That Was The Week That Was

This week I reflected on Kristin Du Mez’s new book about evangelical masculinity, Jesus and John Wayne, and shared some thoughts from Charles Lindbergh inspired by taking our kids to state parks. Elsewhere:

• If 2020 is more than you can take, the country of Iceland is here to help you cope.

Barry, The Great Influenza• The author of a magisterial history of the 1918 influenza pandemic complained that Americans have failed to learn the lessons of that public health crisis.

• Indeed, it’s possible that the recent surge of COVID cases, especially in the Sun Belt, could push the national death toll far higher than initially estimated.

• What does it mean to hope in the middle of a pandemic?

• #EverythingHasAHistory… including the police, which Jill Lepore explained is a far more recent idea than that of the polis itself.

• Speaking of law enforcement… why are federal border agents arresting people in the middle of Portland, Oregon?

• Last month protesters in that city tore down a statue of George Washington, whose image has long been celebrated and protested far beyond the United States.

• I’m glad that Christianity Today asked Tommy Kidd to write a response to the statues debate; the result is even-handed when it should be and emphatic when it shouldn’t.

• Meanwhile, another author of a book about George Whitefield commended the University of Pennsylvania for taking down a statue of the 18th century revivalist. “A moment of apparent defeat may become an opportunity to question [evangelicals’] proclivities for hero worship,” argued Peter Choi. “They may examine myths of evangelical innocence and theological superiority, which obscure the hostile takeover of indigenous lands and violence against enslaved bodies. This more sober understanding of evangelical history might lead to honest reckoning with the deep wounds that continue to fester in our common life together.”

• It’s healthy for citizens of a democracy to disagree about policy issues, but I cannot understand why the self-serving corruption of Donald Trump isn’t disqualifying him in the minds of even more voters.

• Thinking about some recent Supreme Court cases and the response from conservative Christians, David French observed that “religious liberty is increasing even as white Christian religious power is decreasing.”

• A couple of significant deaths in the church on Friday: civil rights activist-turned-politician John Lewis and theologian J.I. Packer.

• It’s easy to associate movements like Black Lives Matter with America’s cities, but racial justice is also being debated in smaller towns, like Fort Dodge, Iowa.

• One Black Christian was frustrated that the same white churches that asked him for advice about diversity are often “more concerned about the responses of black rage than they are about a system that justifies and rewards black death.”

• Even as the New York Times profiled the author of the bestselling White Fragility, John McWhorter warned that Robin DiAngelo’s version of anti-racism is itself demeaning to Black people.

• And Jemele Hill warned that African Americans can themselves be susceptible to prejudices like anti-Semitism.

• Do we still believe in the anti-genocide message “Never Again,” a quarter-century after the massacre at Srebrenica?

In July 1995, a Bosnian Serb army slaughtered about 8,000 mostly Muslim Bosnians in Srebrenica – Creative Commons (Michael Büker)

• It’s hard to be shocked by anything about higher education at its most elite, wealthiest levels, but the story of a Qatari prince at the University of Southern California is something else.

• Can an online course in the humanities be “transformative”? (I’m not convinced that this column actually provides a satisfactory reason to say “Yes” to that question, but I do take its points about why we’re unlikely to notice the best of online teaching.)

• The most interesting essay I read this week: Jonathan Malesic on the drinking culture of the Rust Belt.