April 1, 2020

On October 22, 1939, C.S. Lewis ascended the pulpit of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford. From there he delivered to the university’s students his now-famous sermon “Learning in War-Time.” It was, of course, quite an extraordinary time to be a college student in England. Less than two months earlier, on September 3, the United Kingdom had declared war on Germany after Hitler had  invaded British ally Poland. Lewis addressed the elephant in the room: why bother… Read more

March 31, 2020

As COVID-19 temporarily keeps millions of Christians from taking Communion, Chris recalls the story of the Schwenkfelders, a small movement that declined to take that sacrament for about 350 years. Read more

March 30, 2020

Both Chris Gehrz and myself have recently been thinking back to the horrendous circumstances of 1918, in light of all the disease and epidemic related news going the rounds today. The influenza pandemic of 1918 especially produced a highly apocalyptic mood in that earlier period. It’s often forgotten what a long shadow that mood cast over the artistic production of the following decade, which among other things produced some of the greatest films ever made. I’ll focus here on one… Read more

March 28, 2020

While we’re all stuck at home, Chris has some suggestions for how children interested in the past can take virtual field trips to museums and historical sites around the world. Read more

March 27, 2020

As Chris Gehrz remarked recently, many Christians right now are avidly looking for texts and stories that illuminate the response to plague and pestilence through the ages. There have been so many blogs and columns on many sites about the Cyprianic plague in the third century, about Luther and Zwingli in the sixteenth, about the influenza crisis of 1918. Here is another story, and, I would say, one of the most powerful. It is very famous indeed in Britain, but… Read more

March 26, 2020

From the Anxious Bench archives: Whenever I’m in Salt Lake City, I like to stop at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. On one of my visits, I noticed something that will no doubt be common knowledge to students of medieval Christianity but was new to me. In two paintings — on the central mural behind the altar and in one of the stations of the cross — is an image of a pelican with her young chicks. A pamphlet informs that… Read more

March 25, 2020

It’s ok to read for distraction. Read more

March 24, 2020

Whether they’re writing about the history of infectious disease or other topics, historians have an important role to play during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more

March 23, 2020

If the past several weeks has taught us anything, it is that history can be unpredictable and unnerving. A year ago, who could have predicted that American cities and states would come to a virtual standstill due to a virus strain derived from bats that originated in Wuhan, China? Politicians often speak of the “right side of history” and philosophers such as Hegel and Marx were once given to speaking of the “laws” of historical development. The sudden intrusion of… Read more

March 20, 2020

As I noted recently, I am presently teaching a graduate course at Baylor on Global/World Christianity. One theme that has emerged in that rather more prominently than I originally expected is that of martyrs and martyrdom. That gets to the heart of how we tell the modern Christian story. That topic surfaces repeatedly in several of the books I am using, especially Xi Lian’s brilliant Blood Letters, his 2018 study of a woman martyred for her belief during China’s Cultural… Read more

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