• Our department’s weekly webisode series, Past & Presence, premiered on Wednesday.
(Despite the best attempts of the Conference on Faith and History Facebook page to put us in competition, John Fea was gracious enough to plug our webisodes at his blog. And congrats to John for his Why Study History? getting such prominent attention from the American Historical Association!)
• I’ll be writing about Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic this month, starting with a brief post on his contention that the place to start such a book is with emotion, not belief.
• I read Spufford’s book during the first half of our recently completed travel course on World War I, which I summarized on Monday and will return to throughout the month.
…There and Everywhere
• I didn’t read The Dish regularly, but I know it well enough to understand why Andrew Sullivan’s decision to move on to other projects is a kind of landmark for us bloggers. One especially important response came from Sullivan fan/critic Ta-Nehisi Coates, who was inspired to blog in part by watching Sullivan so publicly change his mind about the War in Iraq: “Honesty demands not just that you accept your errors, but that your errors are integral to developing a rigorous sense of study.I have found this to be true in, well, just about everything in life. But it was from Andrew that I learned to apply it in this particular form of writing. I am indebted to him.”
• Kyle Roberts responded to Owen Strachan’s critique of two megachurch pastors who announced that their churches would be more inclusive of LGBT individuals: “He–and many like Owen–are convinced that they are called to be protectors of ‘orthodoxy,’ border police of morality, and most certainly Guardians of the Evangelical Galaxy. They have the ‘right’ hermeneutic, they have ‘tradition’ on their side, and God has called them into the fight against all manner of creeping and crawling evils.” (This is what I had in mind in my September talk on the role of Christ-centered colleges: not to police boundaries, but to inhabit borderlands…)
• A far more interesting conservative response to sexuality and Christianity: Eve Tushnet’s Gay and Catholic, as reviewed by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig.
• And more must-read material from Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom on how our shared tradition in the Covenant Church (with its affirmation of both the authority of Scripture and the reality of “freedom in Christ”) offers evangelicals a way forward on human sexuality.
• “We’re all Anabaptists now”: David Swartz (via his review of Molly Worthen’s Apostles of Reason) on the influence of Mennonites on evangelicals and Baptists.
• I can only hope that Roger Olson and Christian Collins Winn’s Reclaiming Pietism: Retrieving an Evangelical Tradition will have anything like that kind of influence. Here’s another preview for those of you who haven’t picked up a copy.
• One of the reasons that missionaries from the Global South are increasingly coming to America: “Missionaries in America view the United States as a ‘Christian’ nation in trouble. America has lost its spiritual fire with growing materialism, secularism, humanism, and sexual immorality. It is no longer a ‘city on a hill’ or a ‘beacon of light,’ and may even become like the now secular and ‘dark continent’ of Europe. Although the United States is a predominately Christian and a dominant missionary-sending nation, it is framed as a nation that has lost its foothold as a leading Christian influence.”
(Meanwhile, I’m also fascinated to see that there’s going to be a conference this summer on the phenomenon of American missionaries going to Europe. That was going to be my post-dissertation research project, until I got sidetracked by Pietism…)
• There’s been lots written about Selma (and the snubbing of its director and lead actor by the Oscar voters), but Edward Blum’s observation about the “aesthetic symbolisms” of the film — primarily, Martin Luther King, Jr. appearing in front of organ pipes, while Lyndon B. Johnson appears in front of the American flag — is the most interesting.
• The recent elections in Greece convinced Anne Applebaum that the left-right spectrum in European politics is giving way to a new divide: integrationist vs. isolationist/nationalist.
• The presidents of Baylor University, Catholic University, and Yeshiva University held a fascinating summit on the nature and future of religious colleges and universities. (A fuller report is available behind the paywall for the Chronicle of Higher Education.)
• A conservative response to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s call for that state’s university professors to teach more: “He’s challenging the labor model on which the modern research university depends. There’s a good case that this model is financially unsustainable and educationally counterproductive—and it would be nice to hear a politician make it explicitly. But making ill-informed jabs at lazy professors is not the way to do it.” (But see also Rod Dreher’s response to Jacques Berlinerblau’s widely read “Teach or Perish” piece.)
• As two-year schools take on more and more importance in American higher ed, I hope that more of us in the four-year college world will read Matt Reed’s Confessions of a Community College Dean blog at Inside Higher Ed. In one recent post, Reed explained why those bringing changes to educational institutions “have to speak innovation with a local accent.”
• At first, I thought the announcement that Harper Lee was publishing a long-lost sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird was an elaborate social media hoax. Nope. And perhaps we shouldn’t be so happy about it…