That Was The Week That Was


• This is a blog that seeks to explore “Christianity, history, education, and how they intersect.” So naturally the most popular post of the week had to do with thinking through how Americans in a not-too-distant might replace pro football. (Thanks again to my friends and colleagues Sam Mulberry and Chris Moore for doing the heavy lifting for that “thought experiment.”)

• And it must be election season if I actually write two posts about politics in a single week. One encouraging progressives to make sure to include some conservative writers in their reading diet, and then a follow-up sharing critiques of contemporary conservatism by two of the conservatives I had recommended: David Brooks and Rod Dreher. (In the earlier post I also highlighted Atlantic blogger Conor Friedersdorf, partly for his willingness to criticize fellow conservatives. By the same token, he hasn’t been shy in taking on the incumbent Democratic president, though his chief reservations about Barack Obama have nothing to do with health care reform, abortion, or same-sex marriage.) Look for a list of progressives for conservatives to read on Monday…

• Four things I’ve learned after three weeks of teaching fourth grade Sunday School. I should have waited one more week to complete the “fours” symmetry, but… well, patience isn’t one of the four things I’ve learned.

• The fifth (and probably last) post in my series on how World War I has been commemorated in Minnesota looked at two sites around the oldest military installation in the state.

There and Everywhere

• The most compelling story you’ll read this week: the promising baseball prospect who became a priest.

The capture of Nat Turner
19th century engraving depicting the capture of Nat Turner – Wikimedia

• I don’t know what this says about me, but the second most compelling read of my week was this oral history of the sitcom Cheers, celebrating its 30th anniversary. (I’ll never forget how upset I was that I had to sing in my last high school choir concert the same night as the Cheers finale. Thankfully, my parents taped it for me, which means that we not only have that episode recorded, but also the earliest promos for Frasier.)

• Some time ago I wrote about my discomfort with John Brown’s and Frederick Douglass’ embrace of political violence as being redemptive or prophetic. My friend Michial Farmer (of The Christian Humanist Podcast and Blog) asked what I thought, then, of Nat Turner. I had no good answer then or now, but perhaps Ta-Nehisi Coates will come up with one as he launches his new series on Turner. One of the questions he asks: “We recoil in horror at Turner massacring women and children. But in several of the primary documents, men countenance genocide in response to Turner (or the next revolt). How different was the scale of Turner’s violence?”

• One of the best defenses of the value of the liberal arts that I’ve read: Wilfrid McClay reminding us that Alexis de Tocqueville found a liberal education central to the success of democracy in America. (H/T John Fea)

• Then, for another take, an argument that liberal arts colleges need to emphasize entrepreneurship.

• Jean-Claude Carrière and Umberto Eco had a conversation about the future of books and the nature of knowledge (among other things).

• This past week I again discussed national anthems with my modern European history class. So it was interesting to read this reflection by a choral director asked to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Spanish.

Cheese at a market in Peru
Licensed by Creative Commons (quinet)

• Did you know that cheese is one of the world’s most stolen goods? Our neighbors to the north face another version of the problem: cheese smuggling rings.

• But in better news for Canada: it’s (again) the world’s most highly educated country.

• I like blog post titles that sell themselves: “Weird monk jokes.

• Jared Burkholder offered two takes on the conservative evangelical writer Eric Metaxas: the first sharing Jared’s concern about Metaxas’ use of history to serve a political agenda, but the second an appreciation for the more nuanced view of “the Christian’s relationship with the State” expressed by Metaxas in an address to the students of Grace College.

• A powerful reflection from Ellen Painter Dollar, reminding readers that the Body of Christ includes “people like me, who have some clear physical or psychological disability that significantly influences what our bodies and spirits can and cannot do. And then there is our rapidly aging population of people who were once robust, healthy, and pain-free, but who are becoming arthritic, hobbled, and hunched.”

• In our book on The Pietist Impulse in Christianity, Kyle Roberts contrasted two Danish Christians of the 19th century. One was Søren Kierkegaard. The other was the Lutheran bishop Nikolai Gruntvig. If you know the former but have never heard of the latter, read Philip Jenkins’ summary of his accomplishments (in which Jenkins asks, “Might Grundtvig be the greatest nineteenth century Christian leader we’ve never heard of?”).

Jamie Smith pushed back against the idea that “Ours… is a ‘Galilean’ [not Galileean] moment: a critical time in history when new findings in the natural sciences threaten to topple fundamental Christian beliefs, just as Galileo’s proposed heliocentrism rocked the ecclesiastical establishment of his day.”

• This weekend’s suggested readings from our department blog include posts about the history of fences, religion and the Presidency, a dark chapter in Chinese history, and the passing of Eugene Genovese.

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