• How an acclaimed history of politically progressive evangelicalism helps bridge the gap between religious and diplomatic history. (That from my trip to Baltimore… Look for the second half of this talk, coming Monday.)
• Jared Burkholder on a famous case of martyrdom in North American history.
• Celebrating 125 years of mission and ministry at Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, Minnesota!
…There and Everywhere
• There’s been plenty of good stuff out there for the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death. Just two posts to highlight: Gracy Olmstead celebrating how Lewis’ “books could make any churchgoer feel like a scholar“; and Rowan Williams on the Chronicles of Narnia.
• I collected a few links for our department blog on the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Then a couple more I missed or that came later: Benjamin Dueholm wrestled with the address as a pillar of American civil religion; and Joshua Zeitz explained that the speech was largely forgotten until the 1890s, when “most people conveniently forgot what Lincoln actually attempted to convey in his brief remarks.”
• Another of our former students guest-blogged at Rachel Held Evans’ site, writing a heartfelt lament for the typhoon-ravaged country of The Philippines, where Tim grew up as a missionary kid.
• In my talk this past Wednesday, I alluded to the ways in which Protestant missions served the cause of American empire… Earlier in the week, John Hollinger gave a lecture that muddied that picture a bit: he contended that “Instead of – or at least in addition to – becoming emissaries for ‘Christendom’ amongst non-Christian peoples, Protestant missionaries frequently ended up serving as emissaries on behalf of cultural ‘others’ to the very churches and organizations in whose employ the missionaries served.” That from a summary by L.D. Burnett, who also passed along a lively report on the discussion of Hollinger’s thesis the following night.
• Speaking of empire… The top five buildings of the former British Empire range from London to Sudan, Malta to Southeast Asia.
• Tina Turner made news by giving up her American citizenship… Not the first celebrity to do so, it turns out.
• How do historians teach in the midst of “the information revolution’s digital free-for-all,” when the ubiquity of Google searches can mean that “accepting false information as truth is an everyday classroom occurrence”?
• And what does the recent dismissal of a lawsuit against Google mean for historians and other scholars?
• William Pannapacker quoted one of my favorite Christian writers in his Chronicle essay on bringing the liberal arts into a digital age: “This is not a call to abandon liberal-arts education as the pursuit of learning for its own sake, but rather to help our students—to paraphrase Frederich [sic] Buechner—match their passions to the world’s needs. I take it as a matter of faith that the world needs the kinds of skills and interests that we cultivate in our students at liberal-arts colleges and at other institutions with similar missions. But the challenge remains: How do we best help take those passions into places where they can have the most impact?”
• From earlier in the month, but not to be overlooked… South African author and Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee thought that the fight for the liberal arts should be fought, but feared that it might be lost: “A certain phase in the history of the university, a phase taking its inspiration from the German Romantic revival of humanism, is now, I believe, pretty much at its end. It has come to an end not just because the neoliberal enemies of the university have succeeded in their aims, but because there are too few people left who really believe in the humanities and in the university built on humanistic grounds, with philosophical, historical and philological studies as its pillars.”
• I don’t agree with everything in Russell Moore’s call for rethinking evangelical political engagement, but it’s striking to see the following from so influential a theologically/politically conservative thinker: “…we must also recognize that the last generation of political activism was all too often far less than prophetic. Too often, it has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. That’s why we have seen voters’ guides that pretend to give us ‘Christian’ positions not only on matters as transcendent and clearly revealed as the sanctity of human life or the definition of marriage but also on a line-item veto, the Balanced Budget Amendment, and the proper funding levels for the Department of Education. And that’s why we’ve seen Evangelical political leaders welcoming into the ranks, as Christians, Mormon talk show hosts and serially monogamous casino-magnate reality TV stars, just as they attempt to spin Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin as born-again Christians who helped found ‘Christian America.’ Apparently, it’s not only Latter-day Saints who attempt to baptize the dead.”
• Also in this vein, I appreciated Rusty Reno’s model of Christian intellectual engagement, to be characterized by charity, freedom, and a rejection of presentism. But above all, he advised that Christian intellectuals “avoid overreacting to academic secularism (or for that matter secularism in general)…. Even when we swim against the stream there’s a deep intellectual benefit to jumping in. Too often we’re tempted to retreat into a restricted world of reliable writers: C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Flannery O’Connor, and others. They are of course good to read, but they’re not sufficient. These figures and others whom we rightly admire and wish to imitate are exemplary not just because they were talented and faithful, but also because they were part of the larger conversation of their time.”
• This week in my Modern Europe class we were dealing with the Holocaust, which made timely both Tracy McKenzie’s call for history teachers to ask students whether a past event was “good” (or, implicitly, evil) and John Fea’s response to it.