Can “Evangelicalism” Survive Trump?

14 Dec

Photo: Lisa Svelmoe

In fact what we call “evangelicalism” is made up of a vast number of different churches and organizations from around the world that are mostly disconnected with each other, even though they share a number of basic common features (notably, “biblicism,” “conversionism,” “crucicentrism,” and “activism,” as defined by David Bebbington). And if we start our thinking about “evangelicalism” by recognizing this fundamental diversity, that invites a second thought experiment: what if we thought first of “evangelicalism” in the light of its many majority world manifestations, instead of first through an American lens?

So writes historian George Marsden on evangelicalism. To read his entire post at the Anxious Bench, click here.

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LAMENTING THE LOST HOPE OF ADVENT

13 Dec

Advent is the season of hope, the season of waiting for the coming of Christ. As Christians we believe that our hope is found in Christ, and that the church, the body of Christ, is God’s chosen instrument of revelation.

But how do you offer hope when the Church itself is the oppressor?  When the Church has committed countless violations in the name of Jesus?

So begins Mark Charles’ (Navajo Christian) advent reflections. You can read them in their entirety at Native News Online here.

Smokey Bear Archive

12 Dec

The National Agricultural Library might not be the first place you’d think to visit for its fine art, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture repository actually has a sophisticated collection of oil and acrylic paintings on public display. The artwork has been accumulated over the course of the Forest Service’s seven decade-long Smokey Bear public information campaign.

Read the Atlas Obscura post about the Smokey Bear archive here.

Reevaluating the Longterm Effects of Protestant Missions

11 Dec

Our association of Christian missionaries with the monstrous colonial past is so absolute that we can be taken aback to find them still popping up in the occasional news report today – in relation to the fight against Ebola in West Africa, for example, or when Australian missionaries Ken and Jocelyn Elliott were kidnapped by an Islamist group in Burkina Faso last year. Journalist Brian Palmer, in an article written at the peak of the Ebola crisis in 2014, voiced a discomfort many readers no doubt share with the ongoing presence of missionaries on the frontlines of healthcare in Africa and elsewhere. “It’s great that these people are doing God’s work,” he wrote, “but do they have to talk about Him so much?”

Sociologist Robert Woodberry has been working on the global impact of missionaries for more than fifteen years, from the time he was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. And the results of his research have been shocking, even to him. He says:

“If on average missionaries were like the people in The Poisonwood Bible, for example – just very destructive of the cultures where they went – we would expect to find the places where there were more missionaries per capita, where missionaries had a longer period of service, and places where they were more free to do whatever they wanted to be worse. But we don’t find that. We find exactly the opposite.”

Statistical modelling and deep-dive historical analysis together suggest a robust causal link between the presence of – particularly Protestant – missionaries during the colonial period and the health of nations today. The more missionaries that came, the longer they stayed, and the more freedom they had, the better the outcomes, even a century or two on. Woodberry checks these off: longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality, higher literacy and educational enrolment, more political democracy, lower corruption, higher newspaper circulation, higher civic participation, and on and on.

So writes Dr. Natasha Moore in her account of sociologist Robert Woodberry’s research on the ongoing effects of Christian mission work. For her entire post at the Australian Broadcast Corporation’s Religion & Ethics site, click here.

Brothers in Arms

6 Dec

Read about the Eyde brothers of Illinois and their letters to one another during World War II. The letters have only recently been re-discovered. Dan Lamothe provides a concise overview at the Washington Post here.

THE AGE OF THE BED CHANGED THE WAY WE SLEEP

30 Nov

sleeping

A night without electric lights—not to mention glowing screens—is almost unimaginable for modern residents of wealthy nations. Looking at writings from the British Isles in the early modern era, A. Roger Ekirch reconstructs what it was like, and how the darkness affected people’s sleep patterns.

So begins Livia Gershon’s summary of historian A. Roger Ekrich’s work. You may read the rest of Gershon’s JSTOR Daily post here.

Mortar Found at “Jesus’ Tomb” Dates to the Constantine Era Read

29 Nov

edicule

In the year 325 A.D., according to historical sources, Constantine, Rome’s first Christian emperor, sent an envoy to Jerusalem in the hopes of locating the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. His representatives were reportedly told that Jesus’ burial place lay under a pagan temple to Venus, which they proceeded to tear down. Beneath the building, they discovered a tomb cut from a limestone cave. Constantine subsequently ordered a majestic church—now known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—to be built at the site.

So begins Brigit Katz’s brief report at Smithsonian.com about recent archaeological work at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. You can read the entire post, with links, here.

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