I hope soon to find time to post one final meditation on the Battle of Gettysburg, but I want to interrupt that thread for the moment to recommend a book that I just finished yesterday.
The book is Why Study History? Reflecting on the Importance of the Past, by Professor John Fea of Messiah College. Some of you may recognize the author from his book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?–a work that I earlier recommended in this blog. (See “Summer Reading on Faith and the Founding.”) In other places I have lamented how infrequently historians try to write accessibly for a broad audience, as well as how seldom Christian scholars make an effort to write for the church. One of the things that I admire about Professor Fea is that he is making a concerted effort to do both, and I applaud him.
I don’t agree with every detail of Why Study History?–but to be fair, the history book hasn’t been written yet that I’ve agreed with in every detail. The book is full of valuable insights, and if you are interested in the question of how and why we should value the study of history as Christians, this would be a great place to begin. Fea explains that the primary audience he had in mind as he wrote was history students at Christian colleges, but I think that the book should also appeal to life-long learners.
Fea concludes the book with a provocative proposal for a “Center for American History and a Civil Society.” The mission of the center, as Fea envisions it, would be “to foster civility, strengthen democracy, and serve the common good through the teaching and promotion of the American past.” Among a range of possible activities, such a center could coordinate public lectures around the country, sponsor workshops for educators , and offer “summer academies” for high school students. Significantly, Fea hopes that part of the work of such a center would involve reaching out to churches.
What a marvelous idea.