That Was The Week That Was


• I’m lousy at predicting which blog posts will generate the most interest. But I had an inkling that one titled “When I’m a ‘Functional Atheist’” would grab attention…

• How did you spend your “Loyalty Day“?

• Over nine million soldiers died in World War I. Why do some historians think that their sacrifice was less pointless than is often assumed?

• My summer plans are coalescing, mostly around a research project on Bethel in a century of warfare that represents my first foray into student-faculty collaboration and digital history.

• Typography and other elements of graphic design seem integral to digital humanities. Still, and even by the standards blogging, it might be that writing several hundred words about what my favorite fonts say about me is a tad self-indulgent.

…There and Everywhere

Glen Stassen
Glen Stassen – Fuller Seminary

• Baptist ethicist Glen Stassen passed away. We’ll soon have a tribute to him from our friend G.W. Carlson, who mentioned Stassen’s influential book on the Sermon on the Mount in an earlier tribute to Clarence Jordan. In the meantime, enjoy reflections by Stassen’s friends David Gushee and Jim Wallis and one of his editors, Jana Riess.

• A botched execution in Oklahoma prompted opposing responses from two Baptist theologians: Al Mohler thought Christians could and should continue to support capital punishment; Roger Olson was “appalled” by Mohler’s position.

• But Christians of all kinds were united in being appalled by Sarah Palin’s claim that “waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.” Probably most striking were the unflinching critiques by Palin’s fellow conservatives, like Rod Dreher, Joe Carter, Mollie Hemingway, and Denny Burk.

• And Aaron Griffith thought that evangelicals and mainliners actually have quite a bit in common in terms of how they approach prison ministry.

• In all the hubbub over canonizing Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, did we overlook Paul VI?

• Fascinating interview with Catholic historian James Kloppenberg about what Barack Obama reveals about the “paradoxes of progressive Christianity.”

• Does the late eighteenth century British group known as the Clapham Sect (William Wilberforce, Hannah More, inter al.) offer a model of spirituality that would help evangelicals today “thoughtfully and effectively combine the twin emphases of personal spiritual formation and faith-inspired social activism”?

Velázquez, "Kitchen Maid at Emmaus"
Diego Velázquez’ “Kitchen Maid at the Supper at Emmaus,” in which Jesus is removed to the background – Wikimedia

• One of my favorite Easter stories is Luke’s account of the risen Jesus joining two of his followers on the road to Emmaus. (Caravaggio’s painting of their supper supplies the image for this blog’s header.) But like Yvette Schock, “sometimes my favorite stories can feel too familiar, and I get stuck.” So I appreciated her fresh insight into Emmaus story.

• Surprising: only about 30% of children raised as atheists remain atheists as adults. (That’s based on data that’s five-plus years old. I wonder how that figure will change as the percentage of people willing to identify as atheists increases…)

• Recently released evidence from the British Foreign Office might reopen the question of whether the Lusitania, the passenger liner sunk by a German U-boat ninety-nine years ago this coming week, was carrying war munitions.

• The Cold War keeps paying dividends, even for archeologists.

• This is a test to see if my favorite vexillology fan, David Maus, is reading: the story of how post-apartheid South Africa’s unique flag came together in barely a week.

• Devin Manzullo-Thomas shared a report on last month’s symposium at Cedarville University on “Historic Religious Roots and the Future of Higher Education,” an event that certainly resonates with my own work on Pietism and Bethel University.

Covered bridge at Messiah College
The historic covered bridge on the campus of Messiah College – Creative Commons (Badagnani)

• One key theme in Devin’s recollection of the symposium was the contrast between the particularity of founding traditions and the “generic” or “mainstream Evangelicalism” that many church-related colleges embraced in recent history. Interestingly, Devin’s colleague at Messiah College, John Fea, just reflected on the surprisingly meager student response to his new course on the history of American evangelicalism. One of the explanations he proposed: “I sometimes wonder if Messiah College students really care about a topic like American evangelicalism. Messiah has roots in Pietism, Wesleyanism, and Anabaptism.  All of these streams of Protestantism have intersected in one way or another with American evangelicalism, but few professors and staff—especially in the School of Humanities where I teach—use the term ‘evangelical’ to describe the college.”

• A night after we spent a few minutes in our department’s Senior Seminar discussing whether the liberal arts is an elitist model of education, a philosophy professor at a community college in Iowa argued that such education is essential for all Americans if were are to be “a society of free people, not simply one of well-compensated managers and employees.”

• Similarly, Rowan Williams offered a vision of education as a kind of communal formation of citizens, one that would make it “harder to treat the public as fools, harder to exploit prejudice or fear, and easier to conduct constructive argument in public without the melodrama of extreme polarization.”

• Columbia journalism dean Nicholas Lemann offered a long reflection on the tension between what he saw as the two defining ideas of American higher education in the twentieth century: the research university, and making a college education available to the masses.

Portrait of John Henry Newman
John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) – Wikimedia

• In that essay, Lemann drew extensively on the great Catholic educational philosopher John Henry Newman — without ever noting Newman’s religion or the centrality of theology to his idea of the university. But Miroslav Volf suggested that, in light of universities’ failures to attend to questions of meaning and human flourishing, “Christian faith can help universities build robust humanities programs in which the question of life worth living figures prominently.”

• I’m happy to have a publication like The Atlantic dedicate attention to the teaching of history in high schools. But I wish they’d feature a better piece than this one from a rather smug private school teacher in Florida. Things get off to a bad start with an unsubstantiated generalization: “It’s not news that for over 100 years, history has been taught as little more than a callous exercise in regurgitation and rote memorization, with teachers rewarding how much information students can cram into their already stuffed heads.” Then while he claims to be teaching historical thinking rather than information accumulation, he leans so hard on trying to make history “relevant” and “accessible” (using current events to point out “how, to varying degrees, history repeats itself”) that it’s not at all clear how his students come away with any understanding of change over time, context, or complexity. (To cite just three of the “five C’s of historical thinking.”)

• Peter Enns shared six excellent tips on how to criticize and be criticized publicly. #1:

If you don’t want to be criticized, don’t write. Anything. Ever. In fact, don’t think, talk, marry, beget/bear children, or otherwise engage with humans.

But definitely don’t write. And most definitely don’t write about God or the Bible, for there is no more sure fact of life than people are very, very touchy about what they believe about ultimate reality.

So, to sum up: if criticism is hard to take, avoid all human contact and especially writing about God and the Bible.

I know, right?

• Finally, a treat for baseball fans: long-lost British newsreel footage of the 1919 “Black Sox” World Series, including an impressive aerial shot around 4:07 of the clip.

2 thoughts on “That Was The Week That Was

  1. Mark edmundson, English prof at univ virginia, went to a blue-collar high school. A philosophy teacher there changed his life according to his book TEACHER. It is a good complement to samuelson’s article.

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