May 11, 2023

Today’s post is about one very specific event, but it gets centrally to the way we write history, and how much attention we should give to key dates and people that at first sight seem to affect only the most rarefied elites. For centuries, access to the Classical languages of Greece and Rome has been a prime distinguishing feature of privileged elites in Europe and the West. Surely, then, we might think, tracing the origins of that cultural phenomenon must... Read more

May 10, 2023

It seems that whenever I hear Christians talk about the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin and their expulsion from Eden, the conversation revolves around debates on gender roles in marriage and in the church. But there is another monumental significance of the Fall that, I contend, we should be thinking about more. This one has to do with work. Before the Fall, work was a joyous task that Adam and Eve were created to do and enjoy. Their work... Read more

May 9, 2023

Earlier today, Tuesday May 9, Collin Hansen released an interview with historian Molly Worthen on his podcast, Gospel Bound. What unfolded in the interview was the surprising narrative of Molly Worthen’s evangelical conversion to Christianity.   Who Is Molly Worthen? Worthen grew up in Glenn Ellyn in what she described during the interview as a secular home. She completed a Bachelor of Arts at Yale in 2003 and completed her Ph.D. there in 2011. In 2010, she married Michael Morgan,... Read more

May 5, 2023

The Decline of History Scores The National Assessment of Educational Progress has reported that 8th graders in the United States scored lower on their History and Civics assessment than they have since the Department of Education started testing for this in 1994.  Should we panic about this decline and the potential weakening of our civic education? You would think that historians would be the first to lift their voices in outrage. But because of our skills at context and historical... Read more

May 4, 2023

I wrote recently about the year 1453, which marked the Fall of Constantinople, and therefore one of the most often cited events in European history. I suggested, however, that it mattered far less than we usually think. Realistically, historians can’t avoid using significant dates: textbooks, courses, and documentaries have to start and end somewhere. The problem arises when we take those dates of convenience and assume that they really did mark moments of fundamental change. Often, these were critical turning... Read more

May 2, 2023

For me, the first of May always feels like the changing of a season– perhaps because so much of my life has been lived and continues to be lived by the academic calendar. But even for those not living around school schedules, the transition of spring into summer seems to be significant. Maybe it’s just the nicer weather, or the growth of gardens, or the promise of time with friends and loved ones, but it seems that as summer begins,... Read more

May 1, 2023

Along with lamentations, the horrific recent shooting at the Covenant School also created a crises of democracy in the Tennessee Legislature. Scores of students marched to the Capitol in downtown Nashville to protest government inaction in the face of mass school shootings, creating a moral and media spectacle. State Representatives Jones, Pearson and Johnson participated in protests, which, under dubious invocations of decorum, got Jones and Pearson, who are Black, expelled. Though they were re-elected and readmitted by their constituents,... Read more

April 27, 2023

“The Fall of Constantinople is a personal misfortune that happened to all of us only last week.” Those are the closing words of an extraordinarily influential book written in 1973 that most readers of this site will likely not have encountered. The words perfectly illustrate the sizable mythology that gets attached to historical events and dates, and how they echo through later centuries, often in utterly unexpected ways. Last time, I wrote about the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman... Read more

April 26, 2023

Several months ago I took my first trip to the Jewish and Christian Holy Land. As I wrote in March, I entered the West Bank (Palestine minus the Gaza Strip) and Israel via the Jordanian border after spending over a week with family there. This is quite a different experience than the one shared by the vast majority of American pilgrims who fly into Tel Aviv and go through the standard amount of foreign air travel security and customs. Crossing... Read more

April 25, 2023

This month at the Anxious Bench, a number of columnists are participating in a joint collaboration with the AACC (Asian American Christian Collaborative) to draw attention to the mournful history of gun violence in the United States. This post is part of this effort. Last week I toured a church whose doorways were graced with crosses flanked by revolvers and whose pillars featured sculpted pistols. You might think that a church that so flagrantly blended the cross with the gun was an... Read more

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