That Was The Week That Was

After a quiet first three months of 2020, it was a busy week at The Pietist Schoolman:

• With Christian colleges like mine moving online, I shared my plans for teaching my courses remotely.

• Realizing the need to spend more time with God, I started a series of daily lectionary reflections with a beloved psalm, a theological mini-treatise doubling as a hymn, and the troubling story of a failed political leader.

• Oh, and HBO debuted a miniseries set in a world where Charles Lindbergh became president.

All that, and at The Anxious Bench I shared some historical and theological context for Martin Luther’s 1527 letter on Christian responses to the plague.

An illustration of the plague of boils, from a 1572 edition of Luther’s Bible

Because it’s our spring break, I still found plenty of time to read other people’s writing, including…

• I’m not the only one who has turned to blogging to cope with the coronavirus. At her new blog, my incredibly outgoing sister-in-law considered the implications of the word “hush.”

• And I’m not the only one writing daily meditations on Scripture.

• In a sense, that kind of writing is producing primary sources for future historians of the COVID-19 pandemic. So is a Big Ten university, already busy creating an archive of coronavirus journals.

• Because such sources are preserved from 1918, historians like John Fea can recount responses to that year’s influenza by Christians like evangelist Billy Sunday and Francis J. Grimké, an African American pastor in Washington, DC.

• Then there were the 2,000 nuns in Philadelphia who left their convents to nurse the sick.

• And a historian colleague down the road from Bethel surveyed the longer history of Christians and epidemics.

• #EverythingHasAHistory, including washing your hands.

Snowden, Epidemics and Society• Coincidentally, one of my grad school professors has a new book out on the history of how epidemics reshape societies.

• It seems like it should be possible to criticize the Chinese government for its initial response to the coronavirus, without describing the contagion in terms that encourage anti-Asian discrimination.

• At this point, it’s pretty clear that Donald Trump can’t be the leader we need for this crisis, though I’d love to believe that he’d be willing to take lessons from Angela Merkel.

• Merkel is the leader of the world’s most successful Christian democratic party. We don’t have such a party in this country, but does Joe Biden belong to that religious-political tradition?

• Early on, the state of Washington has been hit especially hard by COVID-19. In the midst of all that, its lieutenant governor announced that he was going to become a Jesuit at the end of his term.

• Not surprisingly, Americans’ response to the coronavirus reflects political polarization.

• Silver lining: we’re emitting fewer air pollutants and greenhouse gasses.

• Having so many colleges and universities move online for a prolonged period of time creates enormous potential — and enormous risks — for ed tech companies.

Next weekend I’ll try to move more beyond COVID. For now, just three more items that might interest readers of mine…

The main building at Watkins College of Art – Wikimedia

• Remember the proposed merger between Belmont University, a large Christian school in Nashville, and Watkins College of Art? Tensions continued to mount within the Watkins community.

• Online or face-to-face, it’s clear to me that higher education will only ever be as good as its professors — like my colleague Amy Poppinga, profiled this week in Bethel’s campus paper.

• Back to that HBO miniseries… Just how plausible is it that Charles Lindbergh might have run for president in 1940 and unleashed anti-Semitic forces in American society?