• Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela.
• Would Pietists have embraced C.S. Lewis as much as evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, and others have?
• Can Christian churches (and colleges) tackle the challenge of becoming multi-ethnic if they haven’t learned to bridge differences within racially similar communities (e.g., class and gender)? (See also Ed Stetzer’s reflection on the recent Mosaix conference on multi-ethnic church.)
• No (again), the lecture is not dead.
• Which academic historians have made “Best of 2013” lists? (And is it too few, or too many?)
…There and Everywhere
• There’s so much commentary on the death of Mandela that it seems arbitrary picking just a few links, but… Has all this commentary paid sufficient attention to religion?… An Orthodox Christian in South Africa reflected on what it means to call Mandela an “icon”… Ta-Nehesi Coates doesn’t want us to forget that, “For many years, a large swath of this country failed Nelson Mandela, failed its own alleged morality, and failed the majority of people living in South Africa”…
• Pope Francis and his Evangelii Gaudium continued to generate ample comment. Patrick Deneen evaluated criticism of Francis by political conservatives: “The right’s contretemps with Pope Francis has brought out into the open what is rarely mentioned in polite company: most visible and famous Catholics who fight on behalf of Catholic causes in America focus almost exclusively on sexual issues (as Pope Francis himself seemed to be pointing out, and chastising, in his America interview), but have been generally silent regarding a century-old tradition of Catholic social and economic teaching.” Likewise, Andrew Sullivan argued that it was possible for a Catholic to believe that “the free market has brought more wealth, comfort and health to more human beings than any other form of economic model in human history” and yet still conclude that “the way in which market capitalism has become a good in itself on the American right is, well, perniciously wrong.”
• One of the academic historians who came up in my “Best of 2013” post was Jill Lepore, who provided her own Best of list for ’13… 1913.
• Another list, though there’s not much “best” about it: the top seven “stereotypes that Christians have about Christianity that are wrong.”
• Miles Mullin thought that the controversy swirling around Mark Driscoll “demarcates the manner in which the evangelical embrace of personality-driven leadership creates problems the movement cannot overcome.”
• Is evangelical Protestantism following the mainline into numerical decline?
• If so, then perhaps it needs to develop a “theology of church decline.” So says A.J. Swoboda: “Do healthy things grow? In some cases they do. I’ve been quoted this apocryphal axiom my entire adult ministerial life: healthy things grow, I’ve been assured. Not sure where that came from, frankly. But as I’ve wrapped my mind around it, I’ve come to believe it is absolutely baseless. It comes from nowhere in my Bible. Truth is: sick things grow too. Deadly things grow even faster. Cancer, weeds, disease can take over. Does that mean they’re good?”
• Molly Worthen’s Apostles of Reason “may well prove to be one of the most important books on evangelicalism in a decade or two,” according to Scot McKnight, currently blogging his way through it. If you’re not familiar with Worthen or her research, check out her recent interview with Religion & Politics.
• Justin Zoradi retold one of my favorite stories from 20th century European history: about the French Protestants of Le Chambon, who rescued Jews during the Holocaust “believed that Christian compassion is tangible verb of purpose, a fog of goodness filtering under doorframes and through air conditioning vents, wafting beneath kitchen tables, and settling in the floorboards of newly painted safe rooms.”
• Dale Coulter offered a richly theological meditation on how Christians should approach immigration reform, rooted in the doctrines of creation and redemption and biblical exhortations to hospitality.
• We’re still more than a year from making a decision about our children’s schooling, but my wife and I are pretty committed to public school options. That said, I appreciated Thomas Kidd’s argument for the value of home schooling.
• Another of my favorite Christian historians, Jay Case, celebrated a paradox central to American and other democratic societies: “…in the land of the free, everyone is compelled to go to school.”
• Bryan Alexander likened the decisions being made by some college and universities to eliminate academic programs to the chess move in which the most powerful piece, the queen, is sacrificed in order to win the game: “…the horrible truth of the moment is that the queen sacrifice makes all kinds of sense for American colleges and universities.”