Future Tours: Christianity and Western Culture

I don’t think I have the energy to lead a European tour every summer, so as I look ahead to the future of Pietist Schoolman Travel, I’ve got U.S. history topics in mind for 2020 (the sports history tour I mentioned yesterday) and 2022 (more on that tomorrow or Thursday). But I do love to take people to Europe…

CWC TA T-shirt and sweatshirt
Some of the clothing worn by CWC TAs over the years…

So as Sam Mulberry and I look ahead to 2021, we are tentatively planning a ten-day tour based on Christianity and Western Culture (CWC), the multidisciplinary course that has been a foundational piece of Bethel’s gen ed curriculum for nearly 35 years now. As a student, teaching assistant, and now professor and coordinator, Sam’s been involved with CWC since the mid-Nineties. I’ve been teaching it at least twice a year since I came to Bethel in 2003, and usually more often than that. Sam and I are in the middle of an online version of the course for summer school (today we’re wrapping up the Middle Ages), and we’ll be co-teaching the “flipped” version of the course next January for the first time.

As Sam and I have toured Europe for our J-term class on the First World War, I can’t count the number of times that the two of us have started to talk about how we might teach CWC in some of the same locales. I don’t think that’ll happen as a course for Bethel undergrads, but it seems like a terrific option for a summer tour open to all.

So, knowing that the summer of 2021 is still a ways away, let me think out loud through a CWC tour. If it sounds like something you’d like to do, just complete this survey to get on our mailing list.

The famous colonnade of St. Peter’s Square in Rome – Creative Commons (MarkusMark)

Days 1-2

I expect that we’d roughly trace the chronology of a course that sweeps through over two thousand years of what’s called “Western civilization,” so it’s logical to start either in Greece or Italy. Right now I’m leaning towards the latter, since two days in Rome would let us cover multiple topics. First, we’d focus on the Roman republic and empire, touring sites like the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Forum, and the museums on Capitoline Hill. From there, we’d think about the transition from the persecuted communities of early church to the powerful institutions of the medieval church, visiting everything from catacombs to the Vatican.

Day 3

While we’re in Rome, seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel would start to move us into the Renaissance. And that progression takes us naturally to the Renaissance capital of Florence, home of the Duomo, the Uffizi, and iconic public works by Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, and others. Just past statues of Dante and Machiavelli is the city’s Galileo museum, which hints at the Scientific Revolution to come…

Days 4-5

As we follow our story through the Middle Ages and Renaissance and into the Reformation, we face our most difficult choice. I’d love to head northeast to Prague and Wittenberg and tell the stories of John Hus and Martin Luther. But if we’re going to do this in ten days, that’s taking us in the wrong direction… and I haven’t given up on the idea of doing a Reformation/Pietism tour at some point in the future.

So instead, I’m tentatively planning to go to another center of the Protestant Reformation: Switzerland. It still requires a couple of decently long train trips, but in two days we could see Zürich (home of Ulrich Zwingli and the first Anabaptist martyrs) and then Geneva, where the International Museum of the Reformation stands near John Calvin’s church, St. Pierre.

Reformation Wall in Geneva: Guillaume Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and John Knox — Creative Commons/Wikimedia

Days 6-7

In Geneva we can also see the house dedicated to the city’s most famous philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who moved to Paris and helped solidify France’s capital as a center of the Enlightenment. Of course, it wouldn’t take much to convince me to spend two days in my favorite city, but for CWC purposes, this is clearly the next place to go. Not only can we talk about Rousseau, Voltaire, and other philosophes, but we can use walking tours to review the Middle Ages before turning to the sweeping political revolutions that emerged from the Age of Reason.

Days 8-10

Finally, the Eurostar takes us under the English Channel to London, for a concluding three-day stay in a city whose history spans all three units of CWC. There are so many themes to explore here… We could walk from a fragment of the old Roman wall across the street to the Tower of London, enjoy worship in the medieval splendor of Westminster Abbey, take a tour of evangelical revival with sites related to John Wesley and Charles Haddon Spurgeon, review the story of Western art in the National Gallery, or consider the expansion of democracy at the Houses of Parliament. Or maybe we’ll work in a day trip to Cambridge to talk about Isaac Newton…

Ah well, it’s still a couple years away. I’m sure at least some of this will change between now and then. But we’re pretty set on making this happen in June or July 2021. If that sounds appealing to you, be sure to get on our mailing list. In the meantime, you can keep up-to-date on our travel plans at our Facebook page.

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