Today, I’ve been invited by Chris Gehrz to contribute a guest post at the Anxious Bench group blog.
In the post, I briefly describe a three-session course I taught last month at an Episcopal church near Philadelphia. Rather than focus on a specific historical topic, this series examined “historical thinking” itself.
As I explain in the post:
At a time when public debates over history are fierce (and often very embarrassing), I’ve come to believe that one of the urgent tasks facing historians is to help our fellow citizens understand what history’s all about in the first place. We need to help people step back and gain some perspective before, or at least while, they charge into partisan debates. …
Can we try a variety of experiments like this? Can we find ways to bring historical investigation into the life of the church as something more than an instrument of adversarial apologetics or politics? Conversely, can our churches be dissemination points for humane historical thinking in our larger communities?
The post briefly summarizes each of the three sessions I put together, and it offers some tentative thoughts on how well the series worked.
This is the first regular installment in a series of posts as I rewatch a 1977 documentary film series called How Should We Then Live? If you haven’t already seen it, I strongly recommend starting with the project introduction. Today’s episode is “The Roman Age.” (Because I’m still introducing key aspects of the overall series, today’s post is significantly longer than most will be. I hope you’ll bear with me.)
Last week, we talked about why Francis Schaeffer’s 1977 film series How Should We Then Live is important. Now let’s settle in to watch the first episode.
From the moment I began rewatching How Should We Then Live for this blog series, three things stood out.
First: It’s very seventies.
Continue reading “How Should We Then and Now: Ep. 1 (The Roman Age)” →
In the wake of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History’s recent annual conference, L.D. Burnett presents historians in the society with a question that relates to teaching as well as research. It’s a question about treating religious ideas with respect:
[S]hould we treat religious thought differently, as a special case, from other kinds of thought? Should we refrain from critiquing arguments as racist, or sexist, or anti-gay, or anti-woman, or anti-intellectual, because they proceed from a position of deep religious conviction?
That was the suggestion offered to me in conversation at USIH. …
These are the kinds of questions I have to think about as the editor of this blog. For, at the conference, someone suggested to me that religiously conservative intellectual historians feel unwelcome in this space.
I wasn’t a party to the original conversation and can’t address its particular context or nuances. But the question is important, and I think it comes up a lot in different forms.
For example, this question is part of the subtext of current academic debates over “viewpoint diversity.” (I hate that term, but it’s fairly widely used now.) In my understanding of the term, a viewpoint isn’t the same thing as a scholarly conclusion, so viewpoint diversity is different from what academics usually mean by “academic freedom.” It describes a much greater degree of intellectual openness and tolerance.
Continue reading “Religious Beliefs in History: Viewpoints versus Conclusions” →