That Was The Week That Was

A wonderful new World War I documentary from Peter Jackson got me thinking about the magical qualities of history, and a Twitter spat over the history of evangelicalism made me realize that I’m not much of an expert in anything. Elsewhere…

Not everyone liked Jackson’s documentary. (H/T Karl Nelson and Tim Johnson)

To that critic’s points… It’s true that They Shall Not Grow Old focuses on one particular experience of a global war, but that seems inevitable for a 90-minute documentary meant to immerse us in one story rather than surveying dozens of them. It’s obvious that Jackson wanted to tell the story of his grandfather, a British soldier on the Western Front. If you find that story uninteresting, keep your money in your pocket, but there’s no need to denigrate him for allegedly perpetuating “the white man’s gaze.”

Photo of British and German soldiers during the truce
Photo of German and British soldiers during the Christmas Truce of 1914 – Imperial War Museum

• But while we’re at it, let’s go ahead and retell the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914.

• For a very different example of Christmas in wartime: meet Santa Claus, Civil War pro-Union icon.

• Has “Christmas in America” caused American Christians to “distort or to leave out essential elements of the Nativity narrative”?

• I didn’t even notice the German magazine profile of a Minnesota town that supposedly exemplified Trump Country. But apparently some fact-checking by locals led to the reporter being revealed as a journalistic fraud.

• For much better reporting about this part of the Midwest, Jean Hopfensperger continued her Star Tribune series on Minnesota church responses to the “unchurching of America.”

• One easy-to-overlook aspect of our current political landscape: even in the Age of Trump, Latinos are at least twice as likely as African Americans to support Republican candidates.

• Could the center-right be revitalized by a chastened libertarianism, one conceding that “the simple small-government vision fails to capture important facts about political and economic life”?

• Can there be common ground in the ongoing debate over abortion? Religion & Politics hosted several answers to that question, including Katelyn Beaty’s call for leaders on both sides to use “better language to talk about and to one another.”

• Yonat Shimron’s further reporting on the “Fairness for All” compromise makes clear that it faces significant challenges.

Detail of Fra Angelico, "The Annunciation"
Detail of Mary from Fra Angelico’s painting of the Annunciation (1450) – Creative Commons (Vanderbilt Divinity Library)

• I don’t read The Public Discourse often, but that could change if it features more pieces like these Christmas reflections by Chris Armstrong and Karen Swallow Prior.

• Evangelicals, did you know that Mary sang what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “the most passionate, the wildest, one might even say the most revolutionary hymn ever sung”?

• Honestly, I don’t know that evangelicals are any less aware of Mary and the Magnificat than most other Protestants. But could it be that the song’s upside-down values can be found in the most famous of one Lutheran composer’s ostensibly “secular” works?

• It’s always a treat to find former students sharing their writing. Check out the work of Carley Reinke, who has been reflecting on the four candles of the Advent wreath.