Don’t Forget Your Conference on Faith and History Proposal

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I am serving as the program chair for next Fall’s CFH meeting in Grand Rapids.  I have posted the call for papers below.  The deadline for proposals is March 15, 2018.  Please consider submitting a paper or panel proposal!  Whether you are proposing a panel/session or a paper, all I need is a one-page abstract.  Don’t hesitate to contact me with questions.

And don’t forget our Secondary Teacher Initiative!

CALL FOR PAPERS

The 31st Biennial Meeting of the Conference on Faith & History

History and the Search for Meaning:  The Conference on Faith and History at 50

 October 4-6, 2018

Calvin College

Grand Rapids, Michigan


Plenary Speakers:

Margaret Bendroth (Congregational Library & Archives, Boston)

Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn (Syracuse University)  

Robert Orsi (Northwestern University)

The Conference on Faith and History (CFH) was chartered fifty years ago to uphold, study, and improve the complex relationship between Christian faith and the discipline of history.  As an organization, we are interested in how Christian faith in all its manifestations (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox) plays a role in our lives as professionals, writers, teachers, and colleagues. Our members work at large public universities, Christian liberal arts colleges, museums, historical sites, libraries, publishing houses, churches, and K-12 schools.

In October 2018, we will gather together at Calvin College, one of the organization’s earliest sponsoring institutions, to reflect on a theme that has been at the heart of the CFH since its birth: “History and the Search for Meaning.”  During our meeting in Grand Rapids, we will consider how the study of the past—in all its fullness and complexity—might bring meaning within our institutions, neighborhoods, classrooms, and congregations, and how it might promote health and stability for our democracy in an ever-shrinking and even more dangerous world.

As always, we are eager to see papers and panel (preferred) proposals that focus on the conference theme, but we will consider submissions on any historical topic.

Proposal ideas may consider, but are not limited to, the following themes:

  • Historians and the church
  • Christian historians as public intellectuals
  • Thinking Christianly about the history of race and gender
  • Teaching as Christian historians (at both the university and K-12 level)
  • The role of the Christian historian in teaching and writing about under-represented groups
  • Christian historians and the history of justice and inequality
  • Christianity and historiography
  • The social responsibility of the Christian historian
  • Christian faith and the writing of history
  • The role of the history major and the place of historical study in the academy
  • Spiritual disciplines and the work of Christian scholarship and teaching
  • The relationship between theology and the work of the historian
  • History and citizenship
  • The calling or vocation of the Christian historian/scholar
  • The influence of the Internet and social media on Christian scholarship
  • Digital history and the Christian historian
  • History and the state of the “evangelical mind”
  • History and advocacy
  • Christians and graduate training in history
  • Stories of women and seeking meaning through the study of the past
  • History and Christian mission
  • History and the moral imagination

Individual paper and/or complete session proposals may be sent to:

 John Fea, Messiah College:  jfea(at)Messiah(dot)edu

 DEADLINE: 15 March, 2018

 Decisions will be made on or before April 30, 2018.

Details about the Conference on Faith and History and forthcoming information about local arrangements can be found at the CFH website: faithandhistory.org

One Month Left: Don’t Forget to Submit Your Proposal to the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the Conference on Faith and History

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I am serving as the program chair for next Fall’s CFH meeting in Grand Rapids.  I have posted the call for papers below.  The deadline for proposals is March 15, 2018.  Please consider submitting a paper or panel proposal!  Whether you are proposing a panel/session or a paper, all I need is a one-page abstract.  Don’t hesitate to contact me with questions.

CALL FOR PAPERS

The 31st Biennial Meeting of the Conference on Faith & History

History and the Search for Meaning:  The Conference on Faith and History at 50

 October 4-6, 2018

Calvin College

Grand Rapids, Michigan


Plenary Speakers:

Margaret Bendroth (Congregational Library & Archives, Boston)

Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn (Syracuse University)  

Robert Orsi (Northwestern University)

The Conference on Faith and History (CFH) was chartered fifty years ago to uphold, study, and improve the complex relationship between Christian faith and the discipline of history.  As an organization, we are interested in how Christian faith in all its manifestations (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox) plays a role in our lives as professionals, writers, teachers, and colleagues. Our members work at large public universities, Christian liberal arts colleges, museums, historical sites, libraries, publishing houses, churches, and K-12 schools.

In October 2018, we will gather together at Calvin College, one of the organization’s earliest sponsoring institutions, to reflect on a theme that has been at the heart of the CFH since its birth: “History and the Search for Meaning.”  During our meeting in Grand Rapids, we will consider how the study of the past—in all its fullness and complexity—might bring meaning within our institutions, neighborhoods, classrooms, and congregations, and how it might promote health and stability for our democracy in an ever-shrinking and even more dangerous world.

As always, we are eager to see papers and panel (preferred) proposals that focus on the conference theme, but we will consider submissions on any historical topic.

Proposal ideas may consider, but are not limited to, the following themes:

  • Historians and the church
  • Christian historians as public intellectuals
  • Thinking Christianly about the history of race and gender
  • Teaching as Christian historians (at both the university and K-12 level)
  • The role of the Christian historian in teaching and writing about under-represented groups
  • Christian historians and the history of justice and inequality
  • Christianity and historiography
  • The social responsibility of the Christian historian
  • Christian faith and the writing of history
  • The role of the history major and the place of historical study in the academy
  • Spiritual disciplines and the work of Christian scholarship and teaching
  • The relationship between theology and the work of the historian
  • History and citizenship
  • The calling or vocation of the Christian historian/scholar
  • The influence of the Internet and social media on Christian scholarship
  • Digital history and the Christian historian
  • History and the state of the “evangelical mind”
  • History and advocacy
  • Christians and graduate training in history
  • Stories of women and seeking meaning through the study of the past
  • History and Christian mission
  • History and the moral imagination

Individual paper and/or complete session proposals may be sent to:

 John Fea, Messiah College:  jfea(at)Messiah(dot)edu

 DEADLINE: 15 March, 2018

 Decisions will be made on or before April 30, 2018.

Details about the Conference on Faith and History and forthcoming information about local arrangements can be found at the CFH website: faithandhistory.org

The State of the Evangelical Mind Conference

25ff0-scandalLater this week I am heading to Indianapolis to participate in the “State of the Evangelical Mind” conference.  This two-day conference will explore how the evangelical mind is faring since Mark Noll wrote his seminar The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind in 1994.

Somehow I managed to end up in the opening plenary session with my old partners-in-crime Eric Miller and Jay Green.  Needless to say, we are happy to be Mark Noll’s warm-up act.  But like most warm-up acts we don’t have a lot of time to play our full repertoire. We each get 12 minutes to offer a review of The Scandal and reflect on the state of the evangelical mind today.

Unfortunately, registration for the event is closed.  I will try to keep you updated via social media, but I am not sure how much time I will have or what the Internet connection will be like.

Here is that schedule:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

  • 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM – Preconference Roundtable (filmed live): Comments in Context – Donald Cassell (Sagamore Institute) & Abson Joseph (Indiana Wesleyan University)
  • 5:00 PM to 5:30 PM — Reception of Guests
  • 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM – Opening Dinner, Welcome – Jay Hein (Sagamore Institute), Opening Remarks and Tributes to John Wilson – David W. Wright (Indiana Wesleyan University)
  • 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM -The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind: A Tripartite Review
    John Fea (Messiah College), Jay Green (Covenant College), & Eric Miller (Geneva College) 
    Session Host — Abson Joseph
  • 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM – Reflections upon the Past
    Address – Mark A. Noll (University of Notre Dame) 
    Session Host – David W. Wright

Emcee – Jerry Pattengale (Indiana Wesleyan University)


Friday, September 22, 2017

  • 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM – Continental Breakfast
  • 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM – The Church 
    Keynote Address – Jo Anne Lyon (The Wesleyan Church) 
    Paper Overviews – Andrew Draper (Urban Light Community Church & Taylor University),
    Christopher Smith (The Englewood Review), & Maureen Miner Bridges (Excelsia College)
    Session Host – Mark Bowald (Christian Scholar’s Review)
  • 10:00 AM to 10:30 AM – Break
  • 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM – Para-Church Organizations 
    Keynote Address – David Mahan/Don Smedley (Rivendell Institute & Yale University Divinity School)
    Paper Overviews – Rachel Maxson (John Brown University), Mark Stephens (Excelsia College), & Tim Dalrymple (Polymath Innovations)
    Session Host – Jon Boyd (InterVarsity Press)
  • 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM – Lunch
  • 1:30 PM to 3:00 PM – The University 
    Keynote Address – Timothy Larsen (Wheaton College) 
    Paper Overviews – Rick Ostrander (Council for Christian Colleges and Universities), David Johnstone (George Fox University), & Jack Baker/Jeff Bilbro (Spring Arbor University)
    Session Host – Stacy Hammons (Indiana Wesleyan University)
  • 3:00 PM to 3:30 PM – Break
  • 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM – The Seminary
    Keynote Address – Lauren F. Winner (Duke University Divinity School) 
    Paper Overviews – Karen Johnson (Wheaton College), Erin Devers (Indiana Wesleyan University), & Grant Taylor (Beeson Divinity School, Samford University)
    Session Host – Jim Vermilya (Indiana Wesleyan University)
  • 5:00 PM to 5:30 PM – Break
  • 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM – Dinner
  • 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM – Prospects for the Future 
    Address – James K. A. Smith (Calvin College) 
    Session Host – David L. Riggs (Indiana Wesleyan University)
  • 7:30 PM to 8:00 PM – Closing Remarks – Mark Galli (Christianity Today)

Emcee – Jerry Pattengale (Indiana Wesleyan University)

 

The Conference on Faith and History Comes to Grand Rapids in October 2018

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The Fall 2018 meeting of the Conference on Faith and History (CFH) will be meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan from October 4-6, 2018.  This year’s conference theme is “History and the Search for Meaning: The CFH at 50.  Mark your calendars!

I am happy to report that we have secured the following keynote speakers:

Thursday Night Plenary: Peggy Bendroth, Congregational Library—“The Spiritual Practice of Remembering”

Friday Afternoon Plenary: Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, Syracuse University—Title TBD

Friday Banquet Speaker: Beth Barr, CFH President

Saturday Morning Plenary: Robert Orsi, Northwestern University, “History and Presence”

I hope to see you all there.  Let’s have a record turnout for our 50th anniversary conference.  Stay tuned.  The Call for Papers will be released in a few months.

Robert George: A Christian Scholar on the Spiritual Disciplines

Confessing History Available for Pre-OrderAs many of you know, I am very interested in the ways that my Christian faith informs what I do as a scholar, historian, and teacher.  Back in 2011 I joined my friends Jay Green and Eric Miller in editing Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation. My book Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past has a couple of chapters that reflect my interest in the integration of faith and history.

If I get a chance to continue writing about faith and the academic vocation I would like to explore the way that spiritual practices or spiritual “disciplines” might inform the work of Christian scholars. (Perhaps such a study might revive my own inconsistent efforts at engaging in these practices).

So much of the conversation on faith and scholarship, at least in the field of history, revolves around Christian epistemology, philosophy, or theology.  It is driven largely by those Christians who associate with the Reformed Protestant tradition.  In Confessing History we tried to push this conversation away from the epistemological questions long associated with what Douglas Sweeney has called the “Calvin School” of Christian historiography, and into the area of calling/vocation and practice.

It seems like there could be a third way of thinking about connecting faith with history. We know how Christian theology and philosophy inform the presuppositions of believing historians.  We are starting to learn, thanks to the authors in Confessing History, about how believing historians might practice their craft as scholars, teachers, and public scholars.   But we don’t have a lot of work on how things like prayer, fasting, Bible reading, and other spiritual disciplines might influence our work.  (I discussed this a bit in Why Study History?, but a good place to start is A.G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, and Methods).

I was thus very encouraged and inspired today reading Kevin Spinale’s interview with Robert George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and one of America’s leading Catholic intellectuals. George talks to Spinale about how the spiritual practices of his Catholic faith informs his work as a scholar, teaching, and public intellectual.

Here is just a small taste:

Prof. George, how do you pray?

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Robert George

On my knees, the old-fashioned way—not always, but I do find that being on one’s knees in a posture of prayer facilitates trying to remove oneself from all of one’s cares and concerns. It’s valuable to remove oneself from one’s normal routines and put oneself in the presence of God for that conversation. So, to me the posture matters. Of course, one can’t always be on one’s knees.

I often pray when I am driving, for example, if I am alone. I like to pray with people, a lot, with friends—some of whom are Catholic, some of whom are not. I am happy to pray with just about anyone who wants to pray. But there is something special about—especially at the end of the day—being on one’s knees before God, in that posture and praying.

Is there a particular text or devotion that you ordinarily use to initiate or shape prayer?

That can vary extraordinarily widely. Sometimes it is petitionary prayer: something I am concerned about; something that I want to ask for God’s help with, assistance with, blessing upon. It might be a person; it might be a cause; or it might be an event. Often, I find myself praying for help in thinking things through, trying to discern what I am supposed to be doing.

It is difficult for me and I have to make an effort at this, but I try to remember the importance of prayers of praise in addition to petitionary prayer. That is something I have to discipline myself to do; otherwise I find myself always in the asking mode. It is very easy. I do not have to think much about petitionary prayer.

It is very easy if I feel or judge there to be a need—I find myself very easily moving into prayer to ask for God’s help with that need. But I recognize that it is very important to give God the praise he is due, and I have to discipline myself to remember to do that. It does not come as immediately or effortlessly as petitionary prayer.

I like the old-fashioned forms of prayer, although I do not restrict myself to them. The rosary is great—praying the rosary is valuable. The traditional forms of prayer that I was taught when I was a boy, what we Catholics call the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, I still say all those prayers—the guardian angel prayer, I still say all those prayers.

In part, I like these traditional prayers because of their simplicity. Jesus said that we are supposed to be childlike in our faith, and those prayers are prayers that are prayed by children as well as adults. We learned them as children, most of us, and they continue with us in our adult life. We should never regard ourselves as too sophisticated for these prayers. Saying those prayers is a help in maintaining the kind of faith that Jesus said we should have: the faith of those little children who were clamoring to get onto Jesus’s lap, whom the disciples were trying to shoo away—Jesus says, “No, no, no, let them come. … Your faith should be like their faith.” [Mark 10:13-16]

Read the entire interview here, including George’s thoughts on vocation, suffering, spiritual desolation, and Catholic higher education.

"The Illusion of Respectability": A Response

The evangelical thinking class has been abuzz this weekend talking about Gettysburg College historian Allen Guelzo‘s essay at Christianity Today titled “The Illusion of Respectability.”  As many of you know, Guelzo is one of the finest historians of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War working today. He is an unapologetic Christian and leans conservative in his politics.

I admire Guelzo as a historian.  His book Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President is the best thing I have ever read on Lincoln.  I regularly assign it to students.  I have high regard for Guelzo as a history communicator.  Anyone who has ever heard one of his lectures knows that he is a master orator and brings the past to life like few other historians.

I think it is fair to say that Guelzo is part of a generation of evangelical American historians who came of age in the 1980s.  I have always placed him in the same camp as Mark Noll, George Marsden, Harry Stout, Joel Carpenter, Grant Wacker, Randall Balmer, and the other members of the so-called “evangelical mafia.”  But while Guelzo has moved in the same circles as these well-respected Christian historians, he has also followed his own path.  He has written a lot of American religious history, but he is also a leading light in the world of Lincoln and Civil War studies.  He seems just as comfortable mixing it up with  Jon Stewart on the Daily Show or walking the battlefield with students and K-12 teachers as he does in the writer’s study.  He currently serves as the Henry R. Luce III Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College.  Most Civil War scholars would say that it doesn’t get any better than this.

Last Fall Guelzo was one of the keynote speakers at the biennial meeting of the Conference on Faith and History at Pepperdine University.  The theme of the conference was “Christian Historians and Their Publics.” Guelzo’s scheduled talk was titled “Respectability: The Pursuit of Historical Illusion.” The programs were printed, the conference had begun, and many of the organizers were very excited about starting the meeting off with a provocative keynote address. When Guelzo arrived, however, he announced that he would be speaking instead on the Gettysburg Address.  We didn’t get the “respectability” talk that day, but I am glad that Guelzo has returned to the topic.

I would encourage you to read “The Illusion of Respectability.”  Much of it is excellent.  Guelzo begins with a moving story from his early career about an encounter with the Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til.  When Guelzo asked the aging theologian and philosopher why he devoted his life to studying philosophy and defending the Christian faith, Van Til answered “to protect Christ’s little ones.”

Guelzo uses Van Til’s answer as a springboard into a discussion of Christians in the academy and how they should approach the academic life. He is opposed to the idea of Christians abandoning secular colleges and universities. He is also against any kind of accommodation to the “worldly” philosophies that define intellectual life in these places.

For Guelzo, the true way of living Christianly as a scholar is to reject the pursuit of respectability. If I read him correctly, Guelzo wants Christian scholars to speak the truth and suffer the consequences. Christian scholars should be fools for Christ even if that means that they remain unemployed, ostracized, and disrespected by the academic world.

He writes:

The Christian scholar who has agreed to purchase peace by silence, the Christian academic who swims unknowingly in a sea of secular assumptions and drowns in a warm bath of secular approbation, and the Christian college which carefully trims its sails to avoid confrontation, to recruit tuition-paying students, or to afford a platform for self-admiring blather, need to know this:make perfect your will.
Understand what it is you are as a Christian—one “under authority” (Luke 7:8), one whose ultimate concern is that of a steward, whose criterion of worth is not sensation, not popularity, and not their claim to being au courant, but “that they be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:2). Understand that when you have done all your work, you are permitted only to say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:9).

I say a hearty “Amen” to Guelzo’s thoughts.  Christian scholars often lack courage.  In their attempt to be “wise as serpents” and “innocent as doves” they often fall into the accommodationist trap that he describes.   I am sure there are many Christians who have pursued and are pursuing respectability, prestige, and careerism over the self-effacing ethic of Jesus.  These Christian scholars have been profoundly shaped by the culture of academia that they imbibed in graduate school.  Their understanding of what constitutes a successful academic career has been informed by what their advisers have told them: rise up the academic food chain no matter the cost, choose your scholarly projects carefully in order to advance your chances of success as defined by the guild, and hide your faith under a bushel because it is the “kiss of death.”

But I think Guelzo’s essay misses the boat in several ways.  First, for all the ambitious scholars I just described, I know just as many scholars, if not more, who have pursued an academic life out of a sense of Christian vocation.  They want to worship God with their minds and engage a world of ideas–whether that happens in a Christian or secular institution of higher education–as a legitimate calling. They want to teach and invest in the lives of students. Many of the Christian men and women called to this kind of work are respected by their peers.

And for those scholars who have the time and inclination to write and publish books I would argue that there is nothing anti-Christian about gaining the respect of secular colleagues.  Some might even argue that such respect could provide a platform for a greater Christian witness.  I find it hard to believe that Guelzo would disagree with this and I have a hunch that he might even see his own career in this way.

Second, I think Guelzo is too hard on the secular academy.  It does not surprise me that his adviser told him that any sign of religion on his vita would be “the kiss of death.”  In fact, I recently wrote a post chronicling some of my own experiences in this regard.  And perhaps the academy has become so hostile to Christian ideas that intellectual freedom has been compromised.  But there are many things a Christian can learn in the secular university.  There are ways of thinking about the world or approaching a particular discipline that are either compatible with Christian belief or could be appropriated by the universal church and its thinking members.  Guelzo knows this.  He teaches at an elite liberal arts university.  He was trained in the Ivy League.

There is a lot that baffles me about this piece.  Who is Guelzo’s audience?  The essay is filled with veiled and vague references to all of those Christian scholars who are out there pursuing respectability. Who are the scholars making “robust outbursts of resistance, then nervously glancing around to see whether anyone has joined the resistance?” Who is punting? What does Guelzo want us to do? Is he suggesting that Christian scholars need to stand firm or speak out on the social and cultural issues that are currently under attack in the United States and suffer the consequences for doing so? Should his article be read as a culture war piece?

Frankly, I am not even sure what Guelzo means by “Christ’s little ones.”  Is he calling more scholars to write for and work on behalf of the church?  If so, I am not sure that Guelzo is aware that Christian scholars–especially historians–have spent a lot of time in the last several years thinking about this. In fact, this very topic was what we spent an entire weekend talking about at Pepperdine. And there are many of us who are actively pursuing this kind of engagement as part of our vocations.  Anyone who has been seriously connected to the things Christian historians are talking about these days will not find anything new or groundbreaking here.

I think it is also worth wondering if Guelzo is the best person to warn us about respectability in the academy.  On its merits, there is much we should commend about Guelzo’s call. He challenged me to look at my own life and career and wonder how much I do what I do for vain glory and how much I do what I do out of a sense of Christian vocation.

But I also tend to analyze sources–in this case Guelzo’s article–as a historian.  Anyone who reads The Way of Improvement Leads Home knows that I believe that historians think differently than scholars in other disciplines.  For example, my philosopher friends tell me that any argument should be judged on whether or not the argument is sound, regardless of who made it.  I would imagine that a theologian approaches an argument or a written source in the same way.

But as a historian, interpretation requires that I consider the source.  I often tell this to my students. I want them to “source” a document (to use a phrase from history pedagogy expert Sam Wineburg) by identifying the author and knowing something about his or her background or ideological convictions.  Historians believe that the identity of the author will play an influential role in how that document is interpreted.  (The same might be said for other aspects of a document or piece of writing–for example, the time or date in which the piece was written helps the historian interpret it more effectively).

As I mentioned above, Allen Guelzo is a great success story. He has reached the pinnacle of his field. It is that very success that enables him to write articles like “The Illusion of Respectability.”  Guelzo left Eastern University (a Christian college in the Philadelphia area) for a prestigious post at Gettysburg College.  He writes books for trade presses that I imagine come with very large monetary advances. They are even advertised on billboards.  I am sure that he also commands very large honorariums when he speaks around the country.  His byline is often found on the op-ed pages of The New York Times.  The tagline on this Christianity Today article announces that Guelzo’s next book will be published by Harvard University Press.  And by the way, does the Lincoln Prize count as a “strange-new-respect” award from a “well-endowed foundation?”  I don’t know.

Maybe Guelzo is the best person to write about this topic and we should interpret the article as a public act of contrition–a warning about taking the academic road that he has followed. Or maybe Guelzo is just completely unaware of the fact that there are many Christian historians who would view his public career as the ultimate example of someone pursuing respectability.

I have absolutely no problem with Guelzo doing all of these great things.  Frankly, I am glad that he has established such a platform.  I want to cheer him on.  He is a model of an engaged scholar.

The problem is not respectability, but the love of respectability.

Roger Lundin, 1949-2015

I never met Roger Lundin, but I know dozens of people who have been influenced by his life and his work as a Christian scholar.  My prayers go out today to his family–especially his son Matthew Lundin, a history professor at Wheaton College who I know through our experience in the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts.

Here is the press release from Wheaton:

The Wheaton College community grieves the death of Professor of English and Arthur F. Holmes Professor of Faith and Learning Dr. Roger Lundin. Dr. Lundin died last night from unexpected complications of a heart disorder.
Dr. Lundin graduated from Wheaton College in 1971. He had been on faculty since 1978, and was widely known for his passionate teaching, his dedicated service to colleagues, and his outstanding contributions as a scholar.
“Through his scholarship, teaching, and friendship, Roger Lundin has been a spiritual and intellectual leader at Wheaton College and for Christian higher education,” says Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Graham Ryken ’88. “ As an English major, I took several courses with Dr. Lundin during my time as an undergraduate. In teaching us American literature, he really taught us about American culture and the Christian life.”
Dr. Lundin specialized his research in 19th and 20th-century American literature, the relationship of religion to literature, modern intellectual history, and the history of Christian thought. He served as the President of the Conference on Christianity and Literature, and was Visiting Fellow in Theology and the Arts at the Duke Divinity School in spring 2014.
His award-winning publications include Beginning with the Word: Modern Literature and the Question of Belief (Baker, 2014); Believing Again: Doubt and Faith in a Secular Age (Eerdmans, 2009); From Nature to Experience: The American Search for Cultural Authority (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), among many others. Edited collections include Christ Across the Disciplines: Past, Present, Future, ed. (Eerdmans, 2013); Invisible Conversations: Religion in the Literature of America (Baylor University Press, 2009); There Before Us: Religion, Literature, and Culture from Emerson to Wendell Berry (Eerdmans, 2007); and Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief (Eerdmans, 2004).
Dr. Lundin’s articles have been published in journals and books including The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the ArtsReligion and LiteratureThe Beauty of God: Theology and the Arts (InterVarsity Press, 2007), and The Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology (Oxford University Press, 2010).
In addition to lecturing on campus, Dr. Lundin has presented at higher education institutions including Baylor University, Regent College, the University of British Columbia, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Notre Dame. 
“I chose to teach English because from a very early age I had found the reading of novels a valuable and necessary experience. I found that as I went through college and seminary I had interests in history and philosophy and theology, but that I couldn’t put novels and poems and plays down. I felt I had to study them. I couldn’t leave them behind,” Dr. Lundin said in the August 1984 issue of Wheaton Magazine, where he was featured as winner of the Junior Teacher of the Year award.
“It’s inconceivable for me to think of teaching—especially teaching subject matter that deals with human values, human desires, human nature, human aspirations—without in one way or another bringing my Christian witness to the material. I think I would be naïve if I were to think that my Christian faith did not influence my reading of literature. I don’t find that a limiting thing, I find it a liberating thing. My concerns as a Christian father, a Christian husband, a Christian worker, a Christian friend, a Christian servant affect the way I read literature,” he said.
“I find it most satisfying to work through the implications of this literature with students who are Christians—or a number of times with students who find it difficult to claim the Christian faith for one reason or another. Because of my own experience, I feel it’s a very necessary task.”
Dr. Lundin is survived by his wife Susan ’71, and their children, Associate Professor of History Dr. Matthew Lundin ’96, Kirsten ’99, and Thomas ’05.
Information about a memorial service for Dr. Lundin will be posted here when it becomes available.

Messiah College at the Conference on Faith and History

Crossposted from History on the Bridge
A group of Messiah College historians traveled to Malibu, California this weekend to participate in the biennial meeting of the Conference on Faith and History (CFH).  This year’s host was beautiful Pepperdine University, a Christian college located on the Pacific Ocean.  Yes, we historians have it rough.
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The Messiah College History Department crew at the CFH
May 2014 Messiah College History graduate Brooke Strayer presented a paper at the CFH Undergraduate Conference entitled “Tracing the Trajectory of the Brethren in Christ Peace Position in the United States.”  It was based on her Messiah College senior honors thesis.  Brooke’s paper, as you will see in the photo below, was presented in the Pepperdine University Surfboard Museum.  She did a great job and represented Messiah’s history department very well.
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Brooke Strayer “waxes” eloquent in the Surfboard Museum
Another Messiah College history alum, Amanda Mylin (’12), presented a paper at the main CFH conference entitled “Luxury, Vice, and Virtue: The Intersection of Women, Consumerism, and Religion, 1750-1783.”  Amanda is finishing her master’s degree in history at Baylor University.
Devin Manzullo-Thomas, an adjunct instructor in the Messiah College history department and the Director of Messiah’s Sider Institute, participated on a roundtable discussion entitled “The Role of Historians in Managing Institutional Change.”
Dr. Jim LaGrand chaired and commented on a session entitled “Dear Colleagues: What Christian Public Historians Want You to Know About Our Field, Our Audiences, and What We Need from You.”
Finally, I participated on a panel at the Undergraduate Conference entitled “Why I Hate (or Love) the History Channel.”  At the main conference he joined roundtables devoted to social media and book publishing.
In 2016 the CFH will be meeting in Virginia Beach.  Another undergraduate conference is expected and we hope that many of our students will be interested in attending.  Stay tuned to History on the Bridge for more information.  The deadline for proposals will probably be sometime in April or May of 2016.
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The view from the Conference

Call for Papers for Biennial Meeting of the Conference on Faith and History: "Christian Historians and Their Publics"

I am really looking forward to this conference. When it comes to putting together conferences for Christian historians there is no one better than Jay Green.

Here are the details:

CHRISTIAN HISTORIANS & THEIR PUBLICS
The 29th Biennial Meeting of the Conference on Faith & History
SEPTEMBER 25-27, 2014
Pepperdine University, Malibu, California

Contemporary historians have a somewhat complicated relationship with “the public.” We long to have public audiences who will be challenged and shaped by our work, but most of us tend to produce highly specialized scholarship and write primarily for other scholars. When we do address the public, our often myth-busting strategies can come across as patronizing, contemptuous, and even politically motivated. As historians, who are our “publics”? And what  responsibilities, if any, do we owe them Are there public venues for historical understanding that we should be exploring? Does our  peculiar identity as Christians have any bearing on the publics we address, what we have to say, or how we say it? Are there Christian ways of thinking about and doing public history? Is there a Christian public for our work as historians? The Fall 2014 Biennial Meeting of the Conference on Faith and History will gather at Pepperdine University in beautiful Malibu, California, to explore these and many other questions related to Christian Historians and Their Publics.

Christian historians’ vocational responsibility to the church

Should historians seek a public platform? Why or why not?

The status and quality of popular history written for Christian audiences

Responding to popular Christian social memory

What professional Christian historians have to learn from “the faithful”

Historians and social media

Undergraduate classes as public audiences

The encounter between “popular” and “professional” Christian historians

The Christian historian as public intellectual or public scholar (not the same thing)

Christian museums and historic sites

Writing institutional histories

Writing congregational histories

Writing local history

Writing school curricula

Negotiating professional convictions and public needs/tastes/assumptions

Roundtable discussions of great historical books that managed to nd large, general audiences

Christian faith and advocacy history

Documentary Filmaking

Christian historians in government 

Responding to history-themed film

History as entertainment/pastime

Historical authority in public

The historian as expert witness

The historian as political activist

The historian as journalist/pundit

The historian as Wikipedian

Inequality, justice, and public history

Public history, empathy, and the Christian historian

Individual paper or complete session (preferable) proposals may be sent to

Jay Green
Department of History
Covenant College
Lookout Mountain, Georgia 30750
jay.green@covenant.edu
huntington.edu/cfh/conference.htm

submission deadline: 15 March 2014


Mark Noll Wins Lilly Fellows Book Award

Mark Noll of the University of Notre Dame has won this year’s Lilly Fellows Program Book Award for Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind.  Here is a description of the award:

The biennial Lilly Fellows Program Book Award honors an original and imaginative work from any academic discipline that best exemplifies the central ideas and principles animating the Lilly Fellows Program.  These include faith and learning in the Christian intellectual tradition, the vocation of teaching and scholarship, and the history, theory or practice of the university as the site of religious inquiry and culture.
Works considered for this year’s award addressed the historical or contemporary relation of Christian intellectual life and scholarship to the practice of teaching as a Christian vocation or to the past, present, and future of higher education.  Authors and editors cannot nominate their own works.  Single authored books or edited collections in any discipline published in 2009 to 2012 are eligible. 
The finalists were:
Congratulations to Mark Noll and all the finalists.

Eric Miller Reviews James Bratt’s Biography of Abraham Kuyper

Abraham Kuyper is famous for saying, “There is not a single square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!”  Today, those who follow his transforming vision of everyday life are often called “Neo-Calvinists.”  Many Neo-Calvinists have found an intellectual home at Calvin College and some of the other institutions who hold membership in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. (For example, many faculty members at the evangelical Wheaton College have been deeply influenced by Kuyperianism).  Mark Noll once wrote that Kuyper “was as filled with noteworthy achievements as that of any single individual in modern Western history.”  Wow!

James Bratt, a member of the History Department at Calvin College, has written the first English language biography of the Dutch theologian, politician, and public intellectual.  It is titled: Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat.  Over at Christianity Today, Eric Miller offers a review of the book.  Here is a taste:

Kuyper was a progressive—and a disappointed one. Bratt notes Kuyper’s affinity with his American Presbyterian contemporaries, William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson. Both men also “wished not to overthrow the prevailing order but to humanize it.” In fact, when Kuyper came to the United States in 1898, he found himself both attracted and repelled. He found hopeful the open religiosity of American politics and politicians. But he disdained the unabashed materialism there. “Your capitalistic classes have too much power,” he told reporters. Decentralizing power and dispersing authority was his hope for a truly human life. 

Kuyper was stateside to give the Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary—later published as Lectures on Calvinism. He sounded what Bratt calls a “revolutionary proposal”: that, in Kuyper’s words, “all knowledge proceeds from faith of whatever kind,” and that “the person who does not believe does not exist.” It took some time to find its American audience, but Kuyper’s thinking on “worldview” would lay the foundation for the intellectual renaissance among evangelicals. 

By the turn of the century, Kuyper had spent decades distilling and developing these insights into a form that was impelling movement of all kinds—cultural, intellectual, political, social. From his teaching at the Free University (which he helped found in 1880 and where he taught until 1901) to his reporting and scholarly writing, he elaborated what Bratt calls his “enduring dream,” the hope of a Calvinism refitted for action on the world’s stage. Orthodox yet contemporary, it would transcend “mere dogmatic theology” to forge a “‘life system’ whose ‘root principle’ branched out into every domain of human life and learning.” Kuyper’s vision centered on grace: the special grace of salvation for the elect, and the common grace God elects to give to all. This is the grace that makes possible a full, culture-invading, culture-making witness.

Jay Green on *Confessing History*

My co-editor Jay Green has jumped into the conversation about our Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation that was prompted by Mark Edwards’s post at Religion in American History, “Is There a Christian Approach to History?”  (You may recall that I responded to this post here.)

Here is Jay’s comment:

Thanks, Mark, for taking time to comment on our book. I am especially gratified that you draw connections between the 2002 Huntington meeting at CFH. All three of us co-editors see that gathering as a significant catalyst for whatever good has sprung from the Confessing History volume.

I am somewhat amused that anyone would see anything especially coherent about the CFH (as if there was a “CFH Project”), much less something especially dangerous or politically interested. In fact, it was a collective despair about the lack of anything like a vision for the CFH that allowed that 2002 Huntington meeting to fall into our laps.

For some backstory about how that came about, you may want to read Daryl Hart’s brief history of the CFH in the Ron Wells’s edited volume, History and the Christian Historian (1998). Along with Bill Trollinger’s 2000 presidential address. What Hart and Trollinger concluded, and we had long suspected, is that the CFH lost its way as an organization for believing historians of any kind to gather to think carefully about the meaning of faith for doing history. And CFH became a kind of bush league for historians of religion who happened to be Christians.

We put the 2002 (and 2004) meetings together with the specific intent of generating a conversation that would appeal to a believing historian studying any topic in any period. And we were pleased that there were so many who were likewise interested in this kind of discourse.

I’m not sure that these meetings had any substantial impact on the organization long term. Subsequent meetings seemed to drift back to predominantly religious history themes. But the Confessing History volume is a testament to the sort of conversation we’d been interested in having. And we hope we can continue to cultivate it both in and outside the CFH.

I am also a little mystified that anyone would see Confessing History as having some kind of clear “agenda.” The only real unanimity you’ll find in the book is that the questions are live and the conversation is worth having. One only need read Christopher Shannon and then turn to James LaGrand to see that we aren’t exactly speaking with one voice.

Thanks again, Mark, for taking time to bring some attention to the book.

#confessinghistorians

It looks like our Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation is making some waves.  There is now a Twitter hashtag called #confessinghistorians. If you want to see some graduate students (and a few others who seem to be endorsing the hashtag) attack our book, you may want to check it out. 

Here is a taste of what is happening over there:

  • A Confessing History author is called a “troll” and his essay in the volume is described as “the real ‘n’ word.”
  • Another tweeter claims that debates over our book currently occurring at Religion in American History and U.S. Intellectual History (see the comments section) are “amusing to watch.”
  • The first tweeter warns that “Confessing Historians” are going to “hound religious studies out of academe 4 ‘relativism.'”  (I am not sure how anyone could get such an idea from reading Confessing History).
  • I should also add that this same graduate student is going to “historicize the sh*t” out of us “and call it a day.”

It sounds like a few people (we will see if the number grows) do not like what we have done in Confessing History.  What is the source of such anger?  I think the practice of cursing at another author or haughtily mocking a group of scholars as “amusing” subjects of investigation is uncivil, unprofessional, and will not get one very far in the academic world.

Is the Conference on Faith and History the "Intellectual Arm of the Religious Right?"

I (and I think I speak for my co-editors, Jay Green and Eric Miller) am flattered by the attention our Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation is receiving over at Religion in American History blog.  Here is a small taste of Mark Edwards’s review of the book:

The book is a collaborative effort by several members and fellow travelers of the Conference on Faith and History, including its editors Jay Green, John Fea, and Christopher Lasch biographer Eric Miller.  Since 1967, the CFH has concerned itself with primarily one question: What difference does being a Christian make to the study and practice of history?  I’ve heard the CFH referred to in private conversation as “the intellectual arm of the religious right.”  Certainly, George Marsden’s Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship (Oxford, 1998), despite its huge popularity among the CFH and conservative Christian colleges, has been greeted with suspicion by those fearful that “integration of faith and learning” is theocratic code for “faith over learning.”  But I’m not here to judge.  Instead, I want to commend  and recommend Confessing History essays for the questions they raise about ideology and history in general, as well as for their attempts to articulate a post-Marsden vision of Christian historiography.  The best academic conference I ever attended remains the 2002 CFH meeting at Huntington University.  For a young grad student, I (and fellow graduate and undergraduate students) marveled at the passionate seriousness and open confrontations of presenters trying to determine the ifs, hows, and whys of Christian scholarship.  Confessing History might not be able to take readers back to that moment, but 2002 is nevertheless written all over it.  In fact, one of the must-read essays is a revised version of Christopher Shannon’s opening address of the 2002 meeting, “After Monographs,” a merciless assault on Marsden’s “Idea” (with Marsden in the room, mind you), on the state of Christian historiography, and on the post-Enlightenment historiographical/monographic tradition as a whole.

The post has prompted over 30 comments.  These comments raise a host of questions related to both Confessing History and the entire project of the Conference on Faith and History(I should probably add here that when we edited Confessing History we had no official endorsement or support from the Conference on Faith and History (CFH).  In other words, this is not a Conference on Faith and History publication, though it is true that many of the authors are either members of the Conference or have spoken at CFH gatherings. The editors of Confessing History worked together as co-program chairs for the 2004 CFH conference at Hope College and Jay Green was the program chair of the 2002 CFH conference in Huntington, IN, the one that Edwards mentions in his post).

To begin, I need to echo the concerns of some commentators who were a bit disturbed by the description of the Conference on Faith and History as “the intellectual arm of the religious right.” (To be clear, Edwards himself was not saying this, but he was passing along what he had heard about the CFH in private conversations). Whoever thinks that the CFH is connected in any way, shape, or form with the Religious Right–either officially or ideologically–does not know the CFH very well.  In fact, I would argue that one of the primary missions of the CFH is to counter the Religious Right’s view of history, especially when it comes to Christian nationalist interpretations of the American past or providentialist views of history.

Edwards clarifies his remark about the Religious Right in the comments section:

The “religious right” comment to me (no, I wasn’t backdooring my own opinion) wasn’t regarding Fides, but the CFH project in general, at least in 2002 when the comment was made. To me, it concerned the larger issue of “integration of faith and learning” which seemed to underlay CFH at least at that time. For many historians, integrationist language is ALWAYS theocratic code and thus, to them, relative to the Religious Right.

I think Edwards is correct when he writes that the CFH has a long history of “integrationist” thinking that has come largely from the Reformed tradition. But the organization has also become much more open in recent years.  For example, in the last decade, two CFH presidents did not come from the so-called “faith and integration” school of history.  Shirley Mullin is a Wesleyan and Doug Sweeney is a Lutheran, a Christian tradition that has offered a compelling critique of Kuyperian style integration.

Having said that, I don’t think that historians who embrace an “integration of faith and learning” model should be viewed as automatically connected to the Religious Right, a largely political force in American life.  In fact, a good number of “integration of faith and learning” historians are Democrats.

Many of the founders of the Conference on Faith and History were Democrats who were disgusted with the way the leaders of the Religious Right–Jerry Falwell, David Marshal and Peter Manuel, Tim LaHaye, and Francis Schaeffer–were hijacking American history to serve political ends.

Finally, anyone who reads Confessing History knows that a deliberate attempt was made to offer diverse perspectives on how to connect faith to the historical task.  Most of these perspectives move us beyond the “integration of faith and learning” model and toward a new paradigm focused less on epistemology and more on “vocation.”  Even Calvin College’s Wil Katerberg’s essay takes us in this direction. 

I want to pick up on Janine Giordano Drake’s thoughts about “conservative” history in another post, because I think that they are important.  I also want to address theitinerantmind’s comment (supported by Edwards) that to embrace the CFH project means that one has to forfeit “‘academic credibility.”  Stay tuned.

Ralph Keen: Catholic Studies at a Secular Campus

Ralph Keen

As some the readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home already know, the University of Illinois at Chicago has a thriving Catholic Studies Program. Kevin Schultz, author of Tri-Faith America: How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to Its Protestant Promise and HIST teaches in the program.  So does Ralph Keen, the Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation Chair in Catholic Studies.

Over at Religion in American History, Keen discusses what it is like to teach Catholic Studies at a secular university.  Here is a taste:

What is the study of Catholicism doing in the curriculum of a state institution? The question is never asked quite so directly, but it should be. The Catholic university system has been the custodian of this field since its inception, guarding the legacy and interpreting it for the next generation of Catholic citizens. The non-denominational private sector entered the field a few decades ago, often with endowed chairs funded by Catholic donors or agencies. Most recently there have been positions in Catholicism at state institutions, and degree programs in Catholic Studies can be expected to take their place alongside similar units as a natural development.


At the University of Illinois at Chicago, such a program has been in the making for years, and a BA minor in Catholic Studies is close to being a reality. Core faculty include a specialist in North American Catholicism, one in Latin American intellectual history, and another in the history of theology in the early-modern period, “early Catholicism” for those who see the confessional tradition beginning with the Counter-Reformation. All three are located in the history department. Affiliated faculty offer courses housed in their home departments which are cross-listed with Catholic Studies. Even so, only a portion of the tradition is covered in course offerings.


UIC is an urban public R1, a gateway institution with a highly diverse study body. The majority of our undergraduates are first-generation college students. About half the students identify as Catholic, most of these being Latino, with Eastern European the second-largest segment. One learns fairly soon in Catholic Studies courses, where perhaps ¾ of the students are from these backgrounds, that Catholic is their primary identity marker, the one thing that has not been in flux in their or their parents’ lives.
 

Pedagogically this means that there is a substantial element of trust in the relationship between class and instructor. The professor respects his or her students’ piety, and they in turn trust that the tradition that is holy to them will be presented in a way that is academically rigorous but not iconoclastic. On a campus intentionally secular and progressive, this means being apolitical as well as non-confessional in one’s approach. “I try to teach in such a way that my own perspective is never known,” says one instructor in the program. What Philip Jenkins a decade ago called the last acceptable prejudice sadly persists in academe: anti-Catholicism is alive and well, and Catholic students are rightly suspicious of many faculty. Their willingness to take seriously what one teaches is tied to their confidence that their instructors will not belittle that which is sacred to them.

The Lilly Fellows Book Award

The biennial Lilly Fellows Program Book Award honors an original and imaginative work from any academic discipline that best exemplifies the central ideas and principles animating the Lilly Fellows Program.  These include faith and learning in the Christian intellectual tradition, the vocation of teaching and scholarship, and the history, theory or practice of the university as the site of religious inquiry and culture. 

Works considered for this year’s award addressed the historical or contemporary relation of Christian intellectual life and scholarship to the practice of teaching as a Christian vocation or to the past, present, and future of higher education.  Authors and editors cannot nominate their own works.

Single authored books or edited collections in any discipline published in 2009 to 2012 are eligible.

Single authored books or edited collections in any discipline, published in 2009 to 2012, are

eligible.

A Prize of $3000 was awarded at the Lilly Fellows Program National Conference at the University of Scranton, October 17-20, 2013.    

The committee will receive nominations of academic faculty, clergy, and others. Authors or

editors cannot nominate their own works.

The deadline for nominations is March 1, 2013.

To download a copy of the 2013 LFP Book Award announcement, click here.  To see past winners, click here.



For further information, please contact the Lilly Fellows Program. For more information on the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts, click here.

George McGovern: Christian Historian

Like Jonathan Rees, one of my first political memories centers around McGovern’s 1972 bid for the presidency.  My first or second grade teacher had mentioned that Richard Nixon had failed to end the war in Vietnam.  As a six-year-old I thought that this was a horrible thing and became convinced that I needed to encourage people to vote for McGovern.

I remember telling my grandfather (still alive today at the age of 102), a lifelong Democrat, that if I were old enough I would vote for McGovern.  I will never forget the big affirming smile that came across his face as we sat in the living room of his house in Parisppany, New Jersey.

As I read the obituaries and blog posts about McGovern’s death and legacy, I am reminded that he was both a Christian and a historian.

McGovern was the son of a Wesleyan Methodist pastor in South Dakota who had ties to evangelical Houghton College in upstate New York.  It seems that George’s liberal politics was informed by his Christian faith, especially the Social Gospel.  He attended the Methodist Garrett Theological Seminary and served several churches as a visiting supply minister.  (Check out Chris Gehrz’s post at the Pietist Schoolman).

In the last weeks of the 1972 campaign, McGovern began to talk openly about his Christian faith.  This was particularly the case at a campaign stop at evangelical Wheaton College where he invoked John Winthrop’s 1620 “City on a Hill” sermon (“A Model of Christian Charity”).  We need to know more about the relationship between faith and politics in McGovern’s life.

In his recent post at the blog of The Historical Society, Rees reminded me that McGovern was also a historian.  After receiving an M.A. in history at Northwestern, McGovern returned to his alma mater, Dakota Wesleyan University, to teach history and political science.  He eventually got his Ph.D from Northwestern (he studied at Northwestern under Arthur Link, another Christian historian) in 1953. He wrote a dissertation on the Colorado Coal Strike of 1913-1914.  The dissertation was eventually published as The Great Coalfield War

Here is a taste of Rees’s excellent and informative post:

In 2004, my department, along with the Bessemer Historical Society—the people who are working to save the archives of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, the largest firm that employed those strikers—invited McGovern to campus for a fundraiser.  He not only accepted, he cut his usual speaking fee by two thirds.

Me and a colleague from the Political Science department picked McGovern up at the airport.  Then we drove him to Peterson Air Force Base so that he could pick up his granddaughter.  Then he took us all to lunch at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs (famous, among other reasons, for being the place where George W. Bush decided to give up drinking).  That remains the only time that I have ever eaten at the Broadmoor.  Then we dropped off his granddaughter back at the base and drove to Pueblo.

We all chatted almost the entire time.  Of course, the same way that Elton John will have to sing “Crocodile Rock” well past his dotage, McGovern talked about the 1972 election.  His lines were interesting. (They included, “I would rather be me right now than Richard Nixon.” and “Nixon was incredibly intelligent, but completely amoral.”)  I could tell these lines were also very well rehearsed.

When the conversation turned to history, however, McGovern’s eyes lit up.  He began to talk about Arthur Link, and how he had suggested the Colorado topic because, “There’s this huge strike that happened and nobody’s covered it before.”  He talked about doing research in Colorado during the early 1950s, and how he went to the movies in Denver once and the entire audience (but him) booed a newsreel when they saw Mother Jones.  We talked about Consensus History and the New Social History.  I think he liked talking about Colorado History with me and at our fundraiser because nobody asked him to do so very often.

It would be a shame if the historical profession makes the same mistake in the wake of his passing.  After all, George McGovern was a historian before he was ever a politician. 

This Week’s "Anxious Bench" Post at Patheos: "The Historian and Imago Dei"

Two weeks ago I wrote in this space about the relationship between the historians work and the reality of human sin.  This week, I want to focus on the historian’s work as it relates to the Judeo-Christian belief in Imago Dei.  Those committed to the Judeo-Christian tradition believe that God has created humans beings.  In the opening chapters of the Old Testament book of Genesis we learn more about what that means.  One central theme in the Genesis creation story is the affirmation that human beings are created in the image of God (“Imago Dei” in the Latin).  Consider Genesis 1:26-27: 

“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our own image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

The fact that God created us in his image, as the most beautiful and highest form of His creation, implies that all human beings have inherent dignity and worth independent of their actions and behavior.  Because we are made in the likeness of our creator and thus share, in some fashion, the divine image, human life is precious and sacred.  There are no villains in history.  While people have been created with freedom, and are thus capable of performing villainous or sinful acts, even the most despicable human subject bears the image of God and thus has inherent value in His eyes.

Read the rest here.