That Was The Week That Was


Military chaplains in World War I, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and Brad Paisley crooning with LL Cool J. What you’re seeing here is either the fruit of a well-rounded liberal arts education, or a blogger who’s abandoned any goal of thematic unity and is just writing about whatever flits across his mind…

• Oh, and our Pietist Impulse book got a nice review.

…There and Everywhere

Emil Kapaun
Emily Kapaun – Wikimedia

• Speaking of military chaplains… Emil Kapaun, an American Catholic chaplain who served in WWII and died in a North Korean POW camp in 1953, received the Medal of Honor this week.

• And speaking of Brad Paisley… In my post on his song “Accidental Racist,” I made a bit of light of the lyric “it ain’t like I can walk a mile in someone else’s skin.” He should read historian Allegra di Bonaventura on how she sought to understand the life of an 18th century slave named Adam Jackson.

• Last October I marked the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis by noting that it overlapped with the 2nd Vatican Council, whose leading figure, Pope John XXIII — inspired by the near-miss of the Cuban Crisis — wrote his next encyclical on the theme of peace on Earth. Pacem in Terris turned fifty itself this past Thursday, a landmark celebrated with a conference at the Catholic University of America.

• I’m glad to see things picking up again at The Scriptorium — e.g., with Robert Llizo’s post on Augustine’s “theology of history.”

Arlene Sánchez-Walsh: “Pentecostalism’s long road to ruin, traditionalists would have you believe, begins with critical intellectual inquiry.  What they don’t understand is that the road to ruin is strewn with the depleted hopes and dreams of exasperated exiles like me who can no longer stand by and be complicit in the purge of critical thinkers from Pentecostalism’s ranks.”

• Mark Tooley asked what caused the “lack of wide Methodist visibility in American religious life, even though members of Wesleyan churches almost certainly outnumber Reformed ones.”

Luhrmann, When God Talks Back• T.M Luhrmann, author of the groundbreaking When God Talks Back, on the importance of religious believers and skeptics remaining in conversation with each other. When she experienced a Christian radio host “grill me about the state of my soul,” she was reminded “that one of the things that makes mutual respect between believers and nonbelievers difficult is that there is a kind of line in the sand, and you’re either on one side of it or on the other. Skeptics do this too, of course. I remember a dinner party where I was explaining my work among evangelicals to a colleague, and her face grew longer and longer until she said, ‘You talk to them?'”

• A few years back I encouraged our Christianity and Western Culture team to have students write their final essays in response to former George W. Bush adviser David Kuo’s suggestion that evangelical Christians take a “fast” from politics. Most students weren’t too impressed with the idea, but I was always impressed by Kuo — by his candor and passion, but also the courage with which he faced the terminal illness that took his life. It’s a testament to Kuo that his passing inspired tributes from people as diverse as Joe Klein (who called Kuo “the sweetest of God’s creatures”), Jim Wallis, and Andrew Sullivan. Reflecting on the memorial service at the evangelical megachurch Kuo and his family attended, Sullivan — a gay Catholic — wrote:

…many of us have come to view evangelical Christianity as threatening, and in its political incarnation, it is at times. But freed from politics, evangelical Christianity has a passion and joy and Scriptural mastery we could all learn from. The pastors were clearly of a higher caliber than most of the priests I have known – in terms of intellect and command. The work they do for the poor, the starving, and the marginalized in their own communities and across the world remains a testimony to the enduring power of Christ’s resurrection.

In some way, this was David’s last gift to me. His own unvarnished, embarrassingly frank belief helped me get over my prejudices against evangelicalism as a lived faith.

• Noting a recent poll on immigration showing virtually identical splits for white evangelicals and white mainliners, Tyler Day of The Christian Century asked, “For years, evangelicals have been told that their social ethic is out of touch. Maybe that pressure has helped spark some honest reflection that has lead to transformation. Does the wider culture put any similar pressure on mainline Protestants?”

• Wherever you stand on abortion rights… The non-coverage of the Gosnell trial in Philadelphia by the country’s leading newsmedia was bizarre, and now being apologized for by writers and editors in outlets like The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, Slate, and the Washington Post.

Not sure if a similar statement will be forthcoming from the New York Times, the longtime home of John McCandlish Phillips. An evangelical who encouraged other Christians to enter journalism, Phillips quit that career in 1973 to focus on his ministry work. In addition to the Times’ own obituary, see Tony Carnes’ piece for Christianity Today and one by Mark Silk.

John Turner asked, “what explains the ‘quiet’?” That being, the relative silence of many leading evangelicals “on issues surrounding gay rights.” Lots of reasons, he thought, including this: “…repentance for the church’s past (and, in many cases, present). That would actually be a very charitable explanation, but I think there is some truth in it. Undoubtedly, evangelical leaders want to do a better job of modeling Jesus’s love for all people than did their predecessors in the 1980s.”

• “Some have said that I’m either brave or crazy to be here today,” acknowledged Tea Party favorite and Republican presidential hopeful (?) Rand Paul during his speech at Howard University, the country’s leading historically black university. While Elahe Izadi thought that “the fact that Paul decided to speak at Howard in the first place did more for him and a party focusing on minority outreach than anything he actually said,” John Fea thought Paul “went off the historical rails when he concluded African Americans today would find more affinity with Republicans than Democrats.”

Colonial Williamsburg
Reenactment in Colonial Williamsburg – Wikimedia

• Always happy to see the living history site abutting the dorm where I lived my first year in college getting some ink: “Colonial Williamsburg, in its subtly transformed 21st-century mode, feels like a covert battleground in America’s culture wars. It’s where an overwhelmingly white and conservative audience meets the post-Howard Zinn cutting edge of history.”

• While I went to the United States’ second oldest college, I had had some notion of attending its oldest… Alas, my six years as a starter on my school’s state championship-winning Quiz Bowl team failed to impress Harvard, and I was wait-listed. Which makes this story pretty delicious. (Not that I’m holding a grudge all these years later!)

• I spent the bulk of my 2010 sabbatical staying home with newborn twins, still stay home with them two days a week, and do most of the grocery-buying and meal preparation in our household. On the other hand, I had my wife put the kids to bed so that I could write this blog post… So I’m not sure if I’m actually the model of Amy Reynolds’ “egalitarian men” that I’d imagine myself to be.

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