That Was The Week That Was

Aside from posts on John Le Carré and the history of college closures, it was a mostly quiet week here at The Pietist Schoolman. But other writers more than picked up my slack:

Brennan Manning
Brennan Manning (1934-2013)

• Two more essays on Le Carré: Emma Hogan analyzed the spy novelist’s writing style; Dwight Garner profiled him for the New York Times Magazine.

RIP Brennan Manning: Donald Miller, Jana Riess and Ben Simpson were among the many to pay tribute to the author of The Ragamuffin Gospel.

• My friend Sam is a big fan of comedian Patton Oswalt, but I keep forgetting to ask him what he thought of Oswalt’s response to the Boston Marathon bombing: “We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.” I doubt he’d agree with Jordan Bloom, that it’s “vapid nonsense.”

• Efrem Smith on the dangers of perpetuating (cf. The Bible miniseries) a false image of Jesus as European and white: “I had an interesting conversation with my wife and daughters last night. My youngest daughter asked me if I was trying to make Jesus Black because I’m Black. She also said that the White Jesus is the only Jesus she has ever known and that it would be challenging to see Jesus any other way. I told my family that it is not my intention to fight for a Black Jesus, but for the authentic Jesus of the Scriptures. I fight for the real Jesus, who was a North African and Asiatic Jew. This multi-ethnic Christ, is the great reconciler and brings new life.”

• David Heim on what brings the kingdom of God: “…that oft-used line about ‘the kingdom of God is not going to come because of X’ seems to me tiresome and evasive. The kingdom of God is not going to come with any number of things. It won’t come with electoral politics, a more inclusive health care system, or a more compassionate welfare system. It will not come with the rise of local food coops. It will not come with a theologically pure liturgy. The kingdom of God comes only when Jesus brings it—and its coming is a mystery. That much we know. In the meantime, lots of these other things—from liturgy to food coops to electoral politics— are worth a Christian’s thought and participation out of love of God and neighbor.”

• Except for the fact that she got his name wrong, I appreciated Charity Carney’s critique of John Dickerson’s The Great Evangelical Recession: “It seems that the decline of evangelicalism that Dickinson [sic] describes is actually a part of the natural evolution of evangelicalism, and that dynamic ability to evolve is what has made the movement so fruitful in the United States. Within this history of evangelical evolution, fear of declension and secularization or loss of fundamental beliefs is one of the few constants. Every generation has voices that cry declension, but evangelicals have done an excellent job in adapting to cultural pressures and surviving/thriving.”

Logevall, Embers of War• I am not at all surprised to hear that the makers of the new film 42 glossed over the Christian faith of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. Nor that Eric Metaxas would be upset about this. I am surprised to find him sharing this response (originally published in USA Today) in this most progressive of evangelical venues

• I spent a couple days on the Vietnam War(s) in my Cold War history class this week, drawing heavily from the work of Fredrik Logevall — correction: Pulitzer prize-winner Fredrik Logevall.

• At some point soon, I’ll need to start thinking through the World War II course I’ll premiere next January. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ reflection on Antony Beevor’s history of that conflict helped confirm that my primary goal for that course is to complicate the assumption still held, I think, by most Americans, that their country fought a “good war” in 1941-1945: “Faced with the evil of the Nazis, or the evils of Japanese imperialism, we find the tools of evil more alluring. By the time American forces get to the Ardennes, they are not taking prisoners. And looking at Nazi tactics — ‘surrendering’ and then shooting – can we say we’d do anything different?”

• You may have heard the story of the Albany, NY schoolteacher facing disciplinary action for assigning students to write an anti-Semitic argument as if they were living in Nazi Germany… Be sure to read John Fea’s take on this, as he makes the same appeal to the value of historical empathy that I’d make. Indeed, I have students in my Modern Europe course play the role of defense attorneys in a mock trial of three Germans who took part in the Holocaust. Of course, those are college students in an upper-division History course at the end of a week on the Holocaust, not high school students in an English class working on “persuasive writing.”

• As a map-lover, I hugely enjoyed both Joseph Yanielli’s post about “moral charts” in 19th century America and the innovative maps (spotlighted by NPR’s Robert Krulwich) that use cellphone data and the movement of dollar bills to show that “real communities in America may be utterly different from the 50 state boxes we display on our political maps.” (The map of Britain is pretty cool, too.)

George W. Bush in 2007Strong words from historian Stephen Knott for leading members of his guild: “In their hasty, partisan-tinged assessments of [George W.] Bush, far too many scholars breached their professional obligations, engaging in a form of scholarly malpractice, by failing to do what historians are trained to do before pronouncing judgment on a presidency: conduct tedious archival research, undertake oral history interviews, plow through memoirs, interview foreign leaders and wait for the release of classified information.”

• This is interesting: the decline of long-form journalism at a major American newspaper.

• Biblical scholar Mark Goodacre’s experience of having a blog post critiqued in a peer-reviewed journal article prompted a nice discussion of blogging as scholarship. (H/T John Fea)

• One of only six members of the evangelical Council for Christian Colleges and Universities to be affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), Whitworth University decided to end its exclusive partnership with the PCUSA, explore other partnerships (e.g., with breakaway groups of conservative Presbyterians), and “emphasize its Reformed, evangelical and ecumenical identities.”

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