That Was The Week That Was


Pride and Prejudice, going strong after 200 years.

• Re: my post on the music of Monty Python… Did I mention that I was such a devoted fan in high school that I convinced a group of friends to come over to the house for a marathon viewing party that took us through most of the first three series of the TV show (let us not speak of the Cleese-less fourth) and favorite scenes in The Holy Grail? No? Must’ve slipped my mind for some reason…

• It probably isn’t Bethel’s year to show up on the Best Colleges to Work For list, but several of its peers did well on measures like work-life balance, job satisfaction, and confidence in senior leadership.

• Pope Francis visited a Brazil that’s considerably less Catholic and considerably more Protestant than it was when he was ordained in 1969…

• One more reminder to check out new blogs by Mark Bruce and Laura Mortenson.

…There and Everywhere

Robert George
Robert P. George – Princeton University

• An NPR look inside Brazil’s evangelical movement featured this from one Protestant pastor: “I was a Catholic, but the church lost its sense of solidarity with the poor, with the drug addicts, with the prostitutes, the murderers and the thieves… The church closed its doors to these people.”

• Which countries send out the most missionaries? Which receive the most? (Hint: the same country tops both lists.)

• Catholic legal scholar Robert George was elected to head the bipartisan U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom. Here he is writing on that freedom.

• Evangelicals like Jim Wallis and Russell Moore continued to play a prominent role in the push for immigration reform. (And here’s an interesting profile of Moore by the great religion writer Bob Smietana.) But Jonathan Merritt isn’t convinced that rank-and-file evangelicals are on board.

• I’ll be giving a paper this fall at the Evangelical Theological Society on intersections between international and religious history… A key figure standing at that crossroad is Andrew Preston, whose Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith was described by Mark Edwards as a “monumental achievement in the field of religion and politics… the capstone on if not completion of the ‘religious turn’ in Diplomatic History.” It led Edwards to ask, “Why is there so much secularism in the diplomatic discourse of the American Century?”

• The New York Times belatedly caught up with a trend in American religious history: to pay the same kind of attention to the history of “mainline,” “old-line,” or “ecumenical” Protestantism that evangelicalism has received. Does it have new vitality beyond the history books? Roger Olson is mostly skeptical.

• I share that skepticism, but I’d have added “theological liberals” to a list of Christianity’s “Most Popular Scapegoats.”

Christ Pantocrator
Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator from the Hagia Sophia – Wikimedia

• Roger also argued that Christians creeds, confessions, affirmations, etc. ought to start not with God or the Bible, but with Jesus: “I believe our primary focus of faith as Christians, that which conditions all else, is Jesus. If he is God incarnate, as all orthodox Christians believe (or at least say they believe), or even the ‘human face of God,’ as liberal Christians believe (or at least say they believe), then we cannot begin with a generic or even pre-Jesus ‘God,’ what theologian Robert Jenson calls ‘unbaptized God,’ and project that onto Jesus.” (And for a model of how to do this, see the Herrnhut Pietist leader Nicolaus von Zinzendorf, “perhaps the most Jesus-centered theologian in the history of orthodox, trinitarian Christianity.”)

• Of course, you might also reject Christianity and have Jesus at the center.

• In this 1300th anniversary year of the Edict of Milan, some thoughts on Constantine and his relationships with his mother, Helena, and with the religions of the Roman Empire, by one of his recent biographers.

• Hilary Sherratt thinks the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses would be a good time for Christians of all traditions to emphasize ecumenism and reconciliation, though “the proper end of ecumenical dialogue ought not to be the emergence of one common denomination.”

• A reminder that this country had taxpayer-funded welfare long before the New Deal.

• If you look at only two WWII-era anti-Nazi propaganda posters today, make it these two — by a Russian emigré artist in 1941 and featuring remarkable caricatures of Hermann Goering and Josef Goebbels.

• The looming pardon of Alan Turing (who helped break the German Enigma code during WWII but was later convicted of “gross indecency” and chemically castrated after acknowledging a romantic relationship with another man) had a fellow computer scientist wondering, “What do we do with the knowledge that people not all that different from ourselves have behaved with astounding stupidity and cruelty, over and over again, in the recent past? Become paranoid of ourselves?”

David Dockery, president of Union University
David S. Dockery – Creative Commons (Mrelhak4)

• One of the most widely admired Christian college presidents, David Dockery is entering his last year as president of Union University.

• I haven’t had nearly the kind of exposure that historian David Perry enjoys at The Atlantic and, but I’d echo his views on the importance of scholars learning how to write for a general audience: “…the general public perceives faculty members as isolated from reality, holding cushy jobs, and uninterested in open communication. The public has little access to the broad diversity of knowledge, experience, and background inside higher education, because those academics who do achieve broader platforms generally come from only the most elite universities. Although many of those public intellectuals are brilliant writers and speakers, they represent only a tiny percentage of the expertise available in the academic world. That expertise lies not just in our subject fields but also in the habits of mind we bring to bear on countless other kinds of issues.”

• And here’s why historians should write for general audiences, and except misunderstanding when they do… Jonathan Rees has been a consistent and convincing critic of MOOCs for a while now, but publishing a piece in Slate on the topic got him new attention. Some of it fairly critical, though not necessarily fair: Rees dissected one such critique, by Jonathan Chait.

• As we all struggle to contain our excitement about NFL training camps starting up, here’s a reminder why the National Pastime is pretty fantastic.

• Guess who turned seventy yesterday.

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