• Who are the most significant Americans of all time? (Is that even a useful question to ask? If so, how do we answer it?)
• Also working on an exciting new book about Pietism: our friend Jared Burkholder, who reported in on his semester at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies.
…There and Everywhere
• This week’s release of a Senate report detailing the use of torture by the CIA convinced Benjamin Corey that “it should now be crystal clear to anyone who has read the teachings of Jesus as found in scripture that one cannot swear their allegiance to America while simultaneously giving our allegiance to the alternate way of Jesus. Absolutely, positively, impossible.”
• As on most issues, Dan Taylor had a unique perspective on the events in Ferguson, Missouri: “When things get painful or confusing or threatening, we return to our master stories because they offer solace and an explanation…. I don’t offer the above with a cynical shrug. I’m not relativistic about stories. Some are truer and more helpful than others. I believe that when two stories collide—whether in Ferguson or Palestine or within our own family—we are required to try to look hard for a third story that contains the core truths of each.”
• For his part, Efrem Smith emerged from the last few weeks convinced that “Just as Christ was a bridge between sinful humanity and God, the Church must be a bridge of reconciliation in this divided United States of America.”
• The title is a bit misleading — she certainly wouldn’t view the loss of hope in God as a gift — but add Juliet Vedral’s Sojourners piece on hopelessness to your Advent reading list.
• Among the many postmortems written for The New Republic, one that stood out to me came from Peter Beinart — who edited TNR during the years I read it most closely, when its ambition to be a “liberal magazine that was frequently at odds with other liberals made it ideologically contentious and ideologically distinct.”
• John Turner’s latest at Anxious Bench ranged from assessing the historical value of anti-Mormon exposés to the relationship between the Latter-day Saints and evangelical Protestants.
• Read what happens when John’s co-blogger David Swartz has his Asbury students spend ninety minutes in total silence and then write a two-page reflection on the experience. (One response: “If I had to do this every day or even once a week I think I would die.”)
• In light of some startling statistics about the growth of Christianity outside the West, Tracy McKenzie raised some important questions for his fellow American Christians: “If the United States is home to an ever shrinking proportion of the world’s Christians, if the world looks less and less to us for leadership, is that automatically cause for concern? Or might it instead be cause for rejoicing, interpreted as evidence of the spread of the gospel to ‘every tribe and nation’?”
• When I talked about religion in contemporary Britain in my Modern Europe class this week, none of the students had the foggiest idea who Justin Welby was. But that’s a rather small problem for an archbishop of Canterbury facing the dissolution of the Anglican Communion.
• Is the Civil War being neglected by historians? Of course not, but there is some debate about the nature of the “military history” of 1861-1865.
• Did Ken Burns fail to do justice to Eleanor Roosevelt — especially her career after her husband’s death — in his Roosevelts series?
• Of course, one of her signature post-1945 achievements was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose anniversary is marked around the world as Human Rights Day. Unfortunately, there are lots of reasons why the celebration should have been muted this particular December 10th.
• Is the residential liberal arts college the “gold standard” for higher education? (Yes.)
• How academic libraries are struggling to “to redefine themselves after centuries of serving as gateways and gatekeepers to knowledge” — and coming into conflict with college administrators in the process.
• And it’s not much easier to be on faculty, argued Jeffrey Williams: “Like the protagonist of Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, who wants to establish the Church of Christ without Christ, the New Leaders of higher education want to establish education without educators. Or more precisely, they want to call the shots and faculty to do what they’re told, like proper employees.”