David Boswell Burns

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David Boswell Burns

Death: (Date and location unknown)
Immediate Family:

Son of David Boswell Burns and Judith "Judi" Elaine (McKee) Burns - Restoring 114+ yr House
Husband of Elizabeth Ann "Liz" Burns
Father of Boswell Michael Burns
Brother of Susie Deanna Burns
Half brother of NN NN, Adopted out; David Michael Burns; Douglas Keith Burns; Rickey Allen Burns; <private> Burns and 3 others

Managed by: Judith "Judi" Elaine (McKee) Bur...
Last Updated:

About David Boswell Burns

Started Ball State University in Sep.1993 and in 2003 he was listed under the History Student Conference Paper Awards at Ball State University ; obtained a Masters Degree in 2004/5 in History

He was to have been given a grant at Northern Illinois University Dekalb, Il. in which to obtain his Phd and teach also.


He presented his MA thesis to the North American Labor History Conference at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mi. on 22 Oct. 2004.; in the spring of 2006 he was assistant to Prof. Rosemary Feurer: on American History Since 1865


Michael Doyle...He served on two graduate thesis committees: for....; and Dave Burns (M.A. candidate, History), whose thesis is entitled "The Soul of Socialism: American Citizenship and Christian Civilization in the Thought of Eugene Debs." Annual Clio Volume XXIX 2003


2003 Recognition Recipients...XIV. History Student Conference Paper Awards...Dave B. Burns ...

CLIO Newsleter of History Dept. Calender Year 2004 Vol. XXX Department of History 2004-5


2006 Graduate Student Northern Illinois University Dekalb, Il. Accomplishments

Dave Burns (Ph.D.) presented a paper, "Clubbing the Christ Out of Christianity: Bouck White's 'Invasion' of Calvary Baptist Church and Police Brutality in Progressive Era New York," at the North American Labor History Conference, 19-21 October 2006, at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan


2006 Graduate Student Northern Illinois University Dekalb, Il. Accomplishments

Dave Burns (PhD) has an important forthcoming publication, “The Soul of Socialism: Christianity, Civilization and Citizenship in the Thought of Eugene Debs,” Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas 5, no. 2 (Summer 2008). Dave has also been awarded a Dissertation Completion Award from the College of Arts and Sciences for summer 2008 and been named the 2008 Outstanding Graduate Student in the History Department.

Ball State University Clio Newsletter Clio Archives October 3, 2008 Vol. XXXVII, No 4 October 3, 2008

... Dave Burns is currently finishing his Ph.D. at the University of Northern Illinois. He has recently published an article entitled "The Social of Socialism: Christianity, Civilization, and Citizenship in the Thought of Eugene V. Debs" in the summer, 2008 issue of Labor, the top labor history journal in the United States.



Northern Illinois University Dekalb, Il.

David Burns (Ph.D.) received a Dissertation Completion Award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for summer 2007 and a Dissertation Completion Fellowship from the Graduate School for 2007-2008.


The Life and Death of the Radical Historical Jesus

  • David Burns
  • Hardcover
  • Published: 31 January 2013 Oxford University Press
  • 288 Pages | 13 line art; 7 b&w halftones
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • ISBN: 9780199929504

Religion in America Shows that understudied popular radical religionists had a tremendous combined impact on the popular consciousness

A new depiction of the relationship between the secular and the sacred as it reaches back through 20th-century history

In this cultural and intellectual history, David Burns contends that the influence of biblical criticism in America was more widespread than has been thought. Burns proves this point by uncovering the hidden history of the radical historical Jesus, a construct created and sustained by freethinkers, feminists, socialists, and anarchists during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. The result of this exploration is a new narrative revealing that Cyrenus Ward, Caroline Bartlett, George Herron, Bouck White, and other radical religionists had an impact on the history of religion in America rivaling that of recognized religious intellectuals such as Shailer Mathews, Charles Briggs, Francis Peabody, and Walter Rauschenbusch.

The methods utilized by radical religionists were different from those employed by elite liberal divines, however, and part of a larger struggle over the relationship between religion and civilization. There were numerous reasons for this conflict, but Burns argues that the primary cause was that key radical religionists used Ernest Renan's The Life of Jesus to create an imaginative brand of biblical criticism that struck a balance between the demands of reason and the doctrines of religion. And this measured approach allowed Robert Ingersoll, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eugene Debs, and other secular-minded thinkers who sought to purge Christianity of its supernatural dimensions to still find something wonderful in the religious imagination and make common cause with an ancient peasant from Galilee.

This provocative blend of reason and religion produced a vibrant countercultural movement that spanned communities, classes, and creeds and makes The Life and Death of the Radical Historical Jesus a book that deserves a wide readership in an era when public intellectuals and politicians on both the left and right draw rigid lines between the secular and the sacred

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: The Human Being from Galilee
  • Chapter 1: The Birth of the Radical Historical Jesus
  • Chapter 2: The Militant and Lowly Historical Jesus
  • Chapter 3: The Radical Historical Jesus in Action
  • Chapter 4: The Clash of Christs
  • Chapter 5: The Fireman of Terre Haute
  • Epilogue: The Afterlife of the Radical Historical Jesus

David Burns is a graduate of Ball State University and Northern Illinois University. He lives in Marion, Ohio with his wife and son.

Reviews and Awards

"[T]his book is a valuable contribution to the literature on American constructions of Jesus. It foregrounds a neglected intellectual and spiritual tradition, situating it carefully in its cultural context, and it offers a fine-grained study of an important period in radical history." --Church History

"Burns's focus allows him to contribute to the current scholarly conversation about American secularity... Burns deserves our deepest thanks for starting the conversation [about the radical historical Jesus] with this fascinating and ably executed study." --American Historical Review

"A notable social and cultural labor history of the US working-class movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries... Labor historians will gain much from Burns." --CHOICE

"A fresh and vital contribution" --The Journal of American History

"In this superb book, David Burns reclaims one of our nation's most important, but also most neglected, radical traditions. In rediscovering the democratic, and socialist, and feminist, Jesuses of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America, Burns offers a significant intervention into how we view the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. He also provides a creative new way for us to think about the connection between secularism, religious thought, and politics throughout our nation's past." --Robert D. Johnston, author of The Radical Middle Class: Populist Democracy and the Question of Capitalism in Progressive Era Portland, Oregon

"David Burns examines a fascinating intellectual movement that viewed Jesus as mortal, and held that Jesus' contribution lay with his example of human solidarity, not with the supernatural actions attributed to him. Now mainly forgotten, this movement had a profound impact on late nineteenth-century American thought. By excavating this worldly Jesus, Burns challenges the standard narrative that overstates the role of Protestant and Evangelical belief in Gilded Age intellectual life." -- Charles Postel, author of The Populist Vision

"This book's fascinating story is set in the America of 1870 to 1920 and focuses on a 'Christ constructed by radicals who denied the divine, scorned the supernatural and secularized the sacred.' Its opening pages, for example, cite debate in the Machinists' Monthly Journal of 1906 about whether the economic face of Christianity can be (no!) or must be (yes!) Socialism. This is a powerful and persuasive, timely and timeless, account of how those in positions of religious power and political privilege can cloak Jesus in layers of glorious irrelevance but how his economic radicalism surfaces again and again among those of kindred conscience." --John Dominic Crossan, Professor Emeritus, DePaul

The Life and Death of the Radical Historical Jesus by David Burns (review)

  • Sean McCloud
  • From: The Catholic Historical Review
  • Volume 100, Number 3, Summer 2014
  • pp. 639-640 | 10.1353/cat.2014.0146

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The Life and Death of the Radical Historical Jesus provides an intellectual and cultural history from the mid-1800s to World War I of the Jesus imagined and promoted by writers, freethinkers, unionists, socialists, anarchists, and other varieties of left-wing activists who were socially conscious advocates of the working class. Burns is careful to note that the radical Jesus’s visage seldom engaged the interest of African Americans, mainline Protestants, and Roman Catholics. But despite this, he argues, historians must “rethink standard cultural categories and recognize the influence that radical religionists exerted on Gilded-Age and Progressive-Era America as unconventional thinkers who believed that imagination could produce truths as valid and viable as those generated by the intellect” (p. 13). Specifically, Burns suggests that proponents of the radical historical Jesus (1) contributed to the spread of religious modernism outside seminary gates and into the homes of working Americans and (2) were among the individuals and structures fomenting the “overall secularization of American society” between the Civil War and World War I by creating a climate in which secular scholars came to wield an authority on certain topics that was previously the sole possession of theologians and ministers.

As works such as Stephen Prothero’s American Jesus (New York, 2003) and Richard Wightman Fox’s Jesus in America (San Francisco, 2004) have shown, the figure of Jesus has—more than any other—been imagined in multiple ways that reflected the desires, characteristics, and hopes of those Americans doing the imagining. In that respect, one could argue that those Gilded-Age and Progressive-Era individuals and groups who envisioned and promoted a proletarian, anticapitalist, and even anticlerical Jesus were in many ways similar to the fundamentalists, evangelicals, Catholics, mainline Protestants, and new religious-movement participants that engaged in the same sort of creative imaginings. Although Burns does not dwell on such comparative analysis, his most sustaining contribution is the historical trajectory of the “revolutionary carpenter.” Burns deftly traces how the radical historical Jesus emerged in the 1860s, took on various similar yet unique guises in the writings and speeches of proponents, and declined markedly in stature at the onset of World War I when it was replaced by the dominant image of a masculine and militaristic Jesus that supported war efforts. Burns, for the most part, focuses on particular figures and their writings to tell this historical, change-over-time narrative. He begins with Ernest Renan’s The Life of Jesus (New York, 1863) and follows its initial influence into the works and activities of such well-known American figures as Robert Ingersoll, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Bouck White, and Eugene Debs. The chapters on White, the radical minister and author of Call of the Carpenter (Garden City, NY, 1911), and Eugene Debs, the Midwestern activist who came to see Christianity and socialism as inseparable, are especially detailed and useful for readers interested in these figures.

Although the arguments made by Burns become clearer in the book’s epilogue, the introduction—as well as the introductions to each chapter—could have benefited greatly from the inclusion of clearly articulated thesis arguments. In addition, Burns uses terms such as radical, conservative, and secular without ever defining them. Given that these words have histories of multiple and contested meanings, attention to their definitions as intended for this work would have been useful. Despite these issues, The Life and Death of the Radical Historical Jesus is a solid contribution to American studies, American religious history, and American labor history.

Records of Marriage 1961-2005

  • Name: Dave Boswell Burns
  • Gender: Male
  • Age: 27
  • Birth Place: Plymouth Indiana
  • Marriage Place: Muncie, Delaware, Indiana, USA
  • Spouse: Elizabeth Ann Michael
  • Father: Dave Buns
  • Mother: Judith Buns
  • Certificate Number: 26231
  • Name: Elizabeth Ann Michael
  • Gender: Female
  • Age: 25
  • Birth Place: Indiana
  • Marriage Place: Muncie, Delaware, Indiana, USA
  • Spouse: Dave Boswell Burns
  • Father: Ronald Wayne Michael
  • Mother: Marsha Lynn Michael
  • Certificate Number: 26231