That Was The Week That Was

This week I interviewed Jay Phelan about his new book on the history and theology of Judaism, and wrote devotional reflections about Bible books as obscure as 3rd John and Jude and as familiar as Psalms and Matthew. Elsewhere:

• Over this summer of COVID, most of my socializing has been outdoors. But what will we do as temperatures drop and families face the possibility of holidays apart?

Licensed by Creative Commons (Laura Manzari)

• If, like Amanda Patchin, you find this season ideal for self-examination, two recent books might serve as helpful guides.

• Part of the challenge of COVID for churches: wearing masks can make it possible to meet… and difficult to preach. (A lot of this pertains to teaching, of course.)

• Two Christian college presidents implored their communities to take COVID as seriously their students and employees have.

(By the way… absent a federal bailout, there’s little reason to think that COVID-stressed college budgets are going to get any relief any time soon.)

• Are the Trump-backing Christians who refuse to wear masks or take other precautions the snake-handlers of the COVID era?

Snake-handlers in Kentucky, 1946
Snake-handling Pentecostals in Kentucky, 1946 – National Archives

• With just a couple weeks to go until Election Day, there’s some evidence that the president is losing support among college-educated evangelicals. (To say nothing of Christian college political science professors!)

• It’s not a voting constituency, but Donald Trump does seem to have the support of one growing religious group: African evangelicals.

• Jill Lepore is no fan of the current president, but also sees no need to establish a “truth commission” following the end of his presidency: “Its wrongdoing — a litany that includes corruption, fomenting insurrection, separating parents and children at the border, and violently suppressing political dissent — should be investigated by journalists, chronicled by historians and, in some instances, tried in ordinary courts.”

• If Joe Biden is elected president, we’ll have selected a politician comfortable with serving as “griever in chief” — a role where his Catholic faith is especially evident.

• According to Stephen Wertheim, he’ll also inherit a problem common to America’s post-Cold War presidents: “the United States possesses no widely shared, deeply felt purpose for vast global power.”

• As her ancestral homeland fights a war with Azerbaijan, an Armenian Christian wonders how to pray and turns to John 17.

• That from Christianity Today, while The Christian Century ran an interesting reflection on finding unity amid change: “If we follow Christ, our unity is not in our certainty but in our movement. We remember that some thought they were the center but were actually the edges, that some were pressed beyond the wall but God came near. In that presence, unity emerges—a unity that requires us to drop our weapons. That’s scary, because with a sword in our hand—the right doctrine, the right hermeneutic—we think we’re safe. What happens when we drop it and it turns into a plowshare? We knew how to wield a sword, but nobody taught us how to cultivate a field.”

• You wouldn’t think you could put a price tag on the church’s mission, but the Church of England tried to calculate the value of its contribution to English society.

• A conservative evangelical from Australia explained the problem with demonizing “wokeness.”

• Was European exploration of the Western hemisphere “an ideological extension of the Crusades—a new effort to circumvent the ever-more-powerful Islamic presence in Europe”?

• I’ve had a hard time getting into Star Trek: Discovery, but the week that its newest season premieres is a good time to think about a perpetual challenge for my favorite sci fi world: “dreams change over time, and that means there are always going to be flaws in Star Trek’s utopia.”