Trump and The True Meaning of Sacrifice

Trump rain

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

In Flanders fields.

—Canadian soldier John McCrae,
remembering the sacrifice of fellow
World War I troops.

We’re getting drenched.”

—President Trump, noting his own
sacrifice during World War I centennial
observance Sunday.

Read Dana Milbank’s piece at The Washington Post.  Here is a taste:

On Veterans Day, Americans recall the sacrifices of those who served our country.

We think of the bayonet charge of Maine’s 20th Regiment on Little Round Top, the young men battling through rain and poison gas in the Argonne, the soldiers in the frozen Ardennes Forest in the Battle of the Bulge.

And we think of President Trump, battling rain for not one but two days in France this weekend.

Other presidents had made sacrifices. George Washington camped with his frozen troops in Valley Forge. William Henry Harrison died after a two-hour inaugural address in the rain.

But these were as nothing compared with the elements Trump battled in Paris.

Read the rest here.

The National Endowment for the Humanities Funds “Dialogues on the Experience of War”

Dialogues-Web

Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

This month  Auburn University is ending six-month program called “Dialogues on the Experience of War.”  Veterans and community members have been invited to participate in conversations on World War I and the Vietnam War in six different Alabama communities.

Here is a taste of the program:

The Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities is proud to announce the launch of “Dialogues on the Experience of War,” a reading-discussion program on World War One and the Vietnam War, in six communities throughout the state. The Center was one of 17 recipients of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for programs that bring perspective and context to the experience of war through the study of literature.

The six Alabama communities participating are Auburn, Collinsville, Ozark, Phenix City, Valley, and Wetumpka. The program will begin September 2016 and end March 2017. Veterans and community members are invited to sign-up for the free program by finding their community representative at aub.ie/dialogues. Recent veterans of the global war on terror are particularly encouraged to participate.

The program provides an opportunity to discuss the experience of war in World War One and the Vietnam War from the perspective of memoir writers and fictional characters in stories and film. World One War resources include the memoir of Congressional Medal of Honor winner John Lewis Barkley, a short story anthology, and the popular 1925 silent film The Big Parade. Vietnam War resources include Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, journalistic account Dispatches, and the Academy Award-winning film Platoon.

Dialogues on the Experience of War is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the Standing Together initiative, which emphasizes the innovative ways in which the humanities can engage military veterans and communities. “Because veterans account for only 7 percent of our country’s population, there is a pressing need for community programs that bring veterans and nonveterans together in conversation,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “NEH’s Dialogues on the Experience of War grants will allow veterans and community members to explore together the experiences of war using humanities texts as the means of deeper understanding.”

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at http://www.neh.gov.

For more posts in this series click here.

The Author’s Corner with Cara Burnidge

APeacefulConquest.jpgCara Burnidge is Assistant Professor of Religion at University of Northern Iowa. This interview is based on her new book, A Peaceful Conquest:  Woodrow Wilson, Religion, and the New World Order (University of Chicago Press, 2016).

JF: What led you to write A Peaceful Conquest?

CB: A Peaceful Conquest is the result of me thinking about the American social gospel movement as both intimately connected to Christian ideas of proper governance, particularly American democracy, and as an example of American religious movements responding to their global context. 

As a graduate student, my primary research area was on the work of white social gospel ministers and the women of the settlement house movement. I knew from the primary sources that these themes were present, but when it came time to write a proposal for my dissertation, I had a hard time finding a hook that could make this project make sense without being the cliche of a PhD candidate who couldn’t speak succinctly about their own research. While sharing this conundrum in a meeting with a mentor, she asked simply “What about Woodrow Wilson? Have you thought about him?” I hadn’t. I didn’t consider myself a presidential historian and, to be honest, the vantage point of suffragists colored what limited considerations of Wilson I had had at that time. To be fair and start with the most obvious intersection between “on the ground” reformers and politicians, I began reading the The Papers of Woodrow Wilson and the most recent biography of Wilson at the time. I hoped to find a connection that would show that local and regional social gospel efforts made an impact beyond domestic policy concerns. Rather than a connection I could point to then move on, I found a treasure trove of of memos, letters, telegrams, speeches, and policy conversations that demonstrated the pervasive influence of social gospel thought in American foreign relations. The combination of primary and secondary sources convinced me that I had a different perspective to contribute to the existing historical conversation about Wilsonian liberal internationalism and American religion in this era based on my understanding of the social gospel movement.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of A Peaceful Conquest?

CB: I argue Woodrow Wilson’s religious identity, shaped by both southern evangelicalism and social Christianity, influenced his liberal internationalism and its legacies for American religion and politics in the twentieth century.

JF: Why do we need to read A Peaceful Conquest?

CB: It should come as no surprise that I am not the first person to write about President Wilson and that others have written great works examining the role of religion in Wilson’s presidency. In fact, Wilson is often the go-to example of a president whose religion “mattered.” What makes A Peaceful Conquest different from these works is its intentional placement of Wilson in the greater American religious landscape and its reconsideration of how we think of presidents and their religious identity. Methodologically, I consider Wilson’s religious identity as I would any other historical figure—intersectional. Race, class, gender, and religion are not separate “lenses” to clarify or frame figures, but constitutive parts that must be held together to understand the whole person and their historical context. Some readers may find this approach helpful for understanding recent public conversations about Wilson’s legacy. It also allows scholars to place Wilson in historical perspective as Americans think (and rethink) the place of white evangelicalism in American identity and the role of America in the world.

A Peaceful Conquest should be added to your reading list if you want to know more about how American religion shaped international politics; if you’re interested in how religious identity does (and does not) shape presidents and their policies; if you’d like to think about the peculiar ways religion is both present and absent from American democracy; if you’re wondering how the social gospel could have been central to American culture yet seemed to disappear after World War I; and if you’re wondering how or why the so-called “God gap” became central to the Democratic Party’s identity.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

CB: As an undergraduate, I had the good fortune of having professors and mentors who treated me and other history majors as their equals. The History professors at Washburn University impressed upon us that history is a conversation among historians and they treated us as members of the guild well before we earned our credentials. Those conversations—arguments, debates, and more than one pontification on how history can save the world—convinced me that I was an American historian. More good fortune, generous mentors, and hard work helped me get to the position I am in now.

JF: What is your next project?

CB: My next project examines the King-Crane diplomatic mission, which surveyed residents of mandated territories of Palestine, Syria, and Transjordan to determine who they preferred to oversee their development toward democracy. I am considering how the State Department approached the role of residents’ religion and race in its commitments to advancing national self-determination and democracy in the Middle East.

JF: Thanks, Cara! Sounds like some good stuff.

2105 *Christianity Today* Book Awards

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners, but especially the winner and runner-up in the field of history.

Winner: Charles Marsh, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Award of Merit: Philip Jenkins, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade

Want to learn more about Marsh’s book?  Check out our Author’s Corner feature on him.  (In other words, he and this book were famous well before this award!).

The War for Righteousness

On the suggestion of Russ, one of our loyal readers, I just finished Richard M. Gamble’s The War for Righteousness: Progressive Christianity, the Great War, and the Rise of the Messianic Nation (ISI Books, 2003). Russ is right. This is a fascinating and revealing look at liberal Protestantism and the American involvement in World War I.

Gamble argues that “progressive clergy…played a vital role in turning at least their side of the Great War into a ‘war for righteousness,’ an ultimate spiritual battle to rid the earth of a pagan nation that impeded the progress of God’s righteous kingdom.”

Gamble shows how the Federal Council of Christian Churches, the leaders of the movement known as the Social Gospel, and prominent liberal clergy from across the country, pushed hard to get Woodrow Wilson to bring the United States into the War because they perceived it as an opportunity to, as one progressive Protestant put it, advance America’s status as a”Christ nation to the other nations of the world.”

They even chided Wilson in 1916 and early 1917 for trying to pursue a policy of peace in Europe, claiming that Germany needed to be punished by God for the sinking of the Lusitania and the invasion of Belgium. The United States would be God’s agent in carrying out that punishment.

I read The War for Righteousness shortly after I reread George Marsden’s classic Fundamentalism and American Culture. Though some Fundamentalists such as Billy Sunday were strong supporters of American involvement in World War One (and occasionally even joined with some of these Protestant liberals in the cause), and most Fundamentalists eventually supported American intervention, Marsden shows that their decision to follow Wilson into war required some soul-searching. If Gamble is right, liberal Protestants were seldom as cautious. It was the Modernists, not the Fundamentalists, who were most effective at fusing patriotism and Christianity.

Gamble’s presentation of the liberal Protestant commitment to internationalism makes George W. Bush and the neoconservatives look like Ghandi and today’s Christian nationalists look like Anabaptists This is a great book–a real hidden gem.