That Was The Week That Was


• It wasn’t quite the total vacation from blogging that I’d expected, but only two posts this week: a critique of Christian History Magazine‘s attempt to rank the top 25 Christian writings of all time, and a reflection on my favorite Thanksgiving hymn.

…There (Gobble, Gobble)…

• Meanwhile, Tracy McKenzie concluded his Thanksgiving countdown with a reminder that all Christians are called to be pilgrims: “When we know that we are pilgrims, it changes how we approach the Thanksgiving table. The feast that awaits us is a ‘pleasant inn,’ and we are right to delight in it, but we must not let it tempt us to ‘rest our hearts in this world.'”

Branscombe, "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth"
Jennie Augusta Branscombe, “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) – Wikimedia

• John Turner took his own turn visiting the actual history of the Pilgrims, whose first November in the Western Hemisphere found them giving thanks — and facing a struggle to survive.

(Learn more about this history from the new Ric Burns documentary, which premiered Tuesday on PBS’ American Experience series.)

• Macaroni and cheese? Cauliflower? Squash? Why can’t the rest of the United States be more like the Midwest and set a proper Thanksgiving table?

…and Everywhere

Princeton president Woodrow Wilson in 1902
Wilson as president of Princeton in 1902 – Library of Congress

• What to do with the legacy of Woodrow Wilson? While our 28th president was racist even by the standards of a segregated society, I tend to agree with one African-American graduate from Princeton’s Wilson School: “The United States is a complicated place, with at times a horrible history. Our sins contend daily with our merits. Yet the ability to accept these competing ideals is part of living in the real world, of being a thoughtful participant in a pluralistic and open society.”

(At least Princeton wasn’t one of the twenty-five major research universities whose athletic departments lost money for their institutions last year. Unlike my local land grant university…)

• Meanwhile, the town of Princeton, NJ witnessed an encouraging moment of racial reconciliation, relatively unnoticed in the larger discussion of Wilson.

• Want a better government? Encourage politicians to listen to historians! (And yes, Woodrow Wilson was president of the American Historical Association, but he trained as a political scientist, so… um…)

• While we’re at it, maybe business schools ought to be listening to members of my guild, too.

• Encouraging to see work like Emily Conroy-Krutz’s getting attention; her Christian Imperialism: Converting the World in the Early American Republic seems to exemplify how religious history can fruitfully interact with international and transnational historical themes like empire and commerce.

• It had never occurred to me how much the history of the Internet in this country follows the history of the railroad: “Networks tend to follow networks, and telecommunications and transportation networks tend to end up piled on top of each other. The histories of these places isn’t always immediately obvious, but it’s there, forming a kind of infrastructural palimpsest, with new technologies to annihilate space and time inheriting the idealized promise and the political messiness of their predecessors.”

• Ever wondered how many people have lived and died, in all of human history? An early Christmas present for you.

• A million things seem to be happening at the overstuffed annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion, but perhaps the most interesting debate last week had to do with the question of whether or not grad students ought to blog. (I didn’t start this practice till I was already a tenured associate professor. While I suspect that a younger version of myself would have received the same sorts of benefits from blogging — writing practice, forging connections with a larger network of scholars, I’m not sure my grad student self would have felt quite so comfortable speaking freely about Christianity, history, and higher education.)

• Then we’ll exit with a routine philosophical question: Do humans inhabit “different moral worlds, in which different moral truths hold”?

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