That Was The Week That Was


• My colleague Christian Collins Winn shared his year-opening chapel talk at Bethel, in which he suggested how Pietism might provide a model for civil discourse. (And be sure to check out Brian Gumm’s response to that post at his blog, Restorative Theology. It was certainly gratifying to read that he thinks Christian and I are “drawing on the riches of the Pietist tradition in ways that completely short-circuit the ways in which ‘pietist’ has come to function in theological discourse” and that we “help show what Brethren have long known (or at least felt): There is deep continuity between the Anabaptist and Pietist traditions because of their concern for costly Christian discipleship in God’s reconciling work toward the peaceable kingdom come.”)

• If you’re a Christian, how do you respond to Leviticus and the other books of The Law in the Old Testament?

Part three of what should end up being a four-part series on Minnesotan commemoration of World War I asked why there are so few (and such muted) WWI memorials in and around the state’s capital city.

• Some more seemingly random Google search threads that led searchers to this blog…

• I’m still moved by the story of the young deaf man who described what it was like to hear music for the first time.

There and Everywhere

Case, An Unpredictable GospelJay Case of Malone University (one of Bethel’s peers in the Christian College Consortium) joined the blogosphere. Jay was one of the presenters our 2009 research conference on the Pietist Impulse in Christianity, and is one of the many fine evangelical scholars to come out of Notre Dame’s excellent religious history program. And check out Jay’s new book from Oxford UP, An Unpredictable Gospel: American Evangelicals and World Christianity, 1812-1920.

• The American Historical Association’s “tuning” project (bringing together historians from seventy diverse educational institutions to reconsider the undergraduate history major) released its first publication, the “History Discipline Core,” which seeks to “describe the skills, knowledge and habits of mind that students develop in history courses and degrees.”

• Though I talk about the Non-Aligned Movement at a few points in the Cold War history class I’ll be teaching again next spring, I had to admit that I had no idea the NAM still met. Having learned this, however, I’m not totally surprised to learn that it’s become “a focal point for the world’s nastiest rogue states,” including North Korea, Zimbabwe, and The Sudan (whose president is wanted on war crimes charge.) And guess which leader with a penchant for Holocaust denial is the current chairperson of the NAM…

• That leader’s exterminationist rhetoric was one of the sources for Ron Rosenbaum’s exploration of the phrase “obsessed with the Holocaust,” in which he asks, “How much does a serious person think about the Holocaust? What does it mean to be ‘obsessed’ and what does it mean to give the Holocaust an appropriate place in our political and cultural consciousness?”

• While we’re on this subject… Nazi- and Fascist-themed wines made in the Veneto province of Italy: Tasteless kitsch or international scandal?

• And perhaps some more reason to wonder if Italy “has ever fully come to terms with its wartime past”: a new monument (rendered “in a style reminiscent of fascist architecture”) was recently unveiled in the small Italian town of Affile, east of Rome. It features the bust of a Mussolini-era general known as “The Butcher” for the way he handled himself during Italy’s interwar colonization of North Africa.

• Tomorrow I’ll help serve Communion at our church, which has an “open table” approach to the sacrament: all who profess faith in Jesus Christ are welcome to partake, regardless of denomination. At the same time, I’ve never felt the degree of hurt described by this Charismatic Episcopal pastor when I’ve participated in, say, a Catholic Mass, knowing that I can’t take the elements but can instead receive a blessing from the priest. What do you think of “closed Communion”?

Bryan speaking in 1908
William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) speaking in 1908, during his third unsuccessful campaign as Democratic nominee for president – Library of Congress

• I agree with Christian Century editor David Heim that William Jennings Bryan is a fascinating and often misunderstood (in no small part because of the ahistorical version of him presented in Inherit the Wind) figure. But I’d love to see a historian of evangelicalism answer his closing question: “To read [Michael] Kazin’s account of Bryan’s career [A Godly Hero] is to be reminded again and again of roads not taken in American political and religious life and to wonder: What would have happened if conservative Christian piety had remained yoked to Bryan’s brand of the social gospel?” (I assume he means to refer only to the 40-50 years after Bryan’s death, because, as historians like David Swartz have shown, by the 1970s there was certainly a vibrant “evangelical left” that fused conservative piety and social concern.)

• My colleague Chris Armstrong couldn’t have put it better in ending his recent post on “totalizing careers“: “Most careers aren’t vocations, so we need space outside them to grow and love. . . .”

• The baseball season is winding down, so those of my readers who don’t share my love for the sport will soon get a respite from me occasionally sharing links like this one: to a study indicating how baseball announcers subtly favor white players and denigrate Latinos.

• “Weekend Reading” at the Bethel University History Department Blog, AC 2nd, included posts about astronaut trivia, the decline of the Republican and Democratic conventions, a crash course in the Industrial Revolution, and an infamous Roman emperor who doesn’t look at a day over 2000.

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