CFH 2014: Teaching and Public Memory

With a packed program, timely topic, and spectactular setting, the 2014 biennial meeting of the Conference on Faith and History — on “Christian Historians & Their Publics” — was bound to be a good one, even better than CFH 2012. If anything, it exceeded expectations.

Each session I attended was memorable, and I’m only disappointed that I had to miss Charles Marsh’s plenary and the last set of concurrent sessions in order to catch my flight. Thanks to Jay Green for putting together the strongest CFH program I’ve experienced, and to our hosts at Pepperdine University for making it all run so smoothly. (Well, with one recurring technical issue. I’ll come to that tomorrow.)

Starting Thursday and then for at least a week to follow, I’ll no doubt write several posts inspired by my visit to Pepperdine. But today, tomorrow, and Wednesday, I thought I’d just collect some of the live-tweeting I did as a way of summarizing the sessions I attended.

Friday morning: “Classroom as Public”

I would have attended this session just to get an early chance to talk to chair Tracy McKenzie (who ended up being quoted by all three panelists), but it was also good to start the conference by thinking about how Christian historians engage the public I’m still most interested in serving:

Dilbeck now teaches at Oklahoma Baptist University, but his paper focused on his experience teaching at the decidedly secular University of Virginia.

With its emphasis on moral formation, Dilbeck’s paper set things up well for what my fellow historian-blogger Patrick Connelly (Montreat College) had to say:

Finally, Nalani Hilderman of San Diego Christian College asked us to think about the changing mores of our students:

Tracy then added some typically thoughtful and gracious comments

The brief Q&A raised some important points (e.g., what it means for American students to engage in moral reflection when studying the history of other peoples), but I think that a couple of issues I raised on Twitter — about Dilbeck’s proposal that historical study ought to provoke moral reflection — might bear further consideration:

Friday, late morning: “Christian Faith and Public Memory”

In the first session, Patrick alluded to Peggy Bendroth’s book The Spiritual Practice of Remembering; coincidentally, she opened the second panel I attended, offering an amusing and insightful paper rooted in her experience working with Congregationalist history and memory:

Then program chair Jay Green (Covenant College) turned to one of my favorite topics: the commemoration of wars and other acts of violence. He reflected on visiting the national memorial to the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City; it echoed all sorts of things I’d observed at other memorials, as my self-referential tweets make clear:

Perhaps not surprisingly, Green opted not to comment on how 9/11 is commemorated by our hosts at Pepperdine — nor on the statue that stands not far from where the panel took place:

I didn’t offer all that many tweets on the third presentation, by Whitworth College archivist Janet Hauck, for reasons I tried to explain:

The belated addition of an erudite but somewhat lengthy comment left us little time for in-depth Q&A, but I did get a chance to ask one question I’d posed on Twitter:

Short answer: no. Hauck insisted that archivists dispassionately preserve and present documents and artifacts. But session chair Rick Pointer (Westmont College) rightly noted that even the choice of what is preserved/presented is an interpretive, even destructive act.

I’ll turn to the Friday afternoon sessions in tomorrow’s post, but let me close here by noting the locale of the “Public Memory” panel — which provoked a fun exchange between me and the twitterstorian sitting next to me:

Read the next post in this series of recaps>>

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