That Was The Week That Was

After a break for Thanksgiving, this week I looked at the numerical decline of the history major and shared some of my favorite meals and museums in my favorite world capital. A few other things I was reading this week:

• As a Protestant prone to lamenting what was lost in the Reformation, I was glad for the challenge of David Henreckson’s reflection on the “simple regimen of grace” found in even the most austere forms of Protestantism.

• But that doesn’t change my belief that it’s the musical richness of Lutheranism that is one of the most enduring legacies of the Reformation. (Trigger warning for my wife, her sister, and their classmates: the linked post celebrates St. Olaf College without so much as mentioning Luther College.)

Festival of Christmas in Bethel University's Great Hall
Bethel’s own Festival of Christmas is pretty great in its own right — Bethel University

• Teaching a course on “The Pietist Option for Lutherans” inspired me to write about the Norwegian revivalist Hans Nielsen Hauge for The Anxious Bench.

(If you missed it last weekend… I dashed off a post about the WWI roots of Christ the King Sunday.)

• My next AB post will jump off from Fleming Rutledge’s new collection of Advent sermons, which does much to detach Christmas from the season that precedes it in the church calendar. But I’m sympathetic to Courtney Ellis’ argument that “the theological practices of Advent and Christmas are not mutually exclusive.”

• Jay Phelan is always both inspiring and challenging, but especially when he reflects on the meaning of Christian freedom.

• It’s hard to keep up with all the debate swirling around the deceased missionary John Allen Chau. But I’d recommend not coming to any facile conclusions until you’ve read the New York Times‘ in-depth profile of Chau and Foreign Policy‘s article on the islanders who killed him.

• As I watched left-progressive historians on Twitter mark the death of George H. W. Bush by dredging up the worst moments of a career that even Slate celebrated, I appreciated even more James Bratt’s call for nuance and complexity in historical interpretation.

• As so often, Peter Beinart’s analysis was particularly insightful: “Bush was the last person to occupy the Oval Office whose opponents saw him as a fully legitimate president… Race is crucial to any comparison of George H. W. Bush to the presidents who have succeeded him. Yes, Bush was a personally decent man who respected the norms of his office. But so was Obama. It wasn’t only Bush’s personal respectability that made his presidency less rancorous. It was his racial respectability, the fact that he personified a racial hierarchy that has since been unsettled by demographic change.”

Whippman, America the Anxious• As more and more middle-class Americans find themselves part of the gig economy, Ruth Whippman warned that the “constant curation of a salable self demanded by the new economy can be a special hellspring of anxiety.”

• Does my discipline’s emphasis on contingency explain why historians seem more concerned than economists by Donald Trump’s presidency?

• You can’t understand the importance of Charles Lindbergh without glancing back at the Wright Brothers. But a new book argues that one member of that famous duo was much more important than the other.

• Predictably, easy grading often leads to better student evaluations.