That Was The Week That Was


• “Here I stand, I can do no other… That’s how Playmobil designed me!”

• Remembering a dear friend reminded me why I love the church.

The American freshman of 2014: less religious, more likely to go to grad school, but otherwise a lot like her counterparts of 2004, 1994, 1984, and 1974.

• This week on Past & Presence: exploring fields within history.

…There and Everywhere

• Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone: here’s the history of x’s and o’s.

• The always interesting L. D. Burnett started a series on the history of political correctness — “as both a term of praise and a term of disparagement.”

• Why do Americans keep invoking the Founding Fathers to settle debates? (Note: they didn’t always do so.)

• Why we should still teach “dead white men” — e.g., John Milton.

• Speaking of unfashionable intellectual activities… “the promises and perils of denominational history.”

• And now for something completely different… As part of a new national branding campaign, the country of Sweden now has its own font.

Sweden Sans font chart
From the design firm Söderhavet

• And before you laugh at my ancestral homeland… Meet the woman who is leading the Swedish Navy’s response to Vladimir Putin.

• Especially by comparison to their American counterparts, European Millennials are remarkably pessimistic.

• While some have seen Jon Stewart’s retirement from The Daily Show as being “as strong an ending as any player in TV history could ask for,” he might not be nearly as popular and influential as is often assumed.

• The experience of a college choir exclusively for people who are terrible singers suggests that singing is not a natural ability, but a “use it or lose it” skill.

• A remarkable statistic from the world of higher ed: “Just 12 percent of colleges enroll 60 percent of all Latino undergraduates…”

Dean Smith coaching in 1964
Smith coaching in 1964, during the rocky early years of his long tenure at the University of North Carolina – UNC Digital Library

• After a long struggle with dementia, the great college basketball coach Dean Smith passed away at the age of 83. Not just Jim Wallis at Sojourners, but Charles P. Pierce at Grantland noted the relationship between Smith’s faith and his commitment to civil rights.

• We’ll stay in Chapel Hill, NC for the next link… The murders of three Muslims there by a militant atheist suggests to Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig that “no form of reasoning, however obvious to a particular cohort, has a monopoly on righteousness. And no ideology, supernatural or not, has a monopoly on evil.”

• Commentary on President Obama’s National Prayer Breakfast remarks about the historical relationship between Christianity and acts of violence continued to flow… Some of the most interesting pieces came from historians John Fea (whose post comparing Obama to Abraham Lincoln was picked up by the Washington Post), Patrick Connelly (more impressed by the “Niebuhrian framework” of Obama’s speech than was conservative pundit Ross Douthat), and D. G. Hart (who reflected on the willingness of American Christians to kill on behalf of their country).

• Hart quoted from the memoir that inspired American Sniper. Is that amazingly popular movie — now bigger at the box office than Saving Private Ryan  the descendant of Sergeant York?

• In that New York Review of Books essay, J. Hoberman asserted — in light of criticisms of American Sniper (and its seeming “political antipode,” Selma) that “historical veracity is mostly tangential to how a particular docudrama works as a movie.” Writing earlier in the week for the same source, novelist Francine Prose agreed — and went on to argue (again, re: Selma) that “It’s so much easier and less threatening to talk about whether (or how much of) a film is ‘true’ than to confront the unpleasant—and indisputable—truth: that racial and sexual prejudice have persisted so long past the historical eras in which these films are set.”

• Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom concluded her three-part Sojourners series on sexuality by making the case for “faithful dissent.”

• Have culture-warring evangelicals lost sight of the Great Commandment and Great Commission?

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