That Was The Week That Was

Thanks to G.W. Carlson (paying tribute to Baptist geneticist Elving Anderson) and Jared Burkholder (shedding light on the history of the prosperity gospel) for keeping this blog from total inactivity while I extended my break from blogging to work on an article due next Tuesday.

Elsewhere this past week in the blogosphere…

• Courtesy of the Pew Research Center, here’s a remarkable statistic that probably won’t get the attention it deserves: in 1996 there was a 60-point gap between the percentages of Americans who supported the death penalty (78%) and opposed it (18%); it’s now down to 18 points (55% support, 37% oppose).

• It’s a 33-point spread among white Americans (63-30), while pluralities of Latinos and African-Americans oppose the death penalty. Here’s Jamelle Bouie’s attempt to explain that disparity: “Our cultural attitudes are unconsciously shaped by our collective history as much as they are consciously shaped by our current context. When you consider the death penalty as a tool of racial control—a way for whites to ‘defend’ themselves from blacks—then Pew’s poll results make sense. What we’re looking at is the inevitable result of that history expressed through public opinion, and influenced by racialized ideas on crime and criminality.”

• White Protestants are the most likely to support capital punishment (slightly more among evangelicals than mainliners: 67% vs. 64%). To understand why, and why this should change, dig into the Anxious Bench archives and read this January 2014 post from John Turner.

French anti-capital punishment poster from 2007
“United States, China, Iran, Japan… Stop the massacre” (2007 poster in France) – Creative Commons (Kilobug)

• That the United States remains the only country in the Americas to carry out executions: one of the “Top 10 Things You Should Know” from the newest death penalty report from Amnesty International.

• Okay, enough on state-sanctioned killing… Hey, was World Vision in the news? I’ll have some thoughts next week, but if you honestly don’t know what I’m talking about… You can’t go wrong with religion reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey: check out her interview with World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns, and then her analysis of what the fracas means for evangelicalism.

Noah (2014) Poster• After initial criticism from some Christian leaders, those who have actually seen Darren Aronofsky’s cinematic midrash on the story of Noah have responded rather more positively. If not as gushing as Cathleen Falsani (“…the most spiritually nuanced, exquisitely articulated exploration of the ideas of justice and mercy I’ve ever seen on a movie screen”), Alissa Wilkinson makes a compelling case for the film in her Christianity Today review.

• Is your monocultural church looking for a guest preacher, teacher, or speaker? 101 names to consider…

• Another positive review for John Fea’s Why Study History?, this one from David Swartz. Incidentally, I’ve been working through John’s book with my Senior Seminar students, and posting some of their written reflections on our department blog.

• I’ve written about “Ottoman nostalgia” before. Could a new film from one of my favorite directors actually indulge in nostalgia for another empire that crumbled during WWI?

• Could the ongoing Ukrainian crisis split the Russian Orthodox Church?

(By the way, I moderated a panel on that crisis earlier this month. Video is now available from the Bethel University Library.)

• And what does Russian behavior in that crisis — and the response of the United States and the West — mean for the future of Europe? John Cassidy: “Containing Putin, while providing him with the option of a diplomatic off-ramp from his current course, is the right thing to do. But it isn’t enough. If Europe is ever to be ‘whole and free,’ then Obama needs to hold out at least the distant prospect that Russia will be able to join the rest of the continent, not as an awkward neighbor but as a welcome partner.”

• Or perhaps it will be another, far more peaceful border that will tilt the debate against continuing European integration…

Jeff Nelson
Someone doing well for himself with his Bethel History degree: (well-regarded) major league umpire Jeff Nelson – Creative Commons (Keith Allison)

• Just in time for Opening Day, a new study finds that major league baseball umpires get ball/strike calls wrong 14% of the time. Why? “…people in any sort of evaluative role — not just umpires — are unconsciously biased by simple ‘status characteristics.’ Even constant monitoring and incentives can fail to train such biases out of us.”

• Dale Coulter on the centrality of teleology, flourishing, piety, and “salutary teaching” to the humanities. (And in the vein of defending the humanities, see also this essay from historian Michael Hammond, posted just before I went on break.)

• I’ve already had my fun with PayScale, but if you’re not familiar with that website… Enjoy these breakdowns (based on self-reported salary data) of which colleges (and which majors at which colleges) are the biggest wastes of money, and which are most likely to make you rich. (“Bethel University/History,” happily, made neither list.)

• Guess which of those two lists for-profit institutions are more likely to appear on… Here’s a hint: “…for-profit students account for about 31 percent of all student loans and nearly half of all loan defaults.”

• Oh, and humanity discovered yet another way to be stupid on Twitter.

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