That Was The Week That Was


Stillwater Veterans Memorial
Stillwater (MN) Veterans Memorial

• A tour of memorial sites got me thinking about how to teach a new course on World War II, and prompted two new series: one on the commemoration of WWII started by asking why “living memorials” were so popular among architects, artists, and others in the 1940s; then a second looked chapters in WWII history that Americans probably don’t know that well, starting with Japan’s war on China.

• How some Japanese remember that war (or, maybe more accurate, fail to remember it) is exacerbating tensions with China and South Korea.

• I should have news of my own side project before the month is out, but for now… My Albums A to Z series continued with the debut of my favorite musical side project.

• One in six evangelical colleges and universities earned the lowest possible grade for financial health from Forbes magazine.

• What do Bethel students do with their summer “off”? Oh, nuthin’ much. Maybe work for one of the country’s leading religious publications and write essays about worship

…There and Everywhere

Rev. Elizabeth Eaton
Rev. Elizabeth Eaton – Northeast Ohio Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

• There was a time in American history when the announcement of any new leader of the country’s largest Lutheran denomination — let alone the first woman to fill such a role — would have been big news. Given the decline of the ELCA… Well, Elizabeth Eaton’s historic election still warrants the coveted first bullet in “That Was The Week That Was.”

• John Turner was grateful (me too) for detente within American Protestantism: “…religious liberals and religious conservatives no longer aim quite so much vitriol against each other…. Some certainly view the above as evidence of declension in certain evangelical quarters. I am not suggesting that theological conservatives (or liberals) should not vigorously defend their positions, merely that it is a good thing that such discussions proceed with less personal animosity than in earlier decades.”

• Just how “timeless” are evangelical convictions? Changing attitudes on divorce, sexuality, and other issues led Randall Balmer to conclude that such Protestants “are swept along by cultural currents together with everyone else.”

• Allison Vesterfelt mused whether God wants us to enjoy “nice stuff.” (I think she’s conflating some things under the category of “nice stuff” — beauty, abundance, luxury — but I appreciated the question.)

• An atheistic sociologist debunked the notion that atheists are more intelligent than people of religious faith.

Cragg & Spickard, Global History of Christians• Speaking as someone who has taught a one-semester combo Western Civ/church history survey that ends ca. 1800 about twenty times now… I wish I could say more to allay Miles Mullin’s fears about attempting a full 2000-year survey of church history in one semester. It’s a great challenge… If he finds that the Martin Marty book he’s using doesn’t live up to expectations, then I’d suggest he consider my colleague Kevin Cragg’s A Global History of Christians: How Everyday Believers Experienced Their World (co-written with Paul Spickard).

• Charles H. Spurgeon: political progressive.

• You’re an intellectually curious person connected by social media to other intellectually curious persons, so you’ve probably seen demographer Dustin Cable’s “Racial Dot Map.” But here’s one more reminder. Zoom in really close on the metro area he chose to illustrate how “a place that may seem racially integrated at wider zoom levels may obscure racial segregation at the city or neighborhood level” and perhaps you’ll see my (blue) dot amid a lot of other blue and a few red dots.

• A treat for WWI buffs: over 700 pictures taken between 1914-1918 by a German artillery officer. (H/T The History Blog)

• I think my spending two and a half days driving around small towns in southern Minnesota visiting war memorials comes close, but I’ll concede the title of “ultimate history nerd road trip” to Tracy McKenzie’s impromptu drive from Wheaton, IL to Gettysburg, PA and back in a four-day weekend.

• The State Department’s decision to create a new office dedicated to religious engagement is both long overdue and fraught with difficulties. Susan Hayward at the Washington Post and a variety of commentators at The Immanent Frame offered advice.

• Disturbing as the events in Cairo have been, they’re perhaps more complicated than the casual observer would think: especially for Egypt’s Christian population, and for anyone inclined to draw a comparison between Tahrir and Tiananmen squares.

• Jamie Smith interviewed David Brooks.

Jean Bethke Elshtain
Jean Bethke Elshtain (1941-2013)

• I only know the work of Jean Bethke Elshtain well enough to appreciate that this remarkable scholar who died last Sunday didn’t fit neatly into any intellectual or political cubbyhole. Start with John Fea’s collection of links to Elshtain tributes, then (to further impress you with the breadth of her interests) read some of her commentary at Books and Culture. Much of it requires a subscription, but her review of Johnny Depp in Public Enemies is a free place to start. (Oh, and maybe combine that with Alissa Wilkinson’s essay on why Christians should engage in film criticism.)

• Speaking of Dr. Fea, now full Professor of History at Messiah College (Congratulations, John!)… He announced that you can now read an excerpt and/or order an exam copy of his forthcoming book, Why Study History?, which will address one criticism of his promotion essay: that it engaged in “historical exceptionalism.”

• Like John, Patrick Connelly offered a historian’s take on Mark Edmundson’s “The Ideal English Major.”

• The troubling story of Louisiana College continues to unfold: two former vice presidents may have been fired because of filing whistleblower complaints against LC president Joe Aguillard.

• Hey, how about some good news from the world of higher education? The story of tiny David & Elkins College.

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