Friday Clean-Up, October 17

Last week’s browser clean-up worked so well that I decided to do it again this week.

So, here are a few things that crossed my internet this week:

Fear and the Value of the Humanities

What would happen if someone repossessed American self-government?

Did cars create the megachurch?

Religious colleges and universities as the sanctuaries for the study of the humanities (hmm…there’s some cross-over with that first link)

Agnes Howard on Chartres Cathedral and Henry Adams

Angelenos don’t know who Joe Biden is (could other Americans do better?)

Michael Altman asks what “American Religion” means. Discussion ensues.

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Cleaning Up My Browser Tabs

Let me start with a confession: I have a tendency to click on links from various sites and then leave them as separate tabs in my browser. Over the course of the week, this makes my browser increasingly unwieldy.

So, this post is a bit of an experiment.

I’ll just record interesting, random things that I read this week. I’ll keep the links, but I’ll be able to close the tabs.

Of course, listing things here in no way implies endorsement. Still, if you’re reading this site, you might find them interesting, too.

Here goes…

41 Maps and Charts that Explain the Mid-West

Hong Kong’s Religious Revolutionaries: Do Christians Make Good Rebels?

Minnesota’s a Great Place to Live

Beware Higher Ed Doomsayers

Jay Case complains about the NYT’s Religion blind-spot

Why Ross Douthat loves Lena Dunham

15 Things You Might Not Know about Iowa

Where are College Football Fans Distributed?

About a book I want to read: How College Works

5 Questions with James K.A. Smith




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Christian Historians and Social Media Wrap Up

If you’ve been reading for the last week, you’ve heard from the various panelists at our session at Pepperdine University on September 26th.

Today, at the Religion in American History blog, I wrap up those posts, link to several others, and direct people to collections of tweets from the program.

So, if you’ve been waiting to comment or ask questions of the whole panel, this is your chance.

Again, the wrap-up is here.

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Why does Paul Putz blog as a graduate student?

We continue our forum on Christian Historian and Social Media–for earlier pieces, see here, here, and here.

Today we have the remarks of the final contributor, Baylor graduate student Paul Putz.

Paul has posted his comments to his blog.

I highly recommend you check it out. Paul brought down the house at our session with his thoughtful remarks. John Fea captured some of that sentiment with this tweet:

Read the entire piece, but I especially appreciated Paul’s evocation of how care for others can actually be enacted through social media:

In his book To Change the World, James Davison Hunter has words of wisdom related to this idea. In the book, Hunter articulates his vision for a model of Christian social engagement that he terms “faithful presence.” For Hunter, faithful presence is “a theology of commitment and promise…a binding obligation manifested in the relationships we have, in the work we do, and in the social worlds we inhabit, and it is all oriented toward the flourishing of the world around us.”

The online world might not be the place that Hunter envisions “faithful presence” being enacted. For Hunter, faithful presence requires one’s engagement in a particular place. It is a corrective to the ephemeral connections, dislocation, and fragmentation that comes along with our digitized age. Yet, I think Hunter is off the mark a bit in suggesting or implying that there is an incompatibility between the online world and offline world. While Christian historians should very much be committed to participating with others in their neighborhoods, local churches, and communities, the world online also offers ways for historians to carry out Hunter’s suggestions to “use the space they live in for the flourishing of others.” For example, Christian historians might find ways to link their online and offline worlds, using their time and services online for the benefit of their offline community. Scholars might take up digital history projects meant to protect and preserve the history of local organizations. Or, since historians will undoubtedly have members of their local community among their online followers, they might use their platform to promote local history-related events. If one’s neighbors, fellow churchgoers, and fellow city-dwellers participate online, then Christians scholars should view the internet as another way to share in the lives of those with whom they already share a particular place.

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Why Does Chris Gehrz Run 4 Blogs?

Continuing our series on Christian Historians and Social Media (with earlier installments here and here), today Chris Gehrz of Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota shares his ideas. (And yes, he does count as a neighbor in the Twin Cities.)

Chris shares his experience of running 4 separate blogs (he also apparently keeps another 1 or 2 on the side). Thus, he finds different objectives achieved with:

1. A Course Blog

2. A Department Blog

3. A Research Project Blog

4. And, a Personal Blog

All of his reflections are here, at “The Pietist Schoolman.”

And, let me add a voice that you should make “The Pietist Schoolman” a regular part of your internet intake.

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Why does John Fea blog?

As promised yesterday, we are rolling out our presentations from the “Christian Historians and Social Media” Panel from the Conference on Faith and History last week.

Today’s entry comes from John Fea, professor of History at Messiah College.

John took to the podium to answer 4 questions:

1.  How did I begin blogging?
2.  Platform Blogging [How is blogging a platform?]
3.  My Philosophy of Blogging
4. Is Blogging Scholarship?
John’s answers to these questions can be found on his blog, here. Click over there to find out.


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Christian Historians and Social Media: Introductory Thoughts

Last week-end, 300 historians gathered at the gorgeous Malibu campus of Pepperdine University for the biennial meeting of the Conference on Faith and History. Although there was a great diversity of panels, the conference theme–which was addressed in a number of venues–focused on “Christian Historians and Their Publics.” The meeting helpfully asked about the many constituencies historians address: not only students and fellow academics, but also the broader public, addressed in a variety of ways. Inspired by that theme, I convened an outstanding panel on “Christian Historians and Social Media.” On the panel were three great exemplars of using social media for historical purposes: John Fea of Messiah College, Chris Gehrz of Bethel University, and Paul Putz of Baylor University. They offered some great thoughts about both the practice and purposes of using social media for historical purposes.

To demonstrate the value of social media, we thought we would practice what we preached, and share our thoughts on our blogs, thereby bringing in a much larger audience than the group which assembled in the Smothers Theater last Friday. Over the next week, we will be sharing all of our ideas in our separate venues.

Below, I offer the introduction to the panel. I was aiming to raise questions and frame the discussion, then step back to get some great feed-back from the panelists.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), John Fea will post at his Way of Improvement blog.

Thursday, we’ll hear from Chris Gehrz at his Pietist Schoolman blog.

Friday, Paul Putz will post his thoughts to his personal blog.

Then, next Monday, I’ll recap these ideas and work in a few more links for my post at the Religion in American History blog.

I invite readers to follow the whole conversation and to contribute to the comments sections of any of the blogs.


Pepperdine University, September 26, 2014

Roundtable: Christian Historians and Social Media

Hello. My name is Jonathan Den Hartog. I’m a professor of American History at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, MN (formerly Northwestern College). It’s my great pleasure to chair this session today.
As the CFH is meeting here at Pepperdine, we are considering the conference theme of “Christian Historians and Their Publics.” In thinking about this topic, it seemed to me that a topic on “Christian Historians and Social Media” would be especially useful. The presence of social media (blogs, facebook, twitter, instagram, and others) has exploded in the past decade. This growing phenomenon is a reality not only for us, but for our students in the classroom, our families, and the people we see weekly in our congregations. How ought we to approach this space of cultural activity?

Further, this development of history and social media is reshaping academic practice and perception. There is a growing conversation about what to do with social media in the academic historical realm. Our conversation today is thus part of a larger conversation going on in other venues. For example…
*Last September (a full year ago–practically ancient history!), Heather Cox Richardson appeared on the blog of the (now-suspended) Historical Society to ask, “Should Historians Use Twitter?” and argued in the affirmative.
*At the Organization of American Historians’ meeting last April, a panel considered, “Is Blogging Scholarship?”
*Similarly, at the American Historical Association this coming January, a panel will consider “Blogging and the Future of Scholarship.”
*But, if you miss that one, you can attend on the same week-end two panels sponsored by the American Society of Church History, with one entitled, “The Digital Humanities and the Study of Christianity in Late Antiquity: Reflections on a Disciplinary Intersection” and another entitled, “American Religion Online: How Digital Projects Can Change How We Teach, Research, and Interpret Religious History.”

Clearly, there is a conversation going on, that I believe we can add to.

To address these topics at the CFH, I thought it best to gather together some very smart guys who know a lot about social media, pose a few interesting questions, and then step out of the way.

So, how should we understand “Christian Historians and Social Media”? Today, as a panel, I hope we together can consider each part of our title–How and why to use social media? How to engage with historical topics with social media? And, what difference a Christian perspective and Christian faith might make for such usage? Do these, and should these terms fit together? Our discussion thus can be both descriptive (demonstrating how the tools have been used) and prescriptive (asking how the tools ought to be used).

Taking these general topics into consideration I think then raises a number of further questions.

First, they raise questions about the content of social media. What historical material gets presented and discussed? Does the medium (to channel Marshall McLuhan) shape the message?

Second, I wonder if there might be some virtues (of the Alasdair MacIntyre variety ) that would be appropriate for Christian historians using social media. What are the more excellent ways to exist on-line? In an interesting article, the philosopher Raymond VanArragon suggests the importance of two: prudence and openness. Prudence helps to know when and how to engage in important discussions–and often the anonymity of the internet is not that place. Openness, though, allows for a willingness to, at appropriate times and places, engage with and learn from those who are different. To my mind, VanArragon’s “openness” sounds a great deal like hospitality, which scholars even on this panel have connected to historical practice. Are there other virtues to nurture, especially for those creating content to go live to the internet?

On a third, related note, are there or should there be positive practices that can be used to express those virtues? As James K.A. Smith has pointed out, we are shaped by our cultural practices.  Can our beliefs still be embodied in practices on an internet that by its nature seeks to disembody us?

Fourth, how do we understand our publics? Circling back to the conference topic, who is the public “out there.” How do we relate to it with social media, and how does social media give us unique opportunities for connecting beyond our normal spheres?

Finally, I hope we can do a little reflection on the question of where we go from here? What’s next? What might the future hold? And in what directions should we faithfully push it?

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