That Was The Week That Was


• Historians shouldn’t ask half-baked, existential questions about theology if they don’t want actual theologians to answer them, as I learned in pondering the role of doctrine in Pietism. (Do check the comments on that post: two come from colleagues who are collaborating on a new book about Pietism.)

• Part three of my series ruminating on the vocation of Christian historians argued that seeking the truth in the past is (or ought to be) less discovery than recovery and analysis than integration, and that it involves piety and moral inquiry.

• After some less than exhaustive research, I concluded that the American Revolution has produced few good movies (and no great ones), that the Vietnam War has inspired more than its share of classics, that WWII yields vastly more movies than any other, but that another war has produced the best overall set of films.

…There and Everywhere

• I shared these through the Pietism Studies Group Twitter feed, but forgot to include them in last weekend’s links post… The Luther 2017 website featured a couple of pieces on Pietism: one on German Pietism as a “second Reformation“; the second on the connections between Luther and Francke.

Asatru in Iceland
Asatru gathering in Iceland, 2009 – Creative Commons (Lenka Kovarova)

• I keep asserting that my own denomination is most explicit in its embrace of a Pietist heritage, but it might need to make room for the Brethren in Christ — if the new issue of its magazine is any indication.

• Rod Dreher explored the appeal of neo-pagan religions like Asatru (particularly for his fellow conservatives) and found paganism subject to the same secularizing pressures as Christianity.

• Jay Case helpfully reminded the New York Times that the 94% of the world’s Catholics who aren’t American probably shouldn’t put a priority on what the 6% who are think about the next pope.

• Willa Paskin’s was about as positive a review of the History Channel’s new The Bible miniseries as I could find: “…yet as artistically lacking as I found ‘The Bible,’ I won’t be upset, exactly, if there are more like it, even though I would never willingly choose to watch that. We all watch bad television that we enjoy despite its badness: I watch ‘Smash’ for goodness’ sake. If ‘The Bible’ is someone’s idea of comfort TV, why shouldn’t they have it? Would I snobbily stomp on the sacred American right of the Evangelical red-stater who I suspect — on no hard evidence at all – is watching this series to watch something crappy?”

McGrath, C.S. Lewis: A Life• There’s lots of enthusiasm out there for Alister McGrath’s new biography of C.S. Lewis. Positive early reviews have come in from Scot McKnight (who finds McGrath “courageous” for not avoiding the “weirdness” of Lewis) and Thomas Kidd (most interested in “Lewis’ handling of fame and his role as a public intellectual”), among others.

• Colonial Williamsburg has come a long way in its willingness to engage with the role of slavery in U.S. history, but the Washington Post reports that even as CW and similar sites have “tried to do justice to the story of slavery and attract more minority visitors, they’ve sometimes had difficulty persuading black actors to take jobs interpreting enslaved figures.”

RIP, Robert Zieger — the distinguished labor historian whose survey of the American experience of World War I I’ve often assigned.

• A new book by historians Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman argues that Franklin D. Roosevelt, if not exactly a heroic figure in the history of the Holocaust, probably doesn’t deserve some of the slings and arrows he’s received.

• We’ve reached the post-Stalin era in my Cold War class, but the 60th anniversary of that leader’s death inspired Robert Gellately to reflect again on his importance and iniquity. (See also Tom Balmforth’s profile of one of the camps in the Gulag system, with reminiscences by some of its inhabitants.)

• If this result holds up and a man indicted by the International Criminal Court becomes president of Kenya, it would bolster the case of pessimists who look at transnational justice and fear that “the hypocrisy and inconsistency in the system will destroy its credibility and tarnish the ideals it is intended to promote.”

• David Brooks observed the growth of Orthodox Judaism (earlier marriage, more children) and its “countercultural understanding of how life should work.”

• Fellow NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman thinks that MOOCs really are the next big thing in higher education. Carolyn Foster Sagal strongly (and for several excellent reasons, I think) disagrees.

• I think I’ll adapt this assignment, using Wikipedia to understand historiography, for my European history course next fall…

• What can’t historians do?

• The rise of an “evangelical mega-university” in Lynchburg, VA.

Liberty University
Licensed by Creative Commons (Billy Hathorn)

• I’m enjoying Rondall Reynoso’s Faith on View blog, including this post on faculty compensation at Christian colleges.

• As readers of baseball-related posts like this one may already know, Kirby Puckett was my favorite player growing up, so I appreciated this essay by Barnabas Piper.

One thought on “That Was The Week That Was

  1. Re: MOOCs. One piece missing in so many arguments for and against MOOCs is that of resources. Friedman touches on it; his answer is Google. Friedman fails to recognize that the resources students at traditional institutions use are not free and often not available on the Internet. Academic libraries support course and department curriculums by purchasing access to print and electronic resources you can’t get simply by having an Internet connection. If you’re teaching to 50,000 students in a MOOC, and there is no common catalog of resources for the the students, then you must turn to what is free and available to all. Since “free” is not a criterion for what makes a quality resource students may end up using inferior course materials. In the end I guess it turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy for Friedman. MOOCs have to use free, Internet resources because they have no choice, therefore all students enrolled in MOOCs can find everything they need on the Internet.

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