“The Mechanics of Class Participation”


Yesterday we did a post on Lendol Calder’s use of “Point Paragraphs” in the history classroom.  Calder’s piece was a part of larger Perspectives on History forum titled “How to Get Students to Think, Talk, Share, Collaborate, Learn and Come Back for More.” Here is a taste of Elizabeth Lehfeldt‘s Introduction to the forum:

We’ve all been there. Our syllabus specifies that a percentage of the course grade will be based on participation. We’ve presented riveting material or assigned a provocative reading. We show up for class, stand at the front of the room, and begin lobbing questions at the students. And the silence is deafening.

Our intentions are good, but something is missing in the execution. The four pieces offered here offer strategies and ideas for lifting our class discussions out of the doldrums and making them meaningful and efficacious for students.

Check out the forum here.


Why Aren’t Evangelical Christians Saying Trump is the Anti-Christ?

Now that the title of this post has got your attention, I want to point you to historian Walter G. Moss‘s piece at Newsweek: Trump’s A True-Believing Christian?  Tel Me, How Does That Work?

Moss begins:

Shortly before his death in 1900, the Russian philosopher and poet Vladimir Soloviev completed “A Short Story of the Anti-Christ.”

He described his fictional twenty-first century character (based on the Biblical antichrist) this way: “He loved only himself. . . . This man would bow down before the power of Evil as soon as it would offer him a bribe.”

His “conception of his higher value showed itself in practice . . . in seizing his privilege and advantage at the expense of others . . . . The moral achievement of Christ and his uniqueness were beyond an intellect so completely clouded by self-love as his,” which displayed “a complete absence of true simplicity, frankness, and sincerity.”

I was reminded of Soloviev’s story by a recent History News Network article in which Ed Simon asked, “If the anti-Christ is supposed to be a manipulative, powerful, smooth-talking demagogue with the ability to sever people from their most deeply held beliefs, who would be a better candidate than the seemingly indestructible Trump?”

Simon admitted that accusing Trump of being an anti-Christ is giving “the president far too much credit. At his core he is simply a consummate narcissist with little intelligence and less curiosity, one who has somehow become the most powerful man in the world.” Soloviev’s anti-Christ is also far more gifted than Trump.

And yet, as Simon notes, it’s ironic that evangelical Christian leaders, who have often warned of liberal anti-Christs, “seem to lack the self-awareness to identify something so anti-Christian in Trump himself. Or worse yet, they certainly recognize it, but don’t care.”

Granted, I have played-up the sensationalist parts of Moss’s piece, but the rest of the piece offers a good analysis of Trump’s claim to Christian faith and the court evangelicals who believe him.

Michael Gerson on the Loss of the “Evangelical Gag Reflex”

Trump Graham

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, an evangelical Christian and former George W. Bush speechwriter, wonders why the court evangelicals are not sick to their stomachs right now.   We wrote about this piece of evangelical history on January 13, 2018.

It is also noteworthy that Gerson is now freely using the phrase “court evangelicals.”  I guess it’s a mainstream term now.

Here is a taste of Gerson’s piece, “The Trump Evangelicals Have Lost Their Gag Reflex

Graham was in denial about Watergate until the last. When he finally read through the Watergate tape transcripts — including profanity, political corruption, lying, racism and sexism — Graham remembers becoming physically ill. He said later of Nixon: “I wonder whether I might have exaggerated his spirituality in my own mind.” Graham’s biographer William Martin quoted a close Graham associate who was more blunt: “For the life of me, I honestly believe that after all these years, Billy still has no idea of how badly Nixon snookered him.”

And later in the piece:

The problem, however, runs deeper. Trump’s court evangelicals have become active participants in the moral deregulation of our political life. Never mind whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is of good repute. Some evangelicals are busy erasing bright lines and destroying moral landmarks. In the process, they are associating evangelicalism with bigotry, selfishness and deception. They are playing a grubby political game for the highest of stakes: the reputation of their faith.

Not long after Watergate broke, a chastened Billy Graham addressed a conference in Switzerland, warning that an evangelist should be careful not “to identify the Gospel with any one particular political program or culture,” and adding, “this has been my own danger.”

The danger endures.

Read it all here.

Robert Jeffress’s Half-Baked 2 Kingdom Theology and Christian Nationalism

Trump Jeffress

Court evangelical Robert Jeffress recently tweeted:

Court evangelical Robert Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, has recently made the following claims about Donald Trump:

  1. Trump is correct, from a Biblical point of view, in making a preemptive strike on North Korea
  2. Trump is correct in deciding to ban immigrants  based on race.
  3. Trump and the government he leads does not need to conform to any standards of Christian character because according to the Bible the only purpose of government is to protect its citizens so that they can live and worship freely.

This “two-kingdom” view of politics is not new.  Jeffress’s view of government looks something like Martin Luther’s view of government.  Jeffress believes that Christians should never hold the government accountable to moral or Christian standards.  I don’t know any Lutheran who believes this.  So I am hard-pressed to say Jeffress’s view is Lutheran.  Most Lutherans I know believe that there are always times when Christians must criticize the government and political figures when they go astray.  Lutherans don’t believe that government can be redeemed, but they certainly believe that speaking boldly in defense of truth, justice, and love is a biblical mandate when falsehood, injustice, and hate raises their ugly heads.  I will need some Lutheran ethicists, theologians, and historians to help me here (and maybe some New Testament scholars), but I seem to remember German Lutherans learning this lesson in the 1930s and 1940s.

The piece to which Jeffress links in the tweet above celebrates this half-baked two-kingdom view.  If I have time I will try to engage with the piece in another post.  In the meantime, here are two tweets to get us started:

Darryl Hart, am I right about this?