That Was The Week That Was


• Just in case he’s been reading without commenting for months now… Congratulations to Pres. Barack Obama on his reelection. Mr. President, you were busy on Tuesday morning, so if you missed it, let me encourage you to consider the great Christian humanist Erasmus’ advice to the Christian prince (or president) as you look toward your second term.

• Why the act of voting — however frustrating this year’s campaign might have been for many Americans — remains a too-rare privilege in today’s world, one won for a variety of groups in this country over many decades.

• I passed along samples of how I’ve started to integrate student blogging into my modern European history survey course. (I neglected to add that I did something similar last spring in our department’s capstone research seminar. See that series here.)

There and Everywhere

2012 absentee ballot
Licensed by Creative Commons (Viktor Nagornyy)

• Voting as a “civil sacrament.”

• The Pew Forum’s preliminary analysis of exit poll data revealed some interesting patterns in religious affiliation and voting. Pres. Obama’s share of the popular vote declined 3%, from 53% in 2008 to 50% in 2012. But the dip was larger among four groups: Jews (-9%), white Catholics (-7%), “born-again/evangelical” Protestants (-6%), and “religiously unaffiliated” (-5%). (Similarly, he dropped seven points among those who attend worship — of any faith — more than once a week, and five points among those who don’t worship at all.) On the other hand, he improved his share of Americans of other faiths (+1%), black Protestants (+1%), and Hispanic Catholics (+3%).

• In California the proposed abolition of the death penalty fell short of passage, receiving only 47% of the vote, but I still find the question raised by University of St. Thomas law professor Mark Osler an important one for Christians: “If God is one who forgives, redeems, has a purpose for all, how can we have a death penalty? The people with stones in their hands ready to slay the adulteress walked away not because the woman didn’t deserve to die, but because they didn’t deserve to kill her…. The law granted [those people] the power to throw those desert rocks, to end a life with violent death; just as the law grants the people of California the power to execute their fellow citizens. But we can put down those stones. As a matter of faith, we should.”

• Here in Minnesota, a proposed amendment that would have defined marriage as involving one man and one woman also went down to defeat. I tend to prefer the solution that would reserve marriage as a religious ceremony, with the state recognizing civil partnerships, but philosopher Laurie Shrage argued that state-sanctioned marriage was essential to protecting the rights of women and children.

• Peter Goodwin Heltzel (who contributed a piece on Martin Luther King, Jr. to our Pietist Impulse book) put together “Jesus, jazz, and justice.”

• Meanwhile, Catholic scholar James Patrick argued that “The lives of Christians and the mission of the Church move within and use an existing culture, and the Church may impress itself on the face of culture, but culture is at best a circumstance, a means, and occasionally, an encouragement…. The point is that reforming culture directly is never the business of the Church.” (An argument rebutted by at least a couple of contributors to the comments section.)

• Preston Sprinkle began a promising new series on evangelicalism and militarism, with this thesis: “The nations will do what the nations will do. But the recent push for militarism is augmented by one significant—and quite bewildering—fact: the American Evangelical church has been leading the charge for the nation’s recent fascination and faith in military might.”

Old Main at Gustavus Adolphus College
Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN, one of the twenty-six colleges and universities related to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – Creative Commons (Jlencion)

• “There’s something unmatched about working at an institution that supports one’s theological/religious convictions, provides opportunities to further explore one’s faith with students and colleagues and helps to integrate one’s life into a coherent whole.” I couldn’t have summed up the joy of teaching as a Christian scholar at a Christian college better than did Greg Peters of Biola’s Torrey Honors Institute, in a post that interwove reflections on John Henry Newman, Benedictine monasticism, and Socratic dialogue, among other things.

• From a different model of church-related higher education… Inside Higher Ed ran an interesting piece on how Lutheran schools are both hiring more non-Lutherans as presidents and treating those hires as moments to contemplate what’s distinctive about Lutheran higher education.

• Hey, anyone remember Kony 2012?

• I’m not saying the Twin Cities are the best place to live… The business/economics correspondent for Slate is.

• And at the Bethel History Department’s blog, “Weekend Reading” ranged from Geronimo and Pancho Villa to Kristallnacht and some forgotten Asian Christian martyrs.

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