That Was The Week That Was


• It probably wasn’t a good week to read this blog if you’re not part of the Conference on Faith and History or at least interested in its biennial conference, held last week at Pepperdine. I converted some of my live-tweeting from #CFH2014 into a series of four recaps, covering sessions on teaching, public memoryMormon heritage, social media, David Bebbington’s definition of evangelicalism, the institutional role of historians, and the first Pietist missionary.

• Then Thursday was my turn to post my comments on blogging from the social media panel.

…There and Everywhere

John Fea at CFH 2014
John in action at our social media panel at CFH 2014

• My co-panelist John Fea offered several helpful CFH recaps as well, including this two-part summary of the Bebbington panel that concluded, “Evangelical ‘traits’ such as the New Birth, evangelism and social action, the centrality of the cross, and a belief in the authority of Bible are not going away anytime soon.  But what about evangelicalism?  This session made me wonder if ‘evangelicalism’ is really little more than a movement founded by Baby Boomers in the wake of World War II that has just about run its course.”

• I added a link to it in my own blogging piece, but make sure to read Paul Putz’s comments. It’s essential reading for Paul’s fellow graduate students — who might also want to check out Nathaniel Peters’ essay on grad school, starting with the advice that study itself is a vocation.

• Parker Palmer gave himself some advice: “Avoid the bad habit of domesticating the prophet of your choice, turning him into a cheerleader for your way of thinking and way of life.”

• I’ve never read the Left Behind books and have zero interest in the cinematic version starring Nicolas Cage, but this roundtable discussion featuring religion reporters and film critics was interesting.

• Christianity Today film critic Alissa Wilkinson warned against a kind of evangelical cultural engagement in which “we tend to treat actual cultural artifacts in the way we sometimes treat the Bible: as ‘proof texts’ from which we can draw principles or truths for application.”

• And CT added its own piece on Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg, the pioneering Pietist missionary celebrated in a documentary film I watched at CFH 2014.

Gasaway, Progressive Evangelicals and the Pursuit of Social Justice• I’ve written a fair amount about David Swartz’s history of politically progressive evangelicalism. At Anxious Bench, Swartz interviewed Brantley Gasaway, whose own book on that topic comes out this month.

• One self-proclaimed atheist doesn’t quite know what to do with the fact that the largest group of doctors confronting the Ebola crisis in West Africa consists of medical missionaries. But in the end, he suggests that “until we’re finally ready to invest heavily in secular medicine for Africa, I suggest we stand aside and let God do His work.”

• “Modern life is made possible,”claims one new author/PBS series star, thanks to artificial light, clocks, refrigeration, and which three other innovations(answer at bottom of the post)

• I could link to at least a dozen articles in the commemorative World War I issue of The Atlantic, including vintage pieces by W.E.B. DuBois, H.G. Wells, and H.L. Mencken, but you might start with the wordless gallery of WWI posters from around the world.

• Found: a WWI-era Sherlock Holmes film starring William Gillette, the stage actor “who introduced many of Holmes’s most familiar character traits, including the deerstalker hat, curved or ‘bent briar’ pipe; his use of a magnifying glass and syringe; and his amateur violin playing.”

• It’s hard to know where to begin to summarize the New York Times Magazine’s long-form interview with author Marilynne Robinson, except to almost randomly pick one of her insights: “Being and human beings… are invested with a degree of value that we can’t honor appropriately. An overabundance that is magical.”

Derek Jeter and George W. Bush, 2001
Derek Jeter with George W. Bush at the 2001 World Series – U.S. National Archives

• Derek Jeter’s post-baseball career started quickly, with a website that had one historian contemplating “its potential to make a considerable impact not only on the way sports is reported and consumed in the US, but in the way athletes take on social and even intellectual responsibility in society.”

• It’s written with all the subtlety we expect from a Salon essay, but it’s impossible entirely to dismiss Thomas Frank’s polemic against “academic capitalism.”

• Is the MOOC revolution over?

Innovation answer: glass, recorded sound, and water purification.

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