Yesterday I listed the most frequently read posts from Faith and American History in 2015. Before the clock strikes twelve, I thought I would also make a plea for a few posts that I wish more of you had read. As I’ve shared before, I started this blog because I wanted to enter into conversation with other Christians about the interrelationship between the love of God, the life of the mind, and the study of the past. Sharing with you through this medium is, for me, an extension of my vocation as a teacher. It’s been said that to teach effectively is to “love something publicly,” and that’s what I try to do on this site. It may not always show, but I love the ideas and principles that I am trying to convey here, and I long to be motivated by love as well as I write. Below are some of the posts from the past year that I most loved writing:
** In March I read a novel by one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter. Set in the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky, Hannah Coulter is a story about relationships: relationships with the land, with family, with neighbors–and with the dead. Penetrating my heart as much as my head, the book taught me a lot about being a historian. If you want to know more, read “From My Commonplace Book: Wendell Berry on Protecting the Dead.”
** April 19, 2015 was the 240th anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord and the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh. When McVeigh was subsequently arrested, he was wearing a t-shirt bearing a quotation from our nation’s third president: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” in “Timothy McVeigh, Thomas Jefferson, and the Lexington Minutemen,” I explored the historical context of Jefferson’s quote and its tragic hijacking by extremists who falsely appeal to American history while knowing little of its true heroes.
** As summer approached I wrote two essays that drew on my decades-long experience at a public university before coming to Wheaton College. Writing nearly twenty years ago, distinguished historian George Marsden famously observed that “contemporary university culture is hollow at its core.” That was my conclusion as well. In “Secular Education Has Its Own “Crisis of Authority,” I responded to a recent, much acclaimed work by a Duke University scholar on the “crisis of authority in American evangelicalism.” In “The Contradictions of the Secular University,” I argued that today’s secular university (1) exalts reason but lacks a logical foundation for its dogmatic morals, and (2) exalts democracy but is averse to genuine pluralism.
** Finally, prompted by an amazing gift from a former student, in October I penned “A Tribute to Two Teachers,” a brief reflection on two educators who touched me in very different but equally life-transforming ways. What “deathless power lies in the hands of such persons.”
Happy New Year one and all–I look forward to renewing the conversation in 2016.