major Kaitlyn Anderson ’22 spent the summer doing a college internship at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. One Thing after Another was intrigued by Anderson’s experiences and decided to ask her about them.

Q: Why did you come to Saint Anselm College, and why did you decide to become a History major?

A: It wasn’t until my high school guidance counselor, Jennifer Orsini (a Saint Anselm College alum), told me about the school that I considered applying. From then on, it became my number one choice. There was hardly any competition. I couldn’t possibly conceive of going to another college when St. A’s had that classic New England atmosphere and scholarly attitude. It fit the dream of academia that I had wanted since I was a young girl watching movies like Mona Lisa Smile or Dead Poets Society or School Ties (though the last one was set in a high school). Ever since that moment, I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to begin my journey as a history major.

Unlike the other school subjects, like science and math, history always came easily to me. Even as young as seven, I always adored writing, learning, and reading about history. I should probably thank the Magic Treehouse Books and an assortment of fabulous history teachers for that. They made history, well, interesting. I feel as if it’s my purpose to show new generations the importance and beauty of history—whether it be through writing or teaching.

Q: How did you find out about the internship at Old Sturbridge Village, and what was the application process like?

A: Working at a living history museum was always a dream of mine, one I undoubtedly acquired from some teen romance book. I liked the idea of immersing myself in a historical environment with likeminded individuals and teaching others. So when I came to college, I sought to make that a reality. I researched every living history museum in the area that offered a stipend and housing for interns. Old Sturbridge Village was one of the few that met all of my criteria, and so I applied. I sent in two recommendations from my professors, my resume, and a cover letter.

Shortly thereafter, I was contacted and asked to participate in a Skype interview the following week. On the day of the interview, I set up in a library study room and spent the better part of an hour being interviewed by three of the Old Sturbridge Village higher-ups (all of whom I got to know better over the course of the internship). They asked questions about my work ethic and experience, as well as less conventional questions like “what is your spirit animal?” All around it was a pleasant experience, especially since I obtained the internship.

Q: What were the duties and responsibilities of the internship? Which one was your favorite?

A: There were really too many to count, honestly, but none that I wasn’t happy to do. As a historical interpreter, we were expected to perform the duties that were specific to our stations or homes. I worked in five different ones (one for each workday) and thus had many different responsibilities. I cooked over a hearth fire, did laundry (as a demonstration), braided straw, made crafts, played games with the visitors (baseball, tug-of-war, and fire-balloons), gardened, ate a meal in front of visitors, made cheese and butter, and interacted with the animal. It was all good fun, except when we had to do some of these activities during the hotter days in the summer. That was why making cheese and butter was my favorite responsibility; we got to stay in a cold cellar for a majority of the day. The cheese and butter we made was used by the entire village, and whatever wasn’t used, we go to eat.

Q: What did you learn from this internship?

A: This internship was a very enlightening experience; I learned a good many things. For one, I learned that I am a horrible gardener who can only be expected to weed and nothing else, and also that I am excellent at pretending to wash clothes in a “Dumb Betty.” In all seriousness, I learned a lot about what I want in the future. Museum work was never really in my mind before this internship, and now, it seems a possibility. I found I liked working in a museum and seeing its inner workings. I’m still thinking of becoming a professor, but who knows what could happen.

Q: What are your career goals, and how do you think this internship will help you attain them? What do you hope to do next summer?

A: I think it was very important for me to do the internship that I did, especially as a rising sophomore. It showed initiative and interest on my part, and I hope that influences my future employers, especially in the museum field. I also hope that the experience and knowledge I acquired during the internship will help me as a professor or a writer.

However, as far as my career goals are concerned, I may not participate in the Old Sturbridge Village internship next year. Although I very much enjoyed my time there and became friends with a number of of people, I need my next summer job to provide more than just experience; I have to afford college somehow.

Q: You’re from Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Tell us something about Chelmsford that we don’t know.

A: Chelmsford doesn’t really seem to have an identity of its own. Usually, when we are out of town, we tell people that we are from Lowell (next door) or better yet, Boston. No one has ever heard of Chelmsford.

But there are some good things here: lots of condos, highly rated public schools, and our excellent police force once caught a serial killer. True story. That was more than ten years ago, and it’s still talk of the town.