That Was The Week That Was

This week I celebrated my birthday by looking at pandemic-inspired gospel-blues songs, and my October devotional series ranged from a song of Moses to a psalm of David to the Apocalypse of John. Elsewhere:

• I don’t share all of the theological presuppositions that undergird John Piper’s barely veiled critique of Donald Trump, but you have to admire the integrity of a pastor-theologian willing to challenge followers who have been all too eager to excuse the inexcusable conduct and character of Trump.

John Piper teaching in February 2020 — Creative Commons (Rsparakulathu)

• Not surprisingly, Trump-loving, Fox News-discipled evangelicals were having none of it. (Not sure what’s more ridiculous, the idea that John Piper is “conciliatory to a fault” or that he dislikes Trump because the president “doesn’t act like a namby-pamby.”)

(Those comments came from The Christian Post, whose descent into Trump advocacy was detailed in a long account from one of its former editors.)

• For very different reasons, I’m sure historian L.D. Burnett isn’t much of a Piper fan either, but she also suggests that the personal character of American leaders might be due for a comeback.

• “There is a sense, especially among theologians, that differences between churches ought to have theological explanations,” wrote church historian Joel Halldorf. “But in this case it is not enough to explain the differences. Instead, we must look for the answer in the histories that shaped, and continues to shape, evangelicalism in Sweden and the United States.”

• Tish Harrison Warren thinks that the last four years have betrayed evangelicals’ “impoverished and inadequate political theology” — and that the Early Church can help us better understand the relationship between faith and politics.

• I’m pretty dubious that any written interview with Donald Trump tells us much about him. But whoever wrote these responses wants to distance the president from mainline Protestantism.

• An election year is certainly a good time to think about Paul’s words about secular authority in Romans 13… but they have to be read in light of Jesus’ Great Commandment.

• How do news media decide to call a race? Here’s a glimpse inside the AP’s decision making process.

• 2020 won’t be the first year that Americans have had to vote in the middle of a pandemic.

Statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson on the campus of the Pennsylvania college named for the two presidents – Creative Commons (Brook Ward)

• Ian Bogost argued that COVID “has revealed that university life is far more embedded in the American idea than anyone thought. America is deeply committed to the dream of attending college. It’s far less interested in the education for which students supposedly attend.” (Of course, what almost all college students are actually getting this year is the education, and only a muted version of the rest of the “college experience.”)

• I’m unconvinced that the college syllabus can be “a piece of writing that will come alive.” But judge that argument for yourself.

• Agree or disagree with Jon Baskin and Anastasia Berg, I hope that many humanities professors and departments discuss their argument that the “health of the humanities should be measured… by whether our society provides ample opportunities for its citizens to ask the fundamental questions about the good life and the just society.”