Thanks to my friend Ron N. for reminding me of this classic Lou Costello line.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Too many childhood memories (about Lou, not Jerry) came back. 🙂
Politico also has a story on this. Here is a taste:
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said on Wednesday that he had apologized for posting a photo of him in unzipped pants and arm around a woman — but also defended the incident as a vacation “costume party” that was “just in good fun.”
The now-deleted photo showed Falwell, a leading evangelical supporter of President Donald Trump, with his pants unzipped and his underwear showing beneath, while he had one arm around a woman whose shorts also appeared to be unbuttoned and his other holding a glass with a dark-colored liquid. The photo appeared to be on board a yacht.
Read the rest here.
All president’s lie. But these lies were not amplified through media echo-chambers in the way they are today. Here is Eric Alterman’s recent piece at The Nation:
Trump knows, as all tyrants do, that without the accountability provided by an independent media, a powerful politician can get away with almost anything. America’s founders bequeathed the press its special status and protections under the First Amendment for exactly this reason. Trump’s insistent accusation that the media are the “Enemy of the American People” and constant protestations of “fake news” are intended to undermine confidence in the press and thereby undermine its ability to hold his administration answerable to the public.
But it did not matter how frequently or how egregiously Trump and his administration lied to journalists or how viciously they insulted their character, their professionalism, or even their ethnicity—reporters for mainstream outlets kept returning for more abuse and precious little truth. “We’re not cheerleaders for the president nor are we the opposition,” argues New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker. He further insists, “What we shouldn’t do is let the noise overcome our journalistic values.” But all too often, what was offered as a defense of old-fashioned commitments to provide “both sides” of any given controversy devolved, in practice, to running interference for Trump’s dishonesty. Many journalists were so insistent that they were not in a fight with the president that they were failing to inform the public of just how serious a threat he posed to the country’s freedoms.
Even were Trump to respect the constitutional constraints on his office, he would still enjoy an awesome degree of potentially destructive power. Beginning with the birth of the atom bomb and the ever-expanding ideology of the “national security state,” the prerogatives of the presidency have grown beyond anything the founders could have possibly imagined. With America’s nuclear arsenal at his disposal, Trump could, of course, end all human life and destroy the planet. Less dramatically, he could invoke any one of the emergency powers contained in the 123 statutory provisions that give presidents near-dictatorial powers. Trump might, for instance, seize control of “any facility or station for wire communication,” should he decide to proclaim “that there exists a state or threat of war involving the United States,” and order it to broadcast only his voice and his orders. With Trump’s power and dishonesty, the institutions charged with protecting American democracy and civic life should err on the side of vigilance rather than complacency.
Reflecting on the corruption of his erstwhile friends and colleagues in the Trump administration, former FBI director James Comey explained, “It starts with your sitting silent while he lies, both in public and private, making you complicit by your silence.” The silence is natural. “After all, what are you supposed to say? He’s the president of the United States.” The end result is that “you are lost. He has eaten your soul.” Comey’s metaphor is a good one, but the circle he drew is overly narrow. Trump’s lies are not only devouring America’s soul; they are threatening the future viability of our democratic republican form of government. Trump is the Frankenstein monster of a political system that has not merely tolerated lies from our leaders but has come to demand them. The weaknesses of the American political system that gave rise to Trump will not disappear with his presidency. They must be confronted, head-on, while we still have a soul—and a republic—worth saving.
Read the entire piece here.
“A king is a king only as long as he remains on the throne,” Don Paolo said. “A King who no longer reigns in no longer a king, but an ex-king. There’s a country, a big country, from which the sun comes to us, that had a king, let us call him a big king of clubs, who ruled over millions of cafoni. When the cafoni stopped obeying him he ceased to reign, he was no longer a king.
Ignazio Silone, Bread and Wine, 123.
Here is Ty Seidule, a former Brigadier General and history professor at West Point:
The army started honoring Confederates in the early 20th century and never stopped. The army’s flagship institution, West Point, honors Robert E. Lee with many different memorials, including a barracks. Most Lee memorials came about in the 1930s, 1950s, and early 1970s. Each of those periods saw an increase in racial integration. Confederate memorialization served as a way to buttress white supremacy and to protest equal rights. For instance, a Lee portrait in Confederate gray appeared in 1952 as a reaction to President Harry S. Truman’s order integrating the military. Prints created for the Army War College graduating classes featured pro-Confederate depictions through the 1990s. Almost inexplicably, West Point created memorials to Robert E. Lee in 2001 and 2002 as well.
Finding the countless memorials that honor Confederates across hundreds of US military bases will be no small task. The Department of Defense will need to set up a task force to find Confederate memorials and either remove or rename them.
The military has perhaps the most diverse workforce in the country. That is something to be proud of. Yet we must ensure that no one who volunteers to protect America works in a place named for someone who committed treason to protect slavery. Changing who we honor will not end racism in one fell swoop, but it’s not a bad place to start.
Read the entire piece at the American Historical Association blog Perspectives Daily.
USA Today is running a fascinating and disturbing piece on the way Southern newspapers promoted the Confederacy and the Lost Cause well into the 20th century.
The piece focuses on the Memphis Commercial Appeal, The Clarion Ledger (Jackson, MS), The Montgomery (AL) Advertiser; The Lafayette (LA) Daily Advertiser; The Knoxville News Sentinel; and The Nashville Tennessean.
Here is a taste:
The late civil rights leader, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, once exhorted journalists to be “a headlight and not a taillight.”
“You have a moral obligation to pick up your pens and your pencils, use your cameras to tell the story, to make it plain, to make it real,” Lewis said at a Pulitzer Prize event in 2016. But for most of American history, what newspapers in the South made plain and real was the racism that permeated so many facets of life in this country — and they did so with unabashed support for the people and systems that promoted and maintained prejudice and discrimination.
As Southern news outlets cover the latest chapter of our national reckoning with racial divides, a full accounting is not possible without acknowledging the role many of these institutions played in creating and servicing the myths that were used to justify racial oppression, in particular those tracing their roots to the Confederacy. Coverage that takes seriously issues of systemic racism today often marks a sharp departure from what Southern newspapers published in the century following the Civil War.
As part of a collaborative project on the legacy of the Confederacy and its influence on systemic racism today, USA TODAY Network newsrooms across the South have dug into our own archives to examine how our own outlets reported on those issues, as well as their stances on segregation and civil rights. Examples from six newspapers are below, and links to more reporting on each individual paper’s history are at the end of this story. Our hope is that this look back can teach us to look forward — to be a headlight and not a taillight.
Read the entire piece here.
It has happened three times. A producer from Mars Hill Audio e-mails and asks me if I want to talk with Ken Myers about the subject of my latest book. The producer schedules me at a studio in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania–a place where local rock bands go to record. I drive up into the hills outside of town, maneuver my vehicle up a winding dirt road, and say hello to a guy who turned his garage into a studio. He has set up a chair, a microphone, and a bottle of water on the concrete floor. We exchange pleasantries (he remembers me from the last time) and then he goes into the next room, behind a glass wall, and pipes the voice of Ken Myers into my headphones. I talk with Ken for about an hour.
Months later someone tells me that they listened to my interview—cut to about 15 minutes or so—on Mars Hill Audio. A few weeks after that I get a complimentary compact disc of the episode in the mail. I put into a shoe box alongside my Mars Hill cassette tapes from the 1990s.
Evangelicals interested in books and serious Christian thinking know Ken Myers. He was podcasting before podcasts. Over at Front Porch Republic, Matt Stewart interviews the founder, producer, and host of Mars Hill Audio Journal.
Here is a taste:
Stewart: You started Mars Hill Audio just before Mark Noll published his Scandal of the Evangelical Mind in 1994. While it should be noted that Mars Hill has consciously sought to be rooted in the broader Christian tradition, it is still identifiable as one attempt to address Noll’s criticism. What are some of the most promising trends you have observed over the last three decades in your conversations and debates with those Christians who have constituted the evangelical mind? Which trends seem most destructive?
Myers: I think that there is a growing number of evangelicals who are willing to look beyond the evangelical tradition for wisdom about the challenges we face. Some are looking to pre-Reformation sources, some to resources in Orthodoxy, some in the work of post-Reformation Roman Catholic thinkers. But in doing so, many have found it inadequate to self-identify as evangelicals, or at least as mere evangelicals. So perhaps the most encouraging thing I’ve seen is the willingness of people from evangelical backgrounds to recognize that you don’t have to be evangelical to be a serious Christian.
For decades, I have been uneasy with the designation. I read Thomas Howard’s Evangelical Is Not Enoughwhen it first came out in 1984, and have continued to deepen my conviction that too many doctrines and practices are made optional in the way the term is typically used.
Someone once commented that the word “evangelical” and the word “parachurch” are virtually synonymous, suggesting that one of the characteristics of evangelicalism is too low a view of the Church. I have come to appreciate—through the work of thinkers as various as Lesslie Newbigin, Stanley Hauerwas, Peter Leithart, Oliver O’Donovan, and David L. Schindler—how the secularizing tendencies of modernity are not just a matter of marginalizing religion, but of privatizing the work and effect of redemption and rendering the Church into an agency for the support of individual Christians.
Not long ago, I went back and re-read Noll’s book, and was disappointed with the extent to which he focused on the question of scholarship. While I am deeply interested in the vitality of Christian scholarship of all stripes, I am even more concerned about the state of the minds of non-scholars. The work of scholars should serve Christians—evangelicals and others—who are in business, education, journalism, law, politics, or other vocations. Those people are the ones Harry Blamires was writing about in The Christian Mind.
I think that it is more likely than it was 50 years ago for evangelical laypeople to take an interest in cultural issues because they think their faith encourages them to. But I don’t think that it is any more likely that they will think theologically about such matters. I think that for many, personal faith is a source of motivation, but the Faith is not a source of relevant knowledge. Thinking about cultural matters because we’re commanded to love our neighbors—that’s easy. But thinking about cultural matters in light of the Trinity or Pentecost or the Ascension or the Eucharist—that’s not very common. So the dualism that separates faith and reason may have been overcome by many evangelical scholars. But I think very few laypeople are striving to think about culture in a theological way. And the result is a kind of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism when it comes to cultural matters.
For example, how many evangelicals take kindly to the claims that Joel Salatin makes—which are ultimately theological claims—about how we should raise our food? My hunch is that while there may be many evangelical scholars who are sympathetic to the mission of Polyface Farms, most laypeople would be suspicious. Their suspicion may be theologically grounded, but I don’t think they are armed with enough theology; I think their arsenal may be limited by the limits imposed by evangelicalism’s origins as a modern movement.
Read the entire interview here.
A Billy Graham statue will replace a statue of Charles Aycock, a former North Carolina governor and a white supremacist. Both the state of North Carolina and the House of Representatives are supportive of the change.
Here is a taste of Yonat Shimron’s piece at Religion News Service:
Former North Carolina State Sen. Dan Soucek pushed for the new statue in 2015 while Graham was still living. Soon after Graham’s death, the process kicked into gear.
“From a Christian religious point of view, Billy Graham is an undeniable worldwide icon,” Soucek said. He cited the six decades Graham placed among the top 10 in Gallup Poll’s list of the most admired people.
For years, Graham has been one of North Carolina’s most famous luminaries. There are two state highways named to honor him. One of Charlotte’s biggest tourist attractions is the barn-shaped library documenting his life and ministry that includes his restored childhood home and gravesite.
Graham’s son, Franklin, whose Samaritan’s Purse ministry is also located in North Carolina, said he has seen a rendering of the statue, which features the elder Graham as he looked in the 1960s, preaching and holding a Bible in one hand.
Franklin Graham said the statue is not something his father would have pushed for.
“My father would be very pleased that people thought of him in this way,” he said. “But he would want people to give God the glory and not himself.”
Read the entire piece here.
If you can’t get people in to wear masks out of a sense of social responsibility, commitment to the public good, or appeals to citizenship, just tell them that they won’t be able to watch their favorite college football team.
Mississippi governor Tate Reeves recently tried this strategy:
BREAKING: Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issues statewide mask mandate.
“I want to see college football. The best way for that to occur is for us all to realize is that wearing a mask, as irritating as that can be & I promise I hate it more than anyone watching, is critical.”
— Ashton Pittman (@ashtonpittman) August 4, 2020
It just might work.
Here is Yahoo Sports:
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a mask mandate for his state on Tuesday. And he cited his desire to watch college football in the fall as a reason why.
Reeves’ order is designed to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state. And with the SEC delaying the season until late September and going to a conference-only schedule in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, Reeves made it clear that he wanted to watch games later this year.
Reeves is not the first politician or public figure to cite college football as a reason for wearing a mask. Alabama coach Nick Saban even filmed a public service announcement for the school to promote wearing a mask so that the football season could happen. Saban’s PSA came in May, over two months before Reeves’ declaration.
Read the rest here.
On July 17, 2017 (about a year before Eerdmans published Believe Me), I wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post titled “Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity.” In that piece I wrote:
The court evangelicals are changing the religious landscape in the United States. The Trump presidency is only six months old, but it is already beginning to alter long-standing spiritual alignments. It seems as though Christians are not changing Trump, but rather that Trump could be changing Christianity.
Historians will write about this moment in terms of both continuity and change. On one hand, court evangelicals are part of a familiar story. For nearly half a century, evangelicals have sought to influence the direction of the country and its laws through politics. But Trump has forced them to embrace a pragmatism that could damage the gospel around the world, and force many Christians to rethink their religious identities and affiliations.
Read the rest of my piece here.
The Trump presidency has led to all sorts of new political realignments. For example, could anyone imagine that members of the Republican Party might join forces with progressive, social justice Christians in an attempt to convince Christians in the GOP to vote for Biden?
Here is Gabby Orr at Politico:
A left-leaning group focused on persuading religious Americans to vote out Donald Trump in November has recruited some of the president’s leading Republican agitators to assist them.
On Wednesday, Vote Common Good will launch a new partnership with the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump GOP group founded by veteran Republican strategists, to mobilize faith voters to reject Trump on Election Day.
The initiative will focus on courting white evangelicals and white Catholics — two demographics Trump won by significant margins in 2016 — who have lost patience with the president’s behavior or been disappointed with his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protest movement against racism. The efforts will be concentrated in six battleground states — North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida — where multiple polls have shown Trump trailing his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Read the rest here.
His name is Josh Dickson. He was a leader in Campus Crusade for Christ during his undergraduate days at the University of Michigan. Many of his relatives attended Moody Bible Institute. His Christian faith led him to a job as a teacher in the poor neighborhoods of the South Side of Chicago. He voted for George W. Bush in 2004, but was inspired to become a Democrat by reading Ronald Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and Barack Obama’s Audacity of Hope.
Here are some quotes from Michael Gryboski’s recent Christian Post piece on Dickson:
Dickson believes some evangelicals are moving toward supporting Biden. An example of this, he said, is seeing evangelical leaders’ embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We have seen evangelicals marching in the streets, we have seen evangelicals talking about Black Lives Matter and speaking and praising Black Lives Matter,” said Dickson. “We’ve seen a tremendous response from individual pastors who have large followings who have marched in the streets. We’ve seen leaders, elected leaders who have marched in the streets from evangelical backgrounds.”
This level of support leads Dickson to conclude that “the real religious issue in this election is fighting systemic racism.” Biden, he said, has an advantage in handling that issue.
I appreciate Dickson’s arguments here. I hope he is right. But I don’t think many evangelicals believe systemic racism is “the real religious issue” in this election.
If the number of white evangelicals who vote for Trump in November 2020 drops below the 81% that he received in 2016, it will be because evangelicals are just tired of Trump’s lies, disgusted with his tweets, and upset with his handling of the coronavirus. They may not like Trump’s racism or his handling of Floyd protests either, but I am not sure they are going to vote for Biden (or not vote for Trump) because they want to fight systemic racism.
Here is more from the article:
When asked by CP about concerns over Biden’s stance on abortion, religious liberty, and similar issues, Dickson responded that “there’s room for disagreement” on these matters.
“I know that not everyone is going to agree with him on everything. We’re a big tent party as Democrats. Joe Biden is someone who is putting forward a vision that is inclusive,” said Dickson. “We want to be working with as many people as possible.”
“I see the values that Joe Biden lives by. I see the values that have been reflected in the history of his involvement in public life. And I see the ways in which he’s going to lean into this moment right now where our country is hurting.”
If Dickson wants to get white evangelicals who voted for Trump in 2016 into the Biden camp he is going to have to do better than this. He needs to get his candidate to say something concrete about the reduction of abortion in America. The numbers of abortions in the country are on the decline and he needs to show how he will sustain this downward trend.
Dickson needs to convince Biden to connect his policies on poverty and systemic racism to the reduction of abortion. If systemic racism is indeed “the real religious issue” in this campaign, then why not bring up the fact that addressing this problem has the potential to lower the number of abortions in America? In other words, Biden should articulate the connection between racism, poverty, and abortion. This will not win over most white evangelicals, but it could secure votes from those who are looking for any good reason to vote for Biden.
Dickson also needs to convince his candidate that our democracy is better when faith-based institutions such as schools, colleges, hospitals, and social service agencies are allowed to uphold their deeply-held religious beliefs about marriage and abortion. Rather than going after faith-based institutions in order to appease the left of the Democratic Party, Biden can win the hearts and minds of many white evangelicals by articulating a more robust vision of pluralism.
Read the entire Christian Post article here.
After Feller delivered his paper “Andrew Jackson in the Age of Trump,” Feller was criticized for saying that the word “genocide” should not be used to describe Jackson’s policy of Indian removal. Over at The Panorama, the blog of The Journal of the Early Republic (SHEAR’s official academic journal), University of Oregon historian Jeffrey Ostler provides a thoughtful discussion of this issue.
Here is a taste of his piece “Was Indian Removal Genocidal?”:
In his paper, “Andrew Jackson in the Age of Trump,” the centerpiece of the much-discussed SHEAR2020 plenary session, Daniel Feller dismissed the perspective that Andrew Jackson’s “Indian removal policy was deliberately vicious and inhuman, if not overtly genocidal.” Several historians, commenting on Twitter, pushed back against Feller’s contention, claiming that Indian removal was indeed a genocidal policy. Interestingly, however, most recent scholarship on Indian removal, while supporting the view that the policy was vicious and inhuman, has not addressed the question of genocide. Historians have indicted the policy as “ethnic cleansing,” a serious allegation since ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity under current international law. They have also called for replacing “removal” with terms like “expulsion” and “deportation” on the theory that these terms more accurately convey the coerciveness of the policy. But specialists have not argued that the policy was genocidal. Was it?
Addressing this question requires considering the intent of Indian removal and its consequences. The stated intention of the policy was the opposite of genocide—to save Native people from an otherwise inevitable extinction. Speaking before Congress, President Jackson asserted that instead of “utter annihilation” should Indians remain in the East, removal “kindly offers . . . a new home.”2 To the extent that U.S. presidents are capable of inflicting catastrophic destruction while claiming to be benevolent, however, we should be cautious about accepting Jackson’s claims at face value. A more realistic assessment of the policy’s intentions requires an evaluation of its consequences and Jackson’s response to these consequences.
Read the rest here.
Court evangelical Eric Metaxas is writing a memoir and a book on atheists. I am sure he got a nice advance for both books. Court evangelicalism sells.
Here is the press release from Salem Books:
Washington, D.C.—Salem Books today announced a major deal with internationally recognized speaker Eric Metaxas, who is the author of seven bestsellers—including Bonhoeffer and Miracles. He is also the host of the nationally syndicated Eric Metaxas Radio Show, which airs daily on the Salem Radio Network and on YouTube, as well as on TBN.
Metaxas will share the story of his early life and Christian conversion in his first memoir, Fish Out of Water, set for release in February 2021. The second book—which will release next fall—sets out to question the “anti-God” narrative that has grasped society since the Sixties.
“We are truly thrilled and honored to have the privilege of working with Eric Metaxas,” said Salem Books Publisher Tim Peterson. “Eric is one of the most talented writers of our generation, and we can’t wait to share his latest work with the rest of the world.”
An author of tremendous range, Eric Metaxas has also published more than 30 children’s books. His books have been translated into 25 languages. Over the last decade, Metaxas has written pieces for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, and many other publications. He was the featured speaker at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast and has become a prominent cultural commentator, having appeared on many TV and radio programs, including CNN, NPR, Fox News, and MSNBC. He also has testified before Congress about the rise of anti-Semitism sweeping across the world and was the seventeenth recipient of the Canterbury Medal awarded by the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom in 2011. He holds five honorary doctorate degrees and is a Senior Fellow at the Falkirk Center at Liberty University. He resides with his wife and daughter in New York City.
Metaxas is represented by Esther Fedorkevich of The Fedd Agency in Austin, Texas.
Salem Books Publishing is the evangelical Christian imprint of Regnery Publishing, a Salem Media Group Company. Founded on biblical principles, Salem Books seeks to enrich the lives of Christians and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus to the world through the written word.
Salem Media Group is America’s leading multimedia company specializing in Christian and conservative content, with properties comprising radio, digital media and book, magazine, and newsletter publishing.
Metaxas’s five honorary doctorates are from Hillsdale College, Liberty University, The University of the South (Sewanee), Ohio Christian University, and Colorado Christian University. The only one that surprises me is Sewanee.
Get some context for this conversation here.
All of these points come from Ed Yong’s recent piece at The Atlantic: “How the Pandemic Defeated America.”
Read the Yong’s piece here.
The Princeton University American historian Sean Wilentz has been a harsh critic of The New York Times 1619 Project. But that doesn’t mean he is going to give Arkansas senator Tom Cotton a pass for his recent comments about slavery and the founding fathers.
Here is a taste of his recent piece at The New York Review of Books:
Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, has introduced a bill in Congress that would punish school districts that use The New York Times’s 1619 Project in their curriculum by withholding federal funding. In so doing, he announced in a newspaper interview that America’s schoolchildren need to learn that the nation’s Founders said slavery “was the necessary evil upon which the union was built.” His statement is as preposterous as it is false: presuming to clarify American history, Cotton has grievously distorted it.
(As this article went to press, Cotton supported his argument by citing me along with several other liberal historians who have criticized the 1619 Project; with my colleagues, I have fundamental publicized objections to the project, but these in no way mitigate Cotton’s serious misrepresentations of the historical record for evident political gain.)
None of the delegates who framed the Constitution in 1787 called slavery a “necessary evil.” Some of them called slavery an evil, but not a necessary one. Gouverneur Morris of New York, for example, declared to the Constitutional Convention that he would “never concur in upholding domestic slavery,” that “nefarious institution” based on “the most cruel bondages”—“the curse of heaven on the states where it prevailed.” The great majority of the Framers joined Morris in fighting to ensure that slavery would be excluded from national law.
Read the rest here.
Kate Shellnut and Nicole Sparks report on MacArthur’s sermon Sunday at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California.
Here is a taste of their piece at Christianity Today:
During Sunday’s sermon, MacArthur suggested that churches that close are not true churches. “There has never been a time when the world didn’t need the message of the true church,” he said. “I have to say, ‘true church.’ I hate to think of that, but there’s so many false forms of the church. Let them shut down.”
The congregation laughed then cheered.
Some critics have questioned why Grace Church didn’t meet outside or adjust its indoor gatherings to meet health department guidelines rather than resort to a form of civil disobedience. Others brought up the risk of infection, since experts suggest church contexts, particularly with large crowds not practicing social distancing, are particularly susceptible to and responsible for several recent outbreaks.
Read the entire piece here.
Another evangelical pastor, Gavin Ortlund, has a different take.
I was surprised last week to be informed that this coming year will be my last at Spring Arbor University. As a result of budget cuts, several faculty are being let go, including some of us with tenure.
— Jeffrey Bilbro (@jeff_bilbro) August 3, 2020
The English department is losing two of its members. This was very difficult news to hear as I’ve poured my energies into this place and community over the last 8 years.
— Jeffrey Bilbro (@jeff_bilbro) August 3, 2020
There is much that could be said about how and why these decisions were made, but Twitter isn’t the place for that, though I may have occasion to say more later.
— Jeffrey Bilbro (@jeff_bilbro) August 3, 2020
I know a few faculty members at Spring Arbor University, a Christian college in Spring Arbor, Michigan. But when I think about this school, I think first about English professor Jeff Bilbro. In the world of Christian scholarship and intellectual life, I have long considered him to be the public face of the university.
Bilbro graduated from George Fox University in 2007. I am guessing that this makes him around 35 years old. He has already published or edited five books. Jeff’s scholarly essays have appeared in Christianity and Literature, Christian Scholars Review, South Atlantic Review, The Journal of Ecocriticism, Milton Quarterly, Early American Literature, Journal of Narrative Theory, Mythlore, and The Southern Literary Journal. I have benefited from his essays on Phillis Wheatley, C.S. Lewis, and Wendell Berry. In addition to his scholarly work, Jeff has published pieces in a variety of popular venues and he currently serves as editor of The Front Porch Republic.
Seldom does one find such a productive and thoughtful Christian scholar. If I was an administrator facing tough faculty cuts, Jeff Bilbro would be on my untouchable list. He would be the kind of professor I would want to rebuild around.
Now he is gone, or at least he will be gone after this coming academic year.
I don’t know all the details of Bilbro’s situation. But I have met Jeff, corresponded with him, and share several mutual friends. I can attest that he is a kind, genuine, and gracious Christian scholar who cares deeply about the mission of Spring Arbor and Christian higher education.
What does Jeff Bilbro’s story tell us about Spring Arbor University?
More importantly, what does this story tell us about the fate of some of our brightest Christian intellectuals working at Christian colleges?
Sadly, we are going to see more of this.