That Was The Week That Was


• I wrestled with how and why Christians should pray for a political leader like Donald Trump.

• My travels out east took me through Bethlehem, Pennsylvania — home of one of the most significant Moravian communities in history.

• And if you’re interested in seeing other historic sites on your travels this summer, I made a list for you.

…There (Romans 13)…

• In my Anxious Bench response to Mike Pence being invited to speak at the Southern Baptist Convention, I didn’t spend much time on one Baptist pastor’s invocation of Romans 13:1… But later that day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions used that same proof-text to justify the administration’s policy of separating children from their asylum-seeking families.

Jeff Sessions
Jeff Sessions – Department of Justice

• I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so much discussion of a Bible verse in the mainstream media as what ensued. Thankfully, some historians got involved to point out that this particular passage has often been cited in American political history. Best of those posts was an Atlantic essay by digital historian Lincoln Mullen, whose America’s Public Bible project I used last year after Mike Pence paraphrased, yes, Romans 13 in a speech to graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy.

• In turn, my Pence/Naval Academy blog post ended up being quoted in a Washington Post article on Sessions.

• I’m not sure I came across a single unqualified defense of Sessions’ invocation of Romans 13, even from otherwise politically conservative evangelicals. Perhaps it’s because they realized what Alan Jacobs pointed out: that under the previous administration, they had appealed to a very different passage in the New Testament.

• Anyway, there’s a lot of good exegetical and theological commentary out there on Romans 13. I’ll just point you to a different kind of take, from a Mennonite pastor who wrestled with that passage in her Sunday school class.

…and Everywhere

• The Righting America blog has been hosting a thought-provoking discussion of what the #MeToo movement means for Christianity, with recent posts by Elesha Coffman and Margaret Bendroth suggesting deeper problems of misogyny and abuse. (See also Eliza Griswold’s piece on the #ChurchToo movement in evangelicalism.)

• Some of the most interesting thinking being done on the nature of evangelicalism in America comes from sociologist John Hawthorne — e.g., his recent post on the “mainlining” of Protestants who like to define themselves in opposition to the mainline churches.

• For all the hullabaloo about Mike Pence’s stump speech at the Southern Baptist Convention, Jonathan Merritt came away from the annual meeting of the country’s largest Protestant denomination thinking that it was actually going through a significant generational change, one that might alter Southern Baptists’ participation in national politics.

• Why have some Republican presidents been rising steadily in the opinion of historians?

Supreme Court of Canada building at night
View of the Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa – Licensed by Saffron Blaze/Wikimedia

• It will be interesting to see if the Canadian Supreme Court ruling against Trinity Western University (whose attempt to establish a law school was opposed by accreditors who found TWU’s student covenant harmful to LGBT students) has any implications for Christian colleges on this side of the border.

Saint John's Abbey Church
The Abbey Church at Saint John’s University – Creative Commons (Bobak Ha’Eri)

• Saint John’s University, one of Bethel’s peers in the Minnesota Private College Council, was sued by a donor who thought the university wasn’t honoring the conditions of his six-figure gift.

• A new study found that women of color working in higher ed make only two-thirds as much as their white male peers.

• Has the AP World History exam, shortened to cover material since 1450, been made too Eurocentric?

• Lots of good stuff this week at The Anxious Bench, but I found especially interesting Philip Jenkins’ comparison of the power and mystery of reading in 17th century Europe vs. 20th century Africa.

• Whenever I teach my Modern Europe class, I ask students to consider what the Stanford Prison Experiment might teach us about the behavior of perpetrators in the Holocaust. But perhaps I need to rethink that

• It would be the most Californian thing ever if Californians voted in a referendum to split their state in three.