That Was The Month That Was

I’m hoping to get back to blogging regularly this week. But first, a look back at some of what I was reading and writing during my May break from Pietist Schoolman:

• Over at The Anxious Bench, I wrote about COVID, abortion, “practical atheism,” and a Norwegian bishop who resisted his country’s Nazi occupiers.

• While it may seem like a pandemic could lead more people to religious skepticism, “[t]he way humans experience suffering spiritually, however, may not necessarily lead to atheism or agnosticism… This is why spiritual beliefs and practices across various religions can often lead to faith strengthening rather than weakening, following a trauma.”

• A medieval historian reflected on what COVID has taught us about the study of the past: “One reason not to narrow down the parameters of the history we study – stripping away whatever doesn’t seem relevant right now – is that we don’t know what might be relevant again tomorrow.”

• Another medievalist, my AB colleague Beth Allison Barr, has helped renew a debate about women’s roles in Christianity. As an egalitarian, it’s been encouraging to see complementarians prompted to wrestle with patriarchy and paternalism.

• Adding fuel to that fire: Rick Warren’s church — one of the largest in the officially complementarian Southern Baptist Convention — ordained three women as pastors.

• Anxious Bench-er Kristin Du Mez’s contribution to the New York Times‘ “Big Ideas” series came too late to assign in our Intro to History class, but next spring I’ll surely have those students consider her argument: “Understanding that beliefs have a history does not preclude a commitment to truths outside of history, nor does it prevent believers from bringing sacred texts and theological insights to bear on personal choices or political values. But it does prompt believers to consider how historical forces and cultural allegiances may have shaped their own deeply held convictions, even in ways that run counter to the core teachings of their faith.”

• It’d be interesting to read that piece in tandem with Jeremy Sabella’s at Current, which explains Americans’ “historical amnesia” as a consequence of a “restorationist impulse.”

(By the way, if you’re not already supporting Current, please consider becoming a patron. Not only will you support a worthy project that publishes essays like Sabella’s — and John Fea’s on teaching racism as part of U.S. history —  but you’ll get access to John’s terrific narrative podcast on evangelicalism and politics.)

• Does the history of eugenics help “to explain how procreative, heterosexual marriage became enshrined as the single-most important moral duty for some evangelicals—one that believers are enticed to pursue from a young age and then to perform at all costs, including physical and psychological harm”?

• Diana Butler Bass is as vocal an “exvangelical” as you’ll find, so it was poignant to read her recollection of living through “the heyday of what I call ‘liberation evangelicalism.'”

• Russell Moore left his position with the Southern Baptist Convention to lead a public theology project at Christianity Today. (Which had Roger Olson wondering what “public theology” was.)

• If you want to feel pessimistic about the future of democracy in America, read this interview with political scientist David Faris.

• Or Charles P. Pierce on the majority of Republicans who still think that Donald Trump was re-elected: “It doesn’t matter if 53 percent of them say they believe the former president* is still the president* because they actually believe it, or they say it because it makes them one of The Elect. The effect on democracy is the same. They are poison in the bloodstream. And they’re proud of it.”

“Stop the steal” protestors at the Minnesota State Capitol back in mid-November 2020 – Creative Commons (Chad Davis)

• Does Christian humanism offer a way forward? (I mean, when Slate is promoting Simone Weil…)

• A year after the murder of George Floyd, it seems that one of his “most lasting legacies may well be his impact on the sports world.”

• Christianity Today reported on how black and white churches and pastors in the Twin Cities worked together after Floyd’s death.

• And Anthea Butler marked the occasion by celebrating the centrality of hope in African American history.

• “What do we do with people who have committed a wrong that they themselves cannot put right?” Leah Libresco Sargeant warned of the danger of collectively denying both sin and the possibility of penance.

(Likewise, Tim Keller thought that American culture is “losing the resources for forgiveness and reconciliation.”) 

German colonial troops fighting the Herero in 1904 – Wikimedia

• Germany apologized for its role in a genocide committed decades before the Holocaust, but refused to pay direct reparations to the victims’ descendants.

• Even some of the academic critics of the 1619 Project are upset that Nikole Hannah-Jones was denied tenure at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

• Meanwhile, a much-less famous tenure case at a much less prestigious university served as the latest test for academic freedom and shared governance in Christian higher education.

• A retired Christian college professor and provost contemplated “the possibility that Christian Colleges can find a path to LGBTQ+ inclusion.”

• The latest Christian college to close is a Baptist women’s college in Alabama.

• Looking around his historic church’s sanctuary, one pastor wondered, “what is the purpose of all that beauty?”

• Finally, as I return to regular blogging, I’ll try to keep these words in mind: “You don’t have to give your opinion online.”