That Was The Week That Was


• The blogging team here at The Pietist Schoolman expanded, as my student Fletcher Warren responded to John Merriman’s The Dynamite Club and we introduced historian Jared Burkholder, our new regular guest blogger (stop back next Friday to read his first post).

• Meanwhile, my colleagues at Bethel University continue to inspire me as they embody the spirit of C.S. Lewis’ 1939 essay, “Learning in War-Time.”

• Remembrance/Veterans Day seemed like a good moment to revisit the theme of war commemoration. (Also on commemoration, read Benjamin Dueholm’s reflection on taking a “civil religion vacation.”)

• Are 100,000 Christians actually martyred each year?

…There and Everywhere

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI, in 2010 – Wikimedia

Adam Ericksen’s brief essay on how Pope Francis is “modeling the love of God to the world” is well done, but all the more so because he doesn’t try to set Francis up in opposition to his predecessor. Indeed, he starts with an appreciation of Benedict’s first encyclical, then transitions, “I appreciate Benedict for writing those beautiful words, but I love Pope Francis because he’s publicly living those words.”

• On Monday I introduced Bethel students to the origins of Francis’ religious order, the Jesuits, in a lecture on the Catholic Reformation. I noted the role of the Jesuits as the Christian missionaries of the 16th and 17th centuries, taking Catholicism to the Americas and South and East Asia. Debra Bruno reported on the campaign to beatify one of the most famous of those missionaries, Matteo Ricci, and why it has an international-political dimension.

• That lecture closed with a bit of a sermon on the importance of Christian unity to Jesuit founder Ignatius Loyola and other Catholic reformers. But I appreciated how Rachel Held Evans — in a response to this week’s raging debate over her tweet lamenting how few women were speaking at a major evangelical conference — pointed out that criticizing a fellow Christian for “being divisive” can stifle important discussion: “…the reality is, some folks benefit from the status quo, and it is in their best interest to characterize every challenge to the status quo as wholly negative and a threat to Christian unity. This makes it difficult for those who perceive inequity within the status quo to challenge it without being labeled as troublemakers out to make Jesus look bad. In other words, the advantage goes to the powerful because things rarely change without friction. And if friction is equated with divisiveness, then the powerful can appeal to Christ’s call for unity as a way of silencing critics. This was an effective strategy for white clergy who opposed Civil Rights.”

(Meanwhile, Jonathan Merritt did some research and found that gender imbalance is the rule, not the exception, on speaking rosters for evangelical conferences. Then read Halee Gray Scott at Her.meneutics: “Beyond the question of why this underrepresentation continues to occur, we must also ask the greater question of what we’re missing when we exclude women (and minorities, for that matter), a move that is theologically and strategically flawed.”)

• The “Protestant pope” of post-WWII America turned 95. Looking back at Billy Graham’s career for CNN’s Belief Blog, historian Molly Worthen observed that his sermons “contained just the right mix of patriotism and reproof,” but noted further that the evangelical consensus Graham sought to build “was more apparent than real” (she developed that point in a post for The Christian Century‘s history blog, Then and Now), and is now so fragmented that “there is no individual who can represent American evangelicalism to the world.”

Weihnachtsmarkt in Jena, Germany
Christmas market in Jena, Germany – Creative Common (ReneS)

• John Turner reflected on Weihnachtsmärkte: “There are many reasons why more secular Germany can have Christmas markets while the ostensibly more religious United States cannot,” but “This year, before Christians begin complaining about a ‘war on Christmas,’ keep Germany in mind. While the secularization of public spaces does result in a certain amount of cultural impoverishment, I’d much rather have fewer nativities on government properties and more people going to church services and preparing to once again welcome Jesus into the world and into their hearts.”

Nord, Does God Make a Difference?• And how secular should public education be? Over at Jesus Creed, RJS started up a useful discussion of Warren Nord’s Does God Make a Difference?, in which the author decried the neglect of religion in K-12 education: “We systematically and uncritically teach students to make sense of the world in exclusively secular categories. Consequently, the great majority of students earn their high school diplomas and their undergraduate degrees without ever contending with a live religious idea.”

• John Fea was kind enough to mention my paper as one that caught his eye while looking over the program for next week’s meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. More important, though, was this closing observation: “I was really struck by just how white and male the ETS is.” As a fellow white male… Amen. I’d add (in anticipation of a central theme of my paper), I’m struck by how American it is.

• In my ETS paper, I’ll be discussing the work of David Swartz and how his research into the “de-Americanization” of World Vision heralds an important transition in evangelical historiography. At The Anxious Bench, he summarized the Cold War origins of that organization.

• Swartz’s blogmate Philip Jenkins suggested that “wars of religion” were actually more religious than they tend to be presented by historians who see political and other causes at their core: “Prior to the modern era at least, I find it difficult to imagine any war that is genuinely secular in nature.”

• Gregory Butler revisited The Prince and was first struck that the author “is not really a ‘Machiavellian’ in the colloquial sense.”

Jewish shop in Magdeburg with smashed windows
Jewish shop in Magdeburg with smashed windows – Bundesarchiv

• In my Modern Europe course we’re starting a unit on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust… We’ll talk about Kristallnacht on Monday; last week the 75th anniversary of that “Night of Broken Glass” was celebrated with an interfaith ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

Appalled at what he was learning from Tony Judt’s Postwar about the evil perpetrated by Josef Stalin against the peoples of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Ta-Nehisi Coates offered this important set of questions: “In my eyes, killing someone because of what you perceive to be in their bones — because of invented race, or gender, or ancestry, or sexuality — is the worst possible crime. But why is that the worse possible crime? What specific reason can I give for elevating the Southern slave society over the Gulag in the hierarchy of evils? Why, specifically, is the Shoah our buzzword for ultimate evil? Is a hierarchy of evil, itself, a ghoulish and bizarre enterprise, best abandoned?”

• I should start adding a 12 Years a Slave category to these links posts — that film is regularly inspiring excellent blogging on the three main subjects of this blog and how they intersect: history and Christianity (Charity Carney: “There were as many interpretations of the Christian religion in the South as there were slave owners and slave communities. This film accomplishes the difficult task of conveying that diversity while also portraying religion as one of the most valuable and dangerous tools in the slave South”) and history in education (Ben Wright: “…we discussed the difference between serving as a witness and a spectator to history.  I concluded by asking the students whether the film encourages witnessing or spectatorship, and whether popular entertainments can serve a responsible, respectful, and empathetic purpose”).

• Former Harvard president Derek Bok called on graduate schools to do a better job preparing their students to teach.

One thought on “That Was The Week That Was

  1. The picture of the Weihnachtsmärkte in Jena brings back so many memories for me. I work for a company that is headquartered in Jena and have been there many times. I have been there when the Christmas market has been open. Definitely an experience to visit one.

    I have written several posts about Jena. There is definitely some religious history there. Carl Zeiss married a descendant of Martin Luther and the original marker that was intended for Luther’s grave is in the city church building in Jena. Just a few hundred meters from this market. You can read a little bit about it in my Reformation Day post from this year.

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