That Was The Week That Was

In spare moments between grading, I passed along the story of Bethel’s soon-to-be first Digital Humanities graduate and took note of a proposed culture war compromise involving evangelical colleges. Then over at The Anxious Bench, I suggested that no historian writes about the past “as it actually happened” without imagining the past as they think “it should have happened.”

Here’s some of what I was reading this week:

• L.D. Burnett’s reflection on Hmong immigrants coming to her hometown became an exhortation “for this nation to start living up to its promises…”

Hmong memorial in Fresno, CA
Memorial to Lao veterans of the Vietnam War in one of the main centers of Hmong settlement: Fresno, California – Creative Commons (prayitno)

• I don’t think I’ll hold my breath for the possibility of a Biden-Romney third party run in 2020, but if you want to read about a politician who truly does defy conventional binaries, meet the Catholic governor of Louisiana.

• You know it’s 2018 when the demise of The Weekly Standard prompts nostalgia from a former New Republic editor.

• Rod Dreher had his own eulogy for The Weekly Standard, but I’d instead recommend his reflection on the enduring strength and weakness of denominational distinctions.

Byrd, Why Can't We Be Friends?• This week I had several reminders of the importance of cross-gender friendships — a kind of relationship that some other Christians regard with considerable wariness.

• Another month, another investigation reveals another sexual abuse scandal in another wing of the church. Kyrie eleison.

(And given that this particular scandal happened in a network of ostensibly independent congregations, I’m feeling no less conflicted about organized vs. disorganized religion.)

• Meanwhile, an evangelical #MeToo summit attracted prominent speakers like Beth Moore… and criticism that it wasn’t addressing core problems.

• Another notable evangelical self-examination (that also wasn’t above criticism): Southern Baptist Theological Seminary dug deeply (albeit incompletely) into its historic association with slavery and white supremacy.

• If it hadn’t happened before 2018, this seemed to be the year that history threads on Twitter — like this one on the history of the word “evangelical” from religious historian Daniel Silliman — came into their own as a distinct genre.

• Also on Twitter, education historian Adam Laats has been asking if there’s a better term than “evangelical” to describe conservative Christian supporters of Donald Trump. One suggestion that he tried applying to a particularly prominent Christian university (and would-be football power): “Christian nationalist.”

• One of my favorite religion writers is The Christian Century‘s Jason Byassee, whose dual profile of dissimilar Anglican churches in Winnipeg exemplifies his evenhanded curiosity about Christianity in post-Christian societies.

(Increasingly, that’s the context for ministry on this side of the 49th parallel as well.)

• For another example of Christians who maintained good relationships in the face of deep theological difference, see Regina Wenger’s Anxious Bench guest post on a Mennonite sister and brother who both became pastors.

• One more example of the complexity of global Pentecostalism: the Congolese doctor just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Facial wounds on WWI veteran
A wounded veteran, with and without his specially designed mask

• This essay on the medical history of WWI is a good reminder that the war didn’t really end in 1918: “It staggered on in much of Europe, it lingered in the broken psyches of soldiers returning home.”

• One of the reasons I ended up studying history in college is that my initial major (international relations) required several economics courses… none of which seemed to know how to deal with the irrational complexity of human behavior.

• Reading this Atlantic headline made me want to say something glib about the liberal arts surviving the Black Death, industrialization, and a century of world wars. But reading the article just reminded me of all my genuine concerns for the future of this model of education.

• This is either the best or worst sitcom pitch I’ve ever heard: Colonial Williamsburg, with a Parks & Rec feel.

• But let me close with an undoubtedly good idea: supporting the ongoing work of John Wilson, longtime editor of the late, much lamented Books & Culture.