That Was The Week That Was


• What’s the Evangelical Covenant Church? Answer #2: “an immigrant church,” both rooted in Swedish-American history and being reshaped into a truly multiethnic body.

• I started a new series on the newest book from ECC communications director Edward Gilbreath, about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

…There and Everywhere

• We’re starting to work on the elements of our final website for Bethel at War, 1914-2014, posting a working draft of a multimedia timeline. Meanwhile, lots of good stuff at our project blog: with Fletcher examining the rise of anti-Vietnam war sentiment among professors at Calvin College, and me concluding my series on what anti-immigrant nativism meant for the Swedish-Americans of Bethel during World War I.

• 1914 is the centennial for more than WWI starting and my employer moving to St. Paul, Minnesota… It’s the 100th anniversary of the Assemblies of God.

• A much smaller Pentecostal denomination had to put out an appeal to cover a $1.5 million shortfall at its college, Emmanuel (GA), after financial information was apparently concealed from the school’s leadership.

• Dale Coulter suggested that “we are witnessing the re-emergence of a Protestant perfectionist vision of the Christian life. This vision has at least two forms, an Anabaptist understanding of the church as embodying a set of practices that realize the Kingdom of God and a Wesleyan optimism of grace in which the people of God must progress to deeper levels of union with God that in turn fuels love for neighbor in the world.”

1964 issue of the BGC Standard
A 1964 issue of the BGC’s magazine, The Standard – Bethel University Digital Library

• Given that he studies the relationship of his denomination, the Brethren in Christ, to neo-evangelicalism, it was interesting to read Devin Manzullo-Thomas’ response to Roger Olson’s “How American Evangelical Christianity Has Changed.” Wrote Devin: “The post is shaped to a large degree by a kind of ‘back in my day…’ nostalgia (which can be unhelpful in historical discussions). It also doesn’t go in-depth in analyzing the shifts that Olsen has identified. But it does offer some assertions worthy of consideration.”

• It’s not really about war, so I’ll mention this Bethel at War post separately… Fletcher wrote a fascinating analysis of the denomination-formerly-known-as the Baptist General Conference, suggesting that its immigrant, Baptist, and Pietist roots make it hard to pin down in the context of post-WWII Protestantism: “…the BGC resolutely refuses to conform to the expected patterns of response displayed by each of the three groups the literature commonly discusses: mainliners, fundamentalists, and evangelicals. In fact, in trying to make the BGC ‘fit’ into the typologies of Bogaski and Pratt, I’ve even questioned my characterization of the Conference as evangelical. The BGC was, at turns, fundamentalist, evangelical, and even mainline in tone, argument, and action.”

• Which raises the perennial problem of just how we define “evangelical.” Thomas Kidd got a lot of attention on this of the Atlantic for trying to identify “four types of Christians who often get cast as evangelicals who really are not evangelicals.” Meanwhile, British pastor Steve Chalke thought that “The present way of defining ‘evangelical’ is too often divisive, even among those who own the term, let alone the rest of the Church. It prolongs an old worldview and plays to a tribalism which is inappropriate in our globalised 21st century world. Its definitions are too narrow, excluding, reductionist and inadequate in the light of the immense advances in New Testament understanding which shed light on the work and ministry of Jesus in context.”

• Jamie Smith would like to see more intellectual “courage” among Christian scholars of different ideological stripes: “…here’s what we don’t often see: Christian scholars who have vested their professional lives in the mainstream academy willing to take stands that would be unpopular at the MLA or APA or AAR. Conversely, we don’t see many conservative scholars willing to defend positions that would jeapordize [sic] their favored status with popular evangelicalism.”

• It’s been almost two months since Ta-Nehesi Coates’ widely-noted essay calling for reparations to African-Americans. The U.S. Intellectual History Blog hosted a roundtable on that essay, kicked off by Robert Greene’s recent history of the idea of reparations.

1941 Nazi anti-smoking ad
1941 Nazi anti-smoking ad: “He does not devour [the cigarette] – it devours him” – Wikimedia
• Why a new model of presidential voting — based on birth year — suggests that Republicans might not have so dim a future as it currently seems.

• “The Nazi campaign against tobacco,” observed historian of science Robert Proctor, “was as fascist as the yellow stars and the death camps.”

• If you’ve ever wondered what the world’s average handwriting looks like, you’re in luck.

• Next week baseball’s All-Star Game finally returns to a state that truly loves the national pastime.

• Long, but totally worth the read, is Alan Jacobs’ explanation of the rise of the fantasy genre: “Fantasy — in books, films, television shows, and indeed in all imaginable media — is an instrument by which the late modern self strives to avail itself of the unpredictable excitements of the porous self while retaining its protective buffers. Fantasy, in most of its recent forms, may best be understood as a technologically enabled, and therefore safe, simulacrum of the pre-modern porous self.”

• Gone viral among my fellow Christian college professors on Facebook: a map showing the “tamest party schools” state by state. I’m pretty okay with having students choose a college because it’s boring, though part of me is also okay with Bethel being outdone in this category by four apparently tamer Minnesota private colleges.

• A “humanities for the 21st century” — according to Peter Powers, it would better integrate career and vocation concerns into curriculum and advising, connect service-learning and internships to the liberal arts, and embrace the digital humanities.

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