What Can You Do With A History Major?

00:04
welcome to the office hours my name is
00:06
John phia i chair the history department
00:08
here at messiah college and i also teach
00:10
American history this is episode 12 of
00:13
the office hours I am here in my office
00:16
with Megan p.m. are faithful filmer and
00:20
producer of these videos one of these
00:22
things were going to get Megan on camera
00:24
maybe we’ll do an interview with her
00:25
about that about the verge of making the
00:28
virtual office hours but what we want to
00:31
talk about today I look at this kind of
00:33
maybe that’s the last office hours in a
00:36
series that we’ve been doing now we’ve
00:38
been interrupted here and there with
00:39
some interviews and opportunities that
00:41
we’ve taken but I think this will be the
00:43
last the last segment in a series we’ve
00:46
been doing on how to think historically
00:49
and what you know the purpose of a
00:52
history major what his three majors can
00:54
do and so forth if you remember we
00:56
started back thinking about the five
00:58
seas of historical thinking we talked
01:00
about the past as a foreign country we
01:03
talked about the usefulness of the pass
01:05
of the usable pneus of the past I
01:07
suggested some ways in which Christians
01:09
might think about how to reflect on the
01:12
past like sin or the imago gay moral
01:15
criticism these kinds of things we
01:18
talked about history for a civil society
01:21
a couple couple episodes ago and now I
01:25
want to wrap this up with a discussion
01:27
about the history major and what you can
01:30
do with a history major so I’m talking
01:32
here directly to those of you who are
01:34
either in high school or college or have
01:36
kids who are in high school or college
01:38
who are interested in history and want
01:41
to think about you know why major in
01:43
history you know when you can major in
01:45
something else you know that might be
01:47
more at least that we might think might
01:49
be more beneficial in the marketplace
01:51
and so forth so that’s where we want to
01:53
focus our attention today much of the
01:56
the material that we’ve been doing in
01:58
the virtual office hours will make up
02:00
makes up as I mentioned before the bulk
02:02
of my book why study history and that
02:05
will be out in September I think the
02:07
subtitle is reflecting on the importance
02:10
of the past so many of these virtual
02:11
office hours segments will appear
02:14
in print form at least in prose in that
02:17
book so I hope you’ll grab that book and
02:19
you’ll you’ll take a look at it but the
02:22
question here what what can you do with
02:24
a history major we I’ve been wrestling
02:27
with this question I’ve been wrestling
02:28
with this question with my students let
02:31
me start off by telling you a little
02:32
story about a student of mine named a
02:35
former student of mine named Tara Tara
was a history major she was one of our
02:40
better history majors here in the
02:42
department when she graduated she
02:44
applied for a job working in a hospital
for sick children in Malawi the Republic
02:51
of Malawi in Africa is not some kind of
02:54
Peace Corps worker she was in a
02:55
missionary of any time it was it this
02:57
was a job she applied for the job called
03:00
for someone to be I think the job title
03:03
was an embedded blogger within this
community and the job description was
was basically Tara would spend time
during the course of the day with the
parents of the African children and the
03:15
children themselves and then she would
03:17
report on what she saw and you know
03:20
their experiences and their stories for
03:23
people back in the state so we’re
03:25
reading the blog of the hospital so they
03:29
would be able to know how to contribute
03:31
or you know make contributions and so
03:33
further find out just what’s going on I
03:35
went Tara interviewed for the job one of
03:38
the first things that they asked her was
03:40
why why are you applying for this job
03:43
you were a history major now inherent
03:46
within that question was a common
03:47
misconception about what history majors
do obviously many people think history
majors just sort of are very good at
trivia because they memorize facts and
03:55
dates and so forth and they’re good at
03:57
taking tests but that’s not the case at
04:00
all Tara seize the opportunity I would
04:04
ask about her history major and she said
04:07
you know why wouldn’t I be a leading
04:09
candidate for this job I’ve just spent
four years spending time with people so
to speak people living in the past many
of them being dead but listening to
their voices from the documents that
I’ve studied and read the primary
sources and then what did I do well
right papers i would tell their story i
would empathize with these people try to
understand life from their perspective
04:33
and then tell the stories of their
04:36
experiences whether it be a paper
04:39
whether it be in a presentation whether
04:41
it be in some kind of exhibit or or
04:43
digital project whatever it was she
04:45
happened to be working on here in the
04:47
history department at Messiah so you
04:50
know think about the job she was being
04:52
asked to spend time listening to people
04:56
who are different than her malawi
04:57
children and parents listening to them
05:00
and then telling their stories she
05:03
looked she learned as a history major
05:05
not only sort of fundamental skills
05:07
about writing well listening well
05:11
researching taking information that she
05:14
had learned in the course of the day or
05:16
in the course of her fieldwork and
05:18
writing it up and making it presentable
05:21
to outside audiences but Tara also
05:24
learned these deeper skills that we’ve
05:26
talked about here skills like empathy
05:28
and understanding and trying to walk in
05:30
the shoes of people who are different
05:32
than her needless to say Tara got that
05:35
jihad not in spite of the fact that she
05:37
was a history major but because she was
05:40
a history major and I think if we can
05:43
have more terrorists out there if we can
05:45
teach our students that they have
05:48
certain skills that employers want I
05:51
think the stigma of sort of what can you
05:54
do with a history major may just go away
05:58
some of you know on my blog the way of
06:01
improvement leads hope I have
06:02
interviewed up to fly think it’s up to
06:05
40 now individuals who were history
06:08
majors in college and did not go the
06:11
traditional route that most history
06:13
majors go most history majors either go
06:15
to grad school in history they become
06:17
history teachers in public public and
06:19
private high schools or elementary
06:22
schools they go to law school they work
06:24
in a museum or historical society but
06:26
the people I interviewed were people who
06:29
did not go into any of those fields they
06:31
went into business they went into
06:33
medicine they went into computers they
06:35
went into writing they went into
06:37
journalism they went into
06:40
the ministry a host of different fields
06:42
and asked if they would do it again they
06:45
had to go back to college and knowing
06:47
what they know now in their professions
06:49
if they were major in history again they
06:51
all said that they absolutely would
06:53
because history provided them with the
06:55
kinds of skills and the kinds of virtues
06:58
in many cases that allowed them to
07:00
really prosper in their current their
07:03
current job situations and do very very
07:05
well so I’d encourage you to go check
07:07
out that vlog series so what can you do
07:11
with a history major maybe we’ll get an
07:12
image of that up here when we move this
07:15
thing into production one of the readers
07:17
of that blog series was a man named
07:19
Brian Brian what is the CEO of a major
07:22
finance corporation based in Raleigh
07:25
North Carolina and he read my series on
07:28
what you can do with a history major and
07:30
he sent me a nice letter and this is
07:32
what he said in that letter he said that
07:35
any good and well rounded liberal arts
07:37
education is a strong foundation for
07:39
business ultimately you have to be able
07:41
to write speak and think still for me
07:44
history is singularly the best
07:47
discipline for success in business who
07:50
imagine how shocked I was to read that
07:51
right that’s true of people in the
07:53
business department here at messiah
07:55
college might be surprised too but but
07:57
Brian goes on to say in history you
learn and become immersed in why people
and groups do things over an extended
period of time history validates that
people and organizations act in clear
recognizable patterns you can learn
about human nature behavior becomes very
predictable which is vital in the field
08:18
of business again that’s just one
08:20
example of how history historians can
08:22
can use their skills I was recently at a
08:25
conference at Wake Forest University in
08:28
which I heard several CEOs of 500
fortune 500 company saying we want
liberal arts majors we want history
majors because they can think they can
write they can take small pieces of
information and make meaning out of
those small pieces of information they
08:46
can take data and tell a story about the
08:48
data I you know they know they all said
08:52
to a to a
08:53
they said we’ll train you and how we
08:55
particularly to do business whether it
08:57
be at procter and gamble or at this bank
08:59
or whatever the company might be will
09:03
train you in the particulars but we want
09:05
someone who’s able to have those general
09:07
skills in many ways it’s a great point
09:11
most studies show that today’s
09:14
undergraduate students are going to
09:16
change jobs and maybe even change
09:18
careers or professions seven to ten
09:21
times over the course of their lives
09:23
that means they need those fundamental
09:26
skills of writing of thinking of
09:28
speaking empathizing of listening of
09:32
understanding that well-rounded history
09:35
education or generally humanities based
09:38
education that’s going to help them to
09:40
adjust and adapt to the changing
09:42
marketplace so when students tell me i
09:46
would like to major in history or what
09:48
can i do with a history major I tell
09:51
them several things one if you’re
09:54
picking a major follow your passion you
09:57
don’t want to spend four years studying
09:59
something that you know you have no
10:01
interest in its interested in or you
10:03
find boring but it may help you land
10:05
some kind of a job in the future follow
10:08
your passions and I think people who
10:10
follow their passions that kind of
10:13
passion will translate to potential
10:16
employers employers are looking for
10:18
people who are passionate about about
10:21
something so follow your passions if you
10:23
love history study history hi and and
10:27
don’t worry about you know where you’re
10:29
going to end up in the end or what kind
10:30
of job you can get because as I’m
10:32
suggesting there are lots of jobs out
10:35
there that you can do by studying the
10:38
past second though it’s not going to get
10:40
you anywhere if you study your passion
10:42
but you don’t act strategically or don’t
10:45
develop a confidence in the kind of
10:48
skills that you’re learning in studying
10:50
history it’s one thing to master
10:52
information it’s one thing to learn
10:54
these skills but you need to be
10:56
confident and develop the confidence to
10:58
be able to sit before a potential
11:00
employer like Tara did and say here is
11:04
why
11:05
should hire me as a history major these
11:08
are the skills that I bring to the table
11:10
here’s how I can help your business your
11:12
nonprofit organization whatever it
11:15
happens to be whatever the job happens
11:17
to be that you’re applying to this means
11:20
I think that history department cultures
11:23
need to change when I was at when I was
11:26
as undergrad or not I was in grad school
11:29
history departments undergraduate
11:31
history department celebrated the
11:33
student who got accepted into a
11:35
prestigious maybe Ivy League ph.d
11:38
program and that was the person that
11:40
appeared all the time on the promotion
11:41
literature that’s the kind of thing that
11:43
people the professors in the department
11:45
the kind of person they talked about
11:47
over and over again but what if the
11:49
culture of a history department changed
11:51
to such an extent that instead of
11:54
celebrating those people and granted we
11:55
still should celebrate them we also
11:58
celebrated the people who got person who
12:00
got a job in business or someone like
12:02
Tara who went overseas and served in
12:04
this hospital or someone who went into
12:07
medicine or someone who went into
12:08
computer science or somebody who became
12:10
a journalist or someone who went into
12:12
criminal justice or something with that
12:15
what if those people were celebrated in
12:17
our departments just as much as the
12:20
people who get into the prestigious law
12:21
schools and graduate schools so these
12:25
are some things to think about as to why
12:27
we should study history there are jobs
12:29
out there we need the confidence to be
12:32
able to talk about the skills and the
12:33
talents and the gifts and the training
12:36
that we have as historians to be able to
12:39
make an impact on the marketplace the
12:41
ever-changing marketplace so I think
12:44
this is a nice sort of capstone to what
12:47
we’ve been talking about the last 10 or
12:49
11 episodes here give or take with a few
12:52
little side tracks here and there you
12:56
know history historical thinking skills
12:58
learning how to use the past and make
13:01
the past speak to the present
13:02
understanding the past as a foreign
13:04
country thinking about the role of
13:06
history and cultivating a more robust
13:09
democratic society those are all good
13:12
things and are there things that need to
13:14
need to be thought about by history
13:16
students
13:17
but also there is a marketplace out
13:20
there for the kind of skills and talents
13:22
and gifts that all of us have so we
13:26
bring this conclusion to another section
13:28
session to an end this series to an end
13:31
if you might want to call it that here
13:33
in the office hours I’m not sure what
13:34
we’re going to do yet next week but will
13:36
happen effing Utley have something for
13:38
you make sure you get your hands on that
13:40
book in September why study history
13:42
reflecting on the importance of the past
13:44
and we will see you next time thank you

“Ben Franklin: Moralist”

John Fea’s Virtual Office Hours: Spring 2016 Season – Episode 12

Transcript

00:08
greetings everyone and welcome to
episode 12
the spring 2016 season of the virtual
office hours we are getting close to
wrapping up we actually have two more
episodes after this so stay tuned i hope
you’ll finish strong with us as you know
we are discussing the book was America
founded as a Christian nation this book
will be coming out in the fall and we
will be revisiting some of the themes in
that book in light of the release of the
revised edition in September so we
thought we’d go back and talk about some
of these things Abby Blakeney as always
our producer is with us and as you
remember we’ve been talking about the
various religious beliefs of the family
fathers the last third of the book
really focuses on those things I have
the founding fathers with me but
actually as some of you been watching
for a while you know these are the first
five presence there were people who
perhaps fall under the realm of founding
fathers that were not presidents of the
United States and one of those people is
someone who we want to talk about today
namely Benjamin Franklin Benjamin
Franklin was very very interested in
religion for his entire life in some
ways you know he may be one of the most
when the most thoughtful people about
religion he probably thought about it
more than many of the other founding
fathers one of my favorite stories about
Benjamin Franklin comes when he’s at the
end of his life and the president of
Yale University in one of the great
Connecticut New England Divine’s
ministers Ezra Stiles who had a lifelong
correspondence with rights Franklin a
letter towards the end of his life and
he essentially I think this is about
1790 and he essentially asks Franklin to
tell him you know what is what is your
Creed then what is your religious
beliefs now that you’re getting at the
end of the light end of your life and
here’s what Franklin said this is what
he said in his letter to styles here is
my Creed I believe in one God creator of
the universe that he governs it by his
providence that he ought to be
worshipped that the most acceptable
service we rendered to him is doing good
to his other
that the soul of man is immortal and
will be treated with justice in another
life respecting in conduct of this these
I take to be the fundamental principles
of all religion and I regard them as you
do in whatever sect I meet with them as
for Jesus of Nazareth my opinion of whom
you particularly desire I think the I
think the system of morals and his
religion as he left them to us the best
of the world the best the world ever saw
or is likely to see but I apprehended
has received various corrupting changes
and I have with most of the present
dissenters
in England some doubts to his
divinity though it is a question I do
not dogma ties upon having never studied
it and think it needless to busy myself
with it now where I expect soon an
opportunity of knowing the truth with
Wes trouble again classic Ben Franklin
here again his Creed essentially he
believes that Jesus was great
philosopher great moral philosopher but
certainly was not God but what does he
know right he’ll find out soon
and he’s
actually going to die shortly after he
writes this this uh decide this letter
two styles so so that’s Franklin’s Creed
at the end of his life very early in his
life Benjamin Franklin some of you know
he’s raised much like we talked about
John Adams last week he’s raised in a
Puritan family and much of his life i
think is an attempt to rise above or
overcome the limits especially the
limits of original sin he lived there
the limits of total depravity that that
new england life sort of placed upon him
so much of Franklin’s journey to
Philadelphia his quest for improvement
and experimentation and it’s been an
intellectual life is very much tied I
think with his motivations to sort of
break from his past in a very kind of
progressive almost there light in Midway
very early in his life he says that he
is a thoroughgoing deist what’s really
interesting about that is his father
gives
some deist reading reading by deists and
he read them instead of being convinced
as to how poor the argument of the DSR
he’s actually convinced by the deists
and claims he is a thoroughgoing deist
later in life I think his his deism if
he ever fully embraced it sort of
softens a little bit he certainly has a
place for Providence in his in his view
of the world there’s the famous moment
in the Constitutional Convention where
he asks God to intervene and asks for
prayer so his God is certainly not
someone who’s distant but someone who
can interject and intervene into human
life but ultimately Franklin’s religion
as I read from that quote is a religion
of virtue it’s a religion of morality he
works hard at trying to follow these
virtues that he lays out for himself he
is one of the more comical stories he
sort of worries that he’s being too
proud so he adds humility to his list of
virtues but if he could live just a sort
of good honest frugal moral life he
believes he’ll be judged in the end in a
very positive way so I think that’s the
story of Franklin read the book get some
more details as a little more complex
than that but but Franklin certainly is
someone who thought a great deal about
religion and believes that it like Adams
and the other founders it is it is
important to the moral progress of
society so thanks for watching we have
two more episodes left we’ll see you
next time on the virtual office hours

John Fea | The Moral Responsibility of the Historian and the Case for Christian America

March 29, 2011

Connect with Wheaton:

Transcript

00:00
so yeah it’s good to be here at Wheaton
00:01
I send you greetings from our sister
00:03
institution in Grantham Pennsylvania
00:05
Messiah the president reminded me that
00:09
you know I shouldn’t bring up anything
00:11
about soccer but from what I understand
00:13
that the biggest football is the big
00:15
sport here we in any way so so again
00:18
it’s good to be here and what I wanted
00:20
to do I’m really grateful for this
00:22
opportunity because what I what I when
00:25
Vince asked me to talk about history at
00:28
a sort of center for ethics it really
00:31
allowed me to sort of think about some
00:34
of the projects that I’ve worked on in
00:36
the past but also some of the things
00:37
that I’ve been thinking about for future
00:39
projects as some of you may know I just
00:42
completed a book called was America
00:45
found it as a Christian nation a
00:46
historical introduction and i’ll be
00:48
talking a little bit about that book
00:50
here tonight but i’m also i’m also
00:54
working on a book now on thinking
00:57
Christianly about the study of history
01:00
so reflecting on the role of
01:02
Christianity as a person of faith as a
01:04
Christian myself and how that relates to
01:05
what I do as a historian so we’re
01:08
working on a little primer on that that
01:10
could be used in you know in history
01:12
courses at Christian colleges so some of
01:14
the things that I’ve been able to do
01:16
with thinking about actually fit very
01:18
well with the with the topic and the
01:20
invitation you know historians aren’t by
01:23
nature sort of ethicists you know we are
01:26
we we sort of you know tell the story
01:28
and we let you know you decide whether
01:30
you know whether it was right or wrong
01:32
so this is so this is a great
01:34
opportunity for me to sort of think
01:35
about some of these things and things
01:36
that are very important to me as a
01:38
Christian and as a historian so my title
01:41
as we worked it out is the moral
01:43
responsibility of the historian and the
01:45
case for Christian America and let me
01:48
start off with a little vignette here
01:50
now during the week of jun 11 2007 4,000
01:55
christians converged on williamsburg
01:56
virginia to celebrate the 400th
01:59
anniversary of the founding of Jamestown
02:01
the first successful English colony in
02:03
North America the event was sponsored by
02:06
vision forum ministries an organization
02:09
that among other things is committed to
02:11
quote teaching history as the
02:13
of God unquote the Jamestown quadra
02:16
Centennial as it was called a
02:18
celebration of America’s providential
02:20
history was a gala event for the cost of
02:24
admission visitors were treated to
02:26
lectures on various themes at early
02:28
American history historical reenactments
02:30
Faith and Freedom tours of Williamsburg
02:33
in Yorktown and even hot air balloon
02:35
rides over the site of the Jamestown
02:37
Settlement one of the highlights of the
02:39
week was a children’s parade led by a
02:41
pocahontas reenactor a thousand boys and
02:44
girls dressed in period clothing marched
02:46
in a one-mile perception to commemorate
02:49
the planting of this historic colony the
02:52
week came to an end for these American
02:54
Christian pilgrims with a Sunday morning
02:56
worship service the vision forum
02:59
gathering differed markedly from the
03:02
celebration plan by the national
03:03
government and its jamestown 400th
03:06
commemoration commission while both
03:09
events featured activities for families
03:10
and an array of educational
03:12
opportunities the government sponsored
03:15
commemoration did not include lectures
03:17
and seminars with titles such as
03:19
Jamestown’s legacy of christ liberty and
03:23
common law or refuting the revisionists
03:27
on america’s four hundredth birthday nor
03:30
did the brochures advertising various
03:32
tours of jamestown read like the one
03:34
being promoted by a popular Christian
03:36
radio host and theologian quote join
03:39
Gary de Mar as he presents well
03:41
documented facts which will change your
03:44
perspective about what it means to be a
03:45
Christian in America if you are tired of
03:48
the revisionism of the politically
03:49
correct crowd trying to whitewash our
03:51
Christian history you will not want to
03:53
miss this tour unquote the providential
03:57
historians quadra Centennial was part of
04:00
an attempt as many of you may already
04:01
know by some evangelicals to reclaim
04:05
what they believed to be America’s
04:06
Christian heritage they have made the
04:09
relationship between religion and the
04:10
creation of the American Republic a
04:12
dominant topic of debate in our recent
04:15
culture wars many well-meaning
04:17
Christians like those associated with
04:19
the vision forum believed that America
04:21
was founded as a uniquely Christian
04:24
nation these Evan Jellico’s have
04:27
use this historical claim to justify
04:29
policy on a host of moral and cultural
04:32
issues facing the United States today
04:35
the study of the past they argue has
04:38
been held hostage by secularists who
04:40
have rejected the notion that the
04:41
American founders sought to forge a
04:43
country that was Christian instead they
04:46
argue these revisionist wrongly claimed
04:49
that the American Revolutionary era was
04:51
informed by enlightenment ideals about
04:53
toleration pluralism and rights in their
04:58
attempt to counter these arguments some
04:59
believers in a Christian America have
05:01
supported House Resolution 888 and
05:04
attempt by Christian lawmakers in
05:07
Congress to establish an American
05:09
religious history week that celebrates
05:12
quote the rich spiritual and religious
05:14
history of our nation’s founding unquote
05:16
others have taken control of the Texas
05:19
State Board of Education in an attempt
05:21
to change the state social studies
05:23
curriculum to better represent the
05:25
Christian themes that they believe all
05:27
schoolchildren should study and learn
05:30
was America founded as a Christian
05:33
nation in my experience as a Christian
05:36
and a Christian college history
05:38
professor I have found that many average
05:40
churchgoers and potential Messiah
05:44
college students and their parents are
05:46
often confused about this topic
05:49
unfortunately those who dominate our
05:51
public discourse tend to make matters
05:53
worse for example during the 2008
05:56
presidential campaign Republican
05:59
candidate John McCain announced that
06:01
quote the Constitution established the
06:03
United States of America as a Christian
06:05
nation unquote but the Constitution
06:08
actually says nothing about the
06:09
relationship between Christianity and
06:11
the United States similarly former
06:15
Arkansas governor and McCain’s fellow
06:16
presidential candidate Mike Huckabee
06:18
said on the campaign trail that most of
06:21
the 56 men who signed the Declaration of
06:24
Independence were clergymen in fact only
06:26
one member of the clergy signed the
06:28
Declaration of Independence college of
06:31
new jersey president john witherspoon
06:33
recently television personality glenn
06:35
beck has devoted his friday afternoon
06:38
shows to the religious beliefs
06:39
of the founders we live in a soundbite
06:43
culture that makes it difficult to have
06:44
any sustained dialogue on these
06:47
historical issues it is easy for those
06:49
who argue that America is a Christian
06:51
nation and I might add for those who do
06:53
not to appear on radio radio or
06:56
television programs quote from one of
06:58
the founders one of the nation’s
06:59
founding documents and sway people to
07:02
their positions these kinds of arguments
07:05
which can often be quite contentious do
07:08
nothing to help us unravel a very
07:10
complicated historical puzzle about the
07:12
relationship between Christianity and
07:14
the American Founding it is not just the
07:18
secularists and the Christians who
07:20
disagree on these issues evangelicals
07:23
have legitimate differences over these
07:25
issues as well in 2005 when Time
07:28
magazine announced the 25 most
07:31
influential evangelicals in America the
07:34
list included both David Barton and Mark
07:37
null bar in the founder of an
07:40
organization called wall builders is one
07:43
of the country’s foremost proponents of
07:45
the theory that America is a Christian
07:47
nation Knohl who of course needs no
07:49
introduction here at Wheaton has spent a
07:51
good portion of his career attempting to
07:53
debunk both directly and indirectly the
07:57
notion that America is a Christian
07:58
nation Barton has suggested that Knoll
08:01
and scholars like him rely too much on
08:03
the work of other historians and not
08:05
enough on primary documents knoll has
08:08
offered careful and nuanced arguments to
08:10
refute the Christian nationalists but as
08:13
a scholar his work lacks the immense
08:15
popularity among ordinary evangelicals
08:17
that Bart and enjoys when I speak on
08:21
this subject and I do a lot of speaking
08:24
as a we have this thing in Pennsylvania
08:26
called Pennsylvania Commonwealth
08:27
speakers in which I travel around the
08:29
state of Pennsylvania speaking to
08:30
libraries and social civic groups and so
08:33
forth on this usually when I when I
08:35
speak on this subject and usually the
08:37
title is something like was America
08:39
founded as a Christian nation so it’s
08:40
sort of provocative and people will show
08:42
up I found that most people come to my
08:45
lecture with their minds already made up
08:47
basically looking for me to provide
08:49
historical evidence to confirm their
08:51
position
08:53
what is a historian to do if there is
08:57
one thing that historian should not do I
08:59
would argue it is to jump into the
09:02
political debate in some ways the
09:04
question in the title of my current book
09:06
was America found that as a Christian
09:08
nation is a bad historical question this
09:13
was a debate between my publisher and
09:15
maybe saying I don’t want the book to be
09:16
titled that way and the publisher of
09:17
course well you know we’ll sell more
09:18
books if you give this sort of
09:20
provocative title it’s a question that
09:22
does not conform to easy yes and no
09:24
answers that most of most to ask the
09:27
question are looking for my golden is
09:30
this lecture is not to lay out a case
09:32
for or against the Christian founding i
09:34
hope you will buy my book there’s my
09:37
pitch my only pitch to see how I handle
09:40
the details such as the way Americans
09:42
have always understood themselves to be
09:44
part of a Christian nation whether or
09:45
not they they’re interpreting the
09:47
founders correctly or not I argue that
09:49
the Christians in America have always
09:52
Americans generally all the way up until
09:54
the sort of 1950s have always understood
09:56
themselves to be part of a Christian
09:58
nation or you can find stuff about the
10:01
relationship of evangelicalism to the
10:03
coming of the revolution the Declaration
10:05
of Independence the Constitution the
10:07
state governments or the religious
10:09
beliefs of the founders which I cover in
10:10
detail but my intention tonight is to
10:13
reflect on the responsibility of the
10:15
historian using the Christian America
10:17
controversy and a few others as a case
10:21
study at the horror of the debate wet
10:24
over whether the United States was
10:26
founded as a Christian nation is the
10:28
relationship between history and
10:30
American life it is thus important to
10:33
think about the nature of the discipline
10:35
of history and identify the difference
10:37
between good history and bad history
10:40
what is the purpose of studying history
10:43
what do historians do does everyone who
10:47
conducts a serious study of the past
10:49
qualify as a historian in my opinion
10:53
writes Pulitzer prize-winning historian
10:55
Gordon would not everyone who writes
10:59
about the past is a historian
11:01
sociologists anthropologists political
11:03
scientists and economists frequently
11:06
work in the past with
11:07
really thinking historically what this
11:10
would mean by this is there a difference
11:12
between the past and history to terms we
11:15
often assume are synonymous it is also
11:20
important to remember just what we do
11:22
when we say that we are historian John
11:24
Tasha historiography writes all the
11:27
resources of scholarship and all the
11:29
historians powers of imagination must be
11:32
harnessed to the task of bringing the
11:33
past back to life or resurrecting it
11:37
historians make the dead live they bring
11:41
the past to an audience in the present
11:43
if we think about the vocation of the
11:45
historian this way then perhaps we may
11:48
distinguish between history and the past
11:51
the past is the past a record of events
11:54
that occurred in bygone eras but history
11:57
is a discipline the art of
11:59
reconstructing the past most human
12:02
beings tend to be rather present minded
12:04
when it comes to confronting the past
12:06
the discipline of history was never
12:08
meant to function as a means of getting
12:10
one’s political point across or
12:13
convincing people to join a cause as it
12:16
is often used by Christian nationalists
12:18
and their opponents yet Americans both
12:22
on the left and the right used the past
12:24
for these purposes all the time such an
12:27
approach to the past can easily
12:29
degenerate into a form of propaganda or
12:32
as the historian Bernard Bailyn
12:33
described it indoctrination by
12:36
historical example when we engage in the
12:40
careful reconstruction of the past we
12:41
will find that it is often strange when
12:44
compared to our present-day
12:45
sensibilities there were some people in
12:48
the past that burned witches others
12:51
engaged in human sacrifice as historian
12:54
David Lowenthal echoing the late LP
12:56
Hartley reminds us the past is a foreign
12:59
country they do things differently there
13:02
it is the strangeness of the past that
13:06
turns many off to its study what if the
13:09
past does not inspire me what if we are
13:11
required to investigate an error or a
13:13
movement that at first glance does not
13:15
seem to teach us anything about
13:16
ourselves or our society how does
13:21
knowledge of the medieval feudal system
13:22
help us live better lives well our lives
13:25
be enriched by a thorough knowledge of
13:27
the causes of World War one perhaps but
13:31
it is easy to ignore miss the parts of
13:33
the past that we do not like yet all
13:36
historians must come to grips with this
13:38
with its utter strangeness present
13:41
mindedness makes for bad history as
13:43
noted historian of the American West
13:45
Richard white writes any good history
13:48
begins in strangeness the past should
13:51
not be comfortable the past should not
13:53
be a familiar echo of the present for if
13:55
it is familiar why revisited the past
13:59
should be so strange that you wonder how
14:02
you and people you know in love could
14:04
come from such a time or for you you’re
14:07
a pianist out there listen to the words
14:09
of Carlo Ginsberg the historians task is
14:12
just the opposite of what most of us
14:14
were taught to believe he must destroy
14:17
our sense of proximity to the patent to
14:19
the people of the past because they come
14:21
from society is very different from our
14:23
own the more we discover about these
14:25
people’s mental universes the more we
14:28
should be shocked by the cultural
14:29
distance that separates us from them
14:33
Gordon would have said if someone wants
14:35
to use the study of the past to change
14:37
the world he or she should forgo a
14:39
career as a historian and run for office
14:43
while it is certainly a worthwhile
14:45
exercise to use the past to critique a
14:47
particular dimension of contemporary
14:49
society I would argue that historians by
14:52
vocation are not primarily cultural
14:55
critics nor are they in the business of
14:58
using the past to promote a particular
15:00
political or cultural agenda the task of
15:04
the historian is to pursue truth where
15:07
it may wherever it may lead he or she
15:09
works with original or primary documents
15:11
to reconstruct the past and all its
15:13
complexity and fullness while the
15:15
historian might choose the subject she
15:17
will study based upon current events or
15:19
personal interest and I’d be lying to
15:22
say I picked the subject of my book you
15:24
know you know that it wasn’t driven by
15:26
personal interest or current events the
15:30
story must always with the evidence
15:31
speak even if that evidence leads her
15:33
toward a conclusion
15:34
may not be useful would notes the
15:37
present should not be the criterion for
15:39
what we find in the past now let’s move
15:42
on to an overview of how Christians
15:45
study the past or have studied the past
15:48
over the years Christians have proposed
15:50
several ways of thinking about the
15:51
relationship between their faith and the
15:54
study of history some Christians may
15:56
study the past as a means of explaining
15:58
the Providence of God for these students
16:01
of the past the purpose of history is to
16:03
discern the will of God through the ages
16:05
in this view history becomes theology
16:08
its purpose is to communicate God’s
16:11
designs not unlike some of the
16:13
historians of colonial New England who
16:16
wrote history for the purpose of
16:17
glorifying God and revealing his
16:20
handiwork for example early histories of
16:23
America such as William Bradford’s of
16:25
Plymouth Plantation written around 1650
16:28
or cotton Mathers magn Ali Kristi
16:31
Americana 1702 were written to explain
16:35
God’s providential ordering of the past
16:38
these older works were designed to bring
16:40
glory to the Creator for bestowing his
16:42
blessings on America and particularly
16:45
New England Bradford and matha wrote
16:48
with the sense of certainty about God
16:49
superintending hand they believed that
16:52
it was possible to understand God’s will
16:54
and trace it over time the manner of
16:57
doing history with this manner rather of
16:59
doing history was common in America
17:00
until the late 19th century and still
17:03
has its adherence today historians
17:06
however even Christian historians should
17:08
be cautious about using Providence as a
17:10
means of explaining historical events
17:12
the will of God in the past often
17:15
remains a mystery as theologian Charles
17:18
Matthews writing about st. Augustine’s
17:20
view of Providence notes the lesson of
17:23
Providence is not that history can be
17:25
finally solved like a cryptogram but
17:28
that it must be endured inhabited as a
17:31
mystery which we cannot fully understand
17:33
from the inside but which we cannot
17:36
escape of our own powers the primary
17:39
task of the historian is to describe the
17:41
way that human beings created by God in
17:44
His image have endured and inhabit
17:48
the mysteries of life history is more
17:51
about the study of human beings than it
17:54
is about the study of God as the noted
17:57
historiography RG collingwood put it the
18:00
work of Providence in history is
18:02
recognized but recognized in such a way
18:04
with Lee which leaves nothing for man to
18:06
do one result 11 result of this is that
18:10
historians fell into the error of
18:12
thinking that they could forecast the
18:14
future another result is that in their
18:17
anxiety to detect the general plan of
18:19
history and their belief that this plan
18:22
was God’s and not man’s they tended to
18:24
look for the essence of history outside
18:26
of history itself by looking away from
18:29
man’s actions in order to detect the
18:31
plan of God and consequently the actual
18:33
detail of human actions became for them
18:35
relatively unimportant and they
18:37
neglected the prime duty of the
18:39
historian a willingness to bestow
18:42
infinite pains on discovering what
18:44
actually happened God’s plan for the
18:47
ages is not something that historians or
18:49
anyone else for that matter can decipher
18:50
with any degree of certainty as
18:52
Christians we believe that God has
18:54
spoken the world into creation but his
18:57
creation is ongoing as a result we must
19:00
be patient and wait in expected hope for
19:03
its full meaning hope reveals our
19:06
faithful knowledge is temporal dimension
19:09
it infuses our knowing with the sort of
19:11
not yet with the resistance to the
19:13
delusion that we know anything
19:15
completely even the most mundane things
19:18
this is true because we are sinners of
19:21
course but it is also true because
19:23
nothing yet bears the full weight of its
19:25
eschatological glory as first
19:28
Corinthians 13 12 reminds us for now we
19:32
see in a mirror dimly but then face to
19:35
face now in part but then I shall know
19:37
fully just as I have always been fully
19:40
known or just as I also haven’t fully
19:42
known Christian historians would do
19:44
better to approach their task with a
19:45
sense of God’s transcendent mystery a
19:48
healthy dose of humility and I hope that
19:50
one day soon but not now we will all
19:54
understand the Almighty’s plans for the
19:56
nation’s when we arrive at the judgment
19:58
of God Agustin wrote the time of which
20:01
in a special
20:02
sense is called the day of judgement it
20:04
will then become apparent that God’s
20:06
judgments are entirely just now not all
20:10
Christian historians think that
20:11
Providence is the best way of
20:12
interpreting the past some believe that
20:15
the past must be critiqued from the
20:17
perspective of Christian orthodoxy a
20:19
body of biblical teaching and church
20:21
tradition that always has always guided
20:23
Christians and judging right from wrong
20:25
this approach to history offers ethical
20:28
judgments on characters from the past
20:30
the ideas they defended and the
20:32
movements to which they affiliated
20:33
indeed the past provides us with moral
20:36
lessons making the historians sometimes
20:39
overtly but most times subtly although
20:42
no less powerfully a critic by nature
20:45
historian robert gleason has argued that
20:47
historians have a three-fold task to
20:50
explain what happened to ask why it
20:52
happened and to ask if what happened was
20:54
good those who embrace this vision of
20:58
history find it imperative to add an
21:00
additional moral dimension to their
21:02
study of the past one that is informed
21:04
by their Christian convictions the
21:07
validity of Gleason’s approach depends a
21:09
lot on how the place of moral criticism
21:11
is employed there is after all a
21:13
difference between a historian and a
21:16
moral philosopher Gleason’s first two
21:18
steps are certainly well within the role
21:20
of the historian but to ask if what
21:23
happened in the past was good leads to a
21:26
blurring of the disciplinary boundaries
21:28
between history and ethics and if we are
21:30
not careful can replace sound historical
21:34
thinking with moral criticism allow me
21:37
to illustrate this point from a typical
21:39
United States history survey course at
21:41
messiah college at an appropriate point
21:44
in the semester i give students copies
21:45
of documents written by 19th century
21:47
southerners theologians and ministers
21:50
mostly who defended the institution of
21:52
slavery these writings are completely
21:54
foreign to my students many of them are
21:57
appalled by the way that these
21:58
southerners use the Bible to justify
22:00
their peculiar institution they want to
22:03
immediately critique the arguments of
22:05
these men from the perspective of their
22:06
own moral and ethical commitments many
22:08
of them will offer insights from their
22:10
Bible or theology classes as arguments
22:13
for why these slaveholders misunderstood
22:15
the teachings of Scripture despite the
22:18
fact that the New Testament never
22:19
directly condemned slavery thinking
22:22
about the ethical dimensions of 19th
22:24
century slaveholding can be an
22:26
intellectually stimulating and a morally
22:29
helpful exercise but it should not be
22:31
the primary focus of a history classroom
22:34
historians are primarily after
22:37
understanding they must avoid what
22:39
historian Jim Legrand and my colleague
22:41
at Messiah has described as preaching
22:43
through history before condemning these
22:46
pro-slavery advocates history students
22:49
need to know why someone from the 19th
22:52
century would see the need to make such
22:54
a defense of slavery what was the
22:56
context in which these documents were
22:57
written who is the intended audience
22:59
what are the main issues at stake in the
23:02
author’s arguments it is important that
23:04
students enter into the world of a slave
23:06
holder and make an effort to empathize
23:08
with them no matter how repulsed they
23:11
are by his words in the end engaging the
23:14
past in this way could eventually result
23:16
in a much more nuanced and rich critique
23:20
of pro-slavery views finally Christians
23:25
have approached the study of the past of
23:26
the doctrine of creation and the belief
23:28
in the incarnation of Jesus Christ a
23:30
belief in a god who creates implies that
23:33
there is inherent value in studying the
23:35
works of his creation including the
23:37
history of interactions among human
23:39
beings who have inhabited the creative
23:41
world created world through time an
23:44
incarnation Allah proach to history
23:46
affirms that God revealed himself most
23:48
completely in the material world John 1
23:51
it suggests that the material world is
23:53
important because it is the locus in
23:55
which the word became flesh the stuff of
23:58
earth thus merits scholarly and
24:00
intellectual consideration in all its
24:02
realms belief in Christ and His
24:04
redemptive work on our behalf requires
24:06
obedience and submission to God’s
24:08
commands in every aspect of our lives to
24:12
confess the gospel naturally results in
24:14
the acknowledgments of God’s sovereignty
24:16
over all creation and all fields of
24:19
inquiry now it is hard to argue with
24:21
this Christian approach to thinking
24:23
about history the Incarnation is the
24:25
theological idea that must drive every
24:27
Christians understanding of the past
24:29
it offers a Christian reason for paying
24:31
attention to all the past whether it is
24:34
relevant or not well while such a method
24:36
offers a much-needed philosophical and
24:38
theological justification or starting
24:41
point for why the study of the past is
24:43
important it does not offer much in
24:45
terms of how Christian faith might apply
24:47
to the actual doing of history what does
24:51
such an incarnation Allah proach to the
24:52
study of the past look like for example
24:54
in a middle school classroom should
24:57
Christians acknowledge or simply assume
24:58
their Christian presuppositions about
25:00
the past and once acknowledged or assume
25:02
go ahead and study the past just like
25:04
everyone else creation and the
25:06
Incarnation or theological starting
25:08
points that all Christians should affirm
25:10
but they do not help us very much in
25:12
actual practice now I want to offer
25:16
Christians a slightly different approach
25:18
to thinking about the past it is an
25:21
approach that avoids the danger of
25:23
present mindedness the certainty of
25:25
providential ism and the temptation to
25:28
trade history for moral criticism while
25:31
it is grounded in the idea that all of
25:32
the past is important because is the
25:34
because it is the ongoing work of God’s
25:36
creation it offers a more practical
25:38
benefit for Christians in studying the
25:40
past and at the same time intersects
25:43
with some of the best and most recent
25:44
scholarship of historical thinking my
25:47
argument is this the study of history
25:50
can help us mature spiritually now what
25:53
do I mean by that scholars of historical
26:01
thinking and I’m particularly thinking
26:03
here about Sam Weinberg and is masterful
26:06
historical thinking and other unnatural
26:08
acts get this book if you’re a history
26:10
major read this book it is a phenomenal
26:13
introduction to historical thinking
26:16
Weinberg has argued convincingly that it
26:19
is the very strangeness of the past that
26:21
has the best potential to change our
26:23
lives in positive ways those who are
26:26
willing to acknowledge the past is a
26:27
foreign country a place where they do
26:29
things differently than we do in the
26:31
present set off on a journey of personal
26:34
transformation Weinberg rights it is
26:37
this past one that initially initially
26:40
leaves us befuddled or worse just
26:43
playing board that we need most if we
26:46
are to achieve the understanding that
26:47
each of us is more than the handful of
26:49
labels described to us at birth and
26:52
encounter with the past and all its
26:54
fullness void as much as possible if
26:57
present minded agendas can cultivate
26:59
virtue in our lives such an encounter
27:02
teaches as empathy humility selflessness
27:05
and hospitality by studying history we
27:09
learn to listen to voices that differ
27:11
from our own we lay aside our moral
27:14
condemnation about a person idea or
27:16
event from the past in order to
27:18
understand it this is the essence of
27:21
intellectual hospitality the act of
27:23
interpreting a primary source with
27:25
students becomes the equivalent of
27:27
inviting a person from the past into our
27:30
classrooms and this applies to a college
27:32
professor a high school teacher anyone
27:34
who teaches the pass even someone
27:36
working at a historical society or
27:37
museum educator by taking the time to
27:40
listen to people from a foreign country
27:42
we rid ourselves of the selfish quest to
27:45
make the past serve our needs the study
27:47
of the past reminds us that we are not
27:49
autonomous individuals but part of a
27:53
human story that is larger than
27:55
ourselves Weinberg sums it up well and
27:58
probably one of my favorite quotes about
28:00
the way in which historians do their
28:02
work Weinberg rights for the narcissist
28:05
sees the world both past and present in
28:08
his own image mature historical
28:12
understanding teaches us to do the
28:13
opposite to go beyond the fleeting
28:16
moment in human history into which we
28:18
have been born to go beyond our brief
28:21
life to go beyond our own image history
28:24
educates literally to lead outward in
28:28
the Latin in the deepest sense of the
28:31
subjects in the secular curriculum it is
28:34
the best at teaching those virtues once
28:36
reserved for theology humility in the
28:39
face of our limited ability to know and
28:41
awe in the face of the expanse of
28:44
history are we willing to allow history
28:48
to educate us to lead us outward
28:53
Weinberg’s reference to theology is
28:55
worth further exploration
28:57
again in his book the theology of public
29:00
life Charles Matthews at the illusion at
29:02
the University of Virginia argues that
29:04
Christians today are afflicted by the
29:06
sin of escapism the desire to flee from
29:09
God and each other God wants us to turn
29:12
toward him but he also wants us to turn
29:14
toward each other in the process of
29:17
loving our neighbor for Matthews such a
29:19
practice by the way goes to the heart of
29:21
civic life we grow as Christians through
29:24
the virtues cultivation through
29:26
engagement with public life Matthews
29:28
writes the souls of Christians may be
29:30
purified in and through their public
29:33
engagements now what have we viewed the
29:36
study of the past as a form of public
29:38
engagement even if the person we engage
29:42
is dead we can still enter into a
29:44
conversation with the sources that he or
29:47
she has left behind in a passage
29:50
strikingly familiar to Weinberg’s
29:52
thoughts on the discipline of history
29:53
Matthews argues that when we encounter
29:56
people in all their strangeness we quote
29:58
find ourselves decentered we find that
30:01
we are no longer the main object of our
30:03
purposes but participate in something
30:05
not primarily our own songs as if
30:08
Weinberg read Matthews or vice versa
30:10
hear this confession then is itself a
30:13
turning to the other not in the interest
30:15
of mutual narcissism which makes the
30:17
other only a consolation prize for
30:20
having to for having to be already
30:21
ourselves but as an openness to
30:24
transforming and being transformed by
30:26
the other if we take the imago Dei
30:29
seriously the notion that all human
30:31
beings are created in the image of God
30:32
then we should also take seriously the
30:35
idea that those who lived in the past
30:36
were also created in God’s image the
30:39
very act of studying humanity past or
30:42
present can be what Matthews calls quote
30:45
an exploration into God a mode inquiring
30:49
God an account unquote and encounter
30:52
with the past that’s becomes an act I
30:54
would argue of spiritual devotion this
30:57
kind of encounter quote from Matthews
31:00
again provides more than enough
31:01
opportunities for humility and penance
31:03
recognition of one sin in the sins of
31:06
others and a deepening appreciation of
31:08
the terrible all
31:09
fullness of God’s providential governing
31:12
of the world indeed involvement in
31:15
public life today may itself
31:16
increasingly need some such a set
31:18
ascetical discipline in other words and
31:23
it’s unquote in other words history is
31:25
not only a discipline in the sense that
31:27
philosophy or literary criticism or
31:29
sociology or disciplines it is also a
31:31
discipline in the sense that it requires
31:33
patterns of behavior such as the denial
31:36
of the self that are necessary in order
31:38
to meet the other in a hospitable way
31:41
doing history is not unlike the kind of
31:44
disciplines we employ in our spiritual
31:46
lives disciplines that take the focus
31:48
off of us and put it on God or others if
31:50
this is true then prayer a reliance on
31:54
the Holy Spirit’s power and other
31:57
spiritual practices should provide help
31:59
in the pursuit of the kind of
32:00
self-denial hospitality charity and
32:03
humility needed to engage the past in
32:05
this way and allow ourselves to be open
32:07
to the possibility of it transforming us
32:09
how often do we pray over our scholarly
32:13
or academic historical work and i don’t
32:16
mean prayer for helping for help in
32:18
getting the paper done on time or a
32:20
prayer that we keep our sanity amid the
32:22
heavy workload i mean a prayer that the
32:25
lord would use our encounter with the
32:27
past to transform us to help us live
32:30
with the illusion Scott McKnight calls
32:31
the jesus creed loving God and loving
32:33
others like any type of public
32:36
engagement encounter with the strangest
32:38
of the past inevitably leads to
32:40
contemplation of the mysteries of
32:42
Providence the sovereignty of god and
32:44
the cultivation of that holy terror that
32:47
is integral to true piety it forces us
32:50
to love others even a 19th century slave
32:53
holder when they have first glance
32:55
seemed to be unlovable failure to
32:58
respect the people in the past is
32:59
ultimately a failure of love it is a
33:03
failure to recognize the common bond
33:05
that we share with humanity it is a
33:07
failure to welcome the stranger moreover
33:10
when we uncover symbol but sinful
33:12
behavior in the past it should cause us
33:14
to examine our own imperfect and flawed
33:16
lives this kind of engagement as
33:19
Matthew’s puts it quote brings us
33:22
repeatedly against the stub
33:23
and bear their nests of the people we
33:25
meet in public life it teaches us again
33:28
and again the terrible lesson that there
33:30
are other people other ideals other
33:32
points of view that we can see and
33:34
appreciate even if we cannot inhabit
33:36
them and remain ourselves the discipline
33:40
of history requires us to apply apply
33:42
james 119 to our lives we must be quick
33:46
to hear slow to speak and slow to become
33:48
angry this does not mean that we have to
33:51
agree with every idea we encounter in
33:53
the past sometimes we cannot have to use
33:55
Matthews words inhabit an idea and still
33:58
remain ourselves but education to be led
34:02
outward does require a degree of risk
34:06
without taking a risk without being open
34:09
to transformation liberal education
34:11
cannot happen self-denial rights
34:15
historian mark Swain is a willingness to
34:18
surrender ourselves for the sake of a
34:19
better opinion wisdom is the discernment
34:24
of when it is reasonable to do so a
Christian who studies the past must be
prudent she must be slow to speak and
quick to listen to the people she meets
in the past and she must pray for wisdom
in order to illustrate what this might
look like in a classroom again I will
return to the example about teaching
text written by 19th century pro-slavery
intellectuals just like everyone else in
my class kevin was appalled that the
arguments contained in these documents
but by entering into a conversation with
their authors and being open to letting
these writers change him he became a
better Christian Kevin learned that
plantation owners often argued that
slavery was justified because
slaveholders treated their labor force
slaves better than the burgeoning
capitalists of the north treated their
immigrant laboring classes slaves were
clothed fed Christianized and usually
worked 10 hours a day northern
industrial laborers living in an age
before the usual benefits afforded the
workers today work 16-hour days were
paid so poorly that they could not feed
themselves or their families and
generally live lives that were much
worse than those of southern slaves how
dare the northern abolitionists and
capitalist claim the moral high ground
how dare they accuse slaveholders of
immorality while all the while turning a
blind
to the plight of the working class
slaves in their midst the South’s
anti-capitalist feudalism offered as
historians Elisabeth Fox gen of AC and
Eugene Jenna Vaisey have shown one of
the most powerful critiques of
industrialization in 19th century
America kevin was convinced that the
slaveholders criticism of northern
industry did not take them off the moral
hook slavery was still a reprehensible
and sinful practice nor was Kevin sure
that this defense of slavery was valid
the northern workers may have had it
rough perhaps even rougher than the
slaves but what at least they were free
kevin did however learn to be cautious
about condemning others before hearing
their side of the story his response to
these writers was not a knee-jerk moral
criticism but a thoughtful engagement
with historical texts that taught him a
valuable lesson about removing the log
from your own eye before taking the
speck out of the eye of another Kevin
listen to the slaveholders he understood
them he empathized with them he saw them
as fellow human beings he realized that
some of their flaws were also present in
his own life and his relationships with
others and in the process he was in a
small way changed are not these the
kinds of transformative encounters that
we as Christians all want to experience
36:53
it seems likely that dozens and dozens
36:56
of such encounters would not only
36:57
produce a liberally educated person but
36:59
a person of Christian character as well
37:01
I wish I could say that Kevin is
37:04
representative of the way most students
37:06
approach historical texts and I think
37:08
that historians in the room might agree
37:09
with me it is not indeed we have much
37:13
work to do but his case reveals that
37:16
real transformation is possible when we
37:18
are exposed to opinions that we
37:20
naturally find uncomfortable student to
37:22
the past do not have to agree with
37:24
slaveholders to learn something from
37:25
them even if it only reminds them that
37:27
we like the authors of these texts are
37:30
flawed imperfect creatures in need of
37:32
redemption this is what history can do
37:35
and this is why Christians must study it
37:37
we need to practice history not because
37:40
it can win us political points in the
37:42
culture wars or help us push our social
37:44
and cultural agendas forward but because
37:46
it has the amazing potential to
37:48
transform our lives
37:50
fortunately those Christians who believe
37:52
that the United States was founded as a
37:54
Christian nation have no particular
37:56
interest in pursuing the discipline of
37:57
history moreover popular historians on
38:01
the left and I’ll name names here I
38:03
mentioned David Barton I mean people
38:05
like Howard Zinn for example fall victim
38:07
to the same historical sins so I ask
38:11
again what is a historian to do now I’m
38:15
working on an answer to this question as
38:17
part of my next project but in the
38:18
meantime I think we need to get out of
38:20
the ivory tower and be in the business
38:21
of teaching the public how to think
38:23
historically historians as historians
38:27
need to bring the benefits of this kind
38:29
of historical thinking to churches civic
38:31
organizations community centers and
38:33
schools perhaps we should actively seek
38:36
to share our wisdom and insight at the
38:37
local Rotary Club meeting or in a Sunday
38:40
School class or in our daughter’s
38:42
fourth-grade classroom perhaps these
38:44
kinds of engagements or perhaps a
38:46
well-placed op-ed or an article in our
38:48
denominational magazine should count
38:51
towards tenure and promotion at places
38:53
like weaken or Messiah moreover we need
38:57
to train students that a career in the
38:59
ivory tower may not be the young
39:01
historians highest calling perhaps a
39:04
history major might have a greater
39:05
impact working at a local Historical
39:07
Society teaching students or bringing
39:10
the virtues of historical thinking to
39:12
the places where they choose to live
39:13
work and have their being even if they
39:16
do not find employment in a history
39:18
related field if done well the study of
39:22
history might just help contribute to a
39:23
ceasefire in our so-called culture wars
39:26
while history will never replace the
39:28
transforming power of the gospel to
39:31
change lives and influence our culture
39:33
it has the potential to contribute to a
39:35
moral society rooted in civility and to
39:38
bring an end to the shouting matches
39:40
whether it is debate over Christian
39:42
America or any hot button issue that
39:45
faces our society today thank you
39:54
you have time for questions questions
39:57
comments tomatoes whatever yeah
40:08
tell me we’re going to
40:14
nation’s history the people’s history
40:16
because yesterday that well i think i
40:21
think you know i’ll be Bobby blunt here
40:23
i think howard zinn’s a people’s history
40:24
the United States is another example of
40:26
what bailon calls indoctrination by
40:28
historical example you can believe
40:31
politically ins ins positions but I
40:34
don’t think it’s good history I mean the
40:35
best review i’ve actually read if howard
40:36
zinn’s people’s history comes from a
40:38
story of sort of left-wing historian of
40:41
populism who teaches at georgetown they
40:44
Michael Kaizen who wrote a scathing I
40:46
mean this is a person I think it’s the
40:47
editor of dissent magazine and this is a
40:50
person who is a you know clearly on the
40:52
left and probably shares most of Zins
40:54
politics and if you want to email me
40:57
I’ll send you the link i think you can
40:58
still find it online but he he you know
41:01
tears into this book saying it’s not i
41:03
mean it’s a pretty contentious pretty
41:05
you know maybe even nasty review saying
41:10
you know what sins doing it’s actually
41:12
hurting the left and hurting the sort of
41:14
you know the sort of intellectual
41:17
strength of the left the intellectual
41:19
robust nature of the left’s argument
41:22
because he’s pretty much just using the
41:24
past to sort of promote some kind of
41:25
agenda without looking at it in sort of
41:27
all it’s you know its complexity and
41:29
fullness so i would i would say people
41:31
like howard zinn are sort of a mirror
41:33
now again xin is not completely invested
41:35
in this christian america well actually
41:37
he’s not alive anymore but you know he’s
41:41
a mirror image and I think what David
41:42
Barton and others on the right are doing
41:45
you know it’s clearly history to promote
41:48
something in the present and you know
41:50
call it cherry-picking you know call it
41:52
whatever you want but it’s really one
41:54
side of the story nevertheless it’s a
41:56
great book it’s a great read you know
41:58
after I’ve actually enjoyed reading it i
42:00
think i read it multiple times but i’m
42:02
not sure it’s the best you know i don’t
42:03
think i’m not sure i would call good
42:04
history yeah yeah marcos once asked if
42:09
providential history and he said that he
42:13
hadn’t seen it done well ya see Matt go
42:16
up to my work could be done yeah and so
42:18
I was wondering what do you think of
42:21
that quote and where are your thoughts
42:23
on doing providential is I I I wish I
42:27
wish mark went on on that quote and said
42:29
you know I haven’t seen it done but this
42:32
is what it would look like I’m not
42:34
convinced at all that Providence is
42:36
helpful whatsoever to the historians
42:38
vocation now you know some collectors
42:41
that may mean I’m a bad Christian I
42:42
guess right but but I it’s just not you
42:45
know it’s just not a useful category for
42:47
for sort of historical analysis I mean
42:50
you know the providential historians the
42:54
way it’s often though it’s often used
42:55
you know by people on the Christian
42:58
national it’s on the right for example
42:59
you know God intervened here you know
43:01
the fog came up in August 1776 and and
43:04
the the content at de l’armée made it
43:06
across and escaped you know I I tend to
43:09
you know I grew up Catholic so maybe my
43:11
has a sense of appealing the mystery you
43:14
know that’s my sort of default position
43:15
rather than certainty but uh you know I
43:20
would say if you believe God is
43:21
sovereign right over all human history
43:23
you know to suggest well God intervened
43:25
here on October thirty-first 1517 you
43:29
know in the Protestant Reformation you
43:31
know it implies that God is interjecting
43:33
here but you know he hasn’t been
43:35
sovereign all through the other periods
43:36
of time you know this is where he
43:38
inserted himself for the cause of
43:39
Protestantism or the cause of America or
43:43
you know something to that effect so I
43:45
you know we use Providence in our own
43:49
spiritual lives all the time you know we
43:51
look back on our lives and we often say
43:53
you know I see the Lord led me there I
43:55
see the Lord took me down this path and
43:58
I’m wrestling with that myself you know
44:00
because I do that too i see well the
44:01
Lord directed me to this college I came
44:03
to wheaton and it changed everything you
44:05
know yeah one of the things I’m thinking
44:09
about in this new project it’s
44:10
tentatively called up it’s coming out
44:12
hopefully in 2012 with Brazos called the
44:15
power to transform a Christian
44:16
reflection on the past it’s a working
44:18
title I haven’t written a chapter on
44:21
Providence yeah
44:22
and I’m so I’ll plead ignorance at this
44:26
point but I really want to know what
44:28
that might look like someday maybe I’ll
44:30
ask mark what did what he means by that
44:32
but I’m yeah yeah
44:41
or hoping for transformation yeah how is
44:45
looking for transformation different
44:48
looking for moral lessons do they have
44:51
do they share kind of
44:54
well I think I think I think the
44:59
difference is you know when you’re using
45:01
the past to look for moral lessons you
45:04
know you know especially when it comes
45:06
to individuals right you know I want to
45:08
model myself after you know Jonathan
45:11
Edwards is my hero you know kind of
45:13
thing and I want to I want to be like
45:15
Jonathan Edwards and use him as a model
45:17
in an example I think what I’m trying to
45:22
suggest is that the transformation and
45:24
i’m debating this term too because i’m
45:27
actually my approach is sort of moving
45:29
away from the more sort of
45:30
epistemological discussions of this
45:32
right you know can there be christian
45:34
history you know these kinds of things
45:35
has really dominated a generation of
45:37
historians before me I’m much more
45:39
interested in you know how everybody who
45:44
writes about Christian history seem to
45:46
be American religious historians you
45:47
know there’s hardly is there’s not many
45:49
of us out there who are actually
45:50
reflecting on this question that don’t
45:52
study American religious history right
45:54
and and that’s where i’m coming from i’m
45:56
an early american historian by training
45:57
now I dabble in religion obviously this
46:00
book is all about religion but but you
46:02
know I teach in a history department I
46:04
teach us survey courses and civil war
46:06
and colonial America these kinds of
46:08
things I teach about economic life I
46:10
teach about markets I teach you about
46:12
you know these kinds of things you know
46:14
happen how does then approaching
46:17
something that seems completely
46:18
irrelevant or maybe doesn’t serve the
46:20
church in some way you know how can how
46:23
can my students engage in a sort of
46:26
world of you know get to know a medieval
46:28
peasant from whatever shards of evidence
46:31
are left behind and in the process
46:33
through that public encounter one is
46:36
transformed you don’t have to
46:38
necessarily say you know I like this guy
46:41
or you know I want to I want to learn a
46:44
moral lesson from him I’m not saying the
46:46
past can’t teach us more or lessons but
46:48
that’s not the sort of crux of the
46:49
argument I think that I’m making here I
46:51
think just an encounter with the past if
46:56
you know if again this is a lot of this
46:58
has to do with you know it needs to be
46:59
done in the sort of hands of a teacher
47:02
who understands that you know history is
47:05
not just about the facts
47:07
certainly is but there’s also these
47:08
historical thinking skills that that
47:10
comet different historians really offer
47:12
a different way of looking at the world
47:14
than most people that can be
47:16
transformative and again other
47:17
disappoints all four different ways of
47:18
thinking you know about the world so I’m
47:20
somewhat of a you know I’m somewhat of a
47:23
disciplinary guy I guess you know you
47:26
know I’m someone saying you know here’s
47:28
the discipline of history here’s how
47:29
historians work and what didn’t what can
47:33
that do you know to bring spiritual
47:36
growth even in our lives how can we
47:38
worship God or love God or love neighbor
47:40
through the discipline rather than you
47:43
know usually you know Christian colleges
47:45
it’s well we really get our spiritual
47:47
growth in the humanities you know from
47:50
you know the integration of various
47:52
disciplines or through some common core
47:54
curriculum or you know something i’m not
47:56
saying that you know other disciplines
47:58
can’t produce the same thing but but
48:01
what does how does the discipline of
48:04
history itself provide some kind of
48:07
spiritual sustenance or moral reflection
48:11
moral growth or yeah yeah Tracy we’re
48:19
just a wonderful wonderful song Thanks
48:22
I’m not going to take us back to the
48:23
vision for yes used to being the friend
48:26
oh there’s a lot of that in the book
48:30
that goes kind of those kind of events
48:32
well so so this is a Carson you thought
48:34
I feel bad I suspect how is it possible
48:38
if it is possible for
48:42
Christian scholars to enter into
48:45
constructive conversation you know in
48:48
some ways when you when I respond to a
48:50
question like that Tracy I sometimes I
48:52
just think about the kind of utopian
48:54
nature of everything that I’m saying
48:56
right I mean you know someone who’s been
48:58
in the classroom and tried to get
49:00
students to do this you know this is a
49:02
lofty ideal that I’m sort of throwing
49:04
out there that we can even you know
49:06
attempt to sort of pull this off you
49:09
know Kevin the example I gave is you
49:11
know very rare example one of the things
49:15
you know you know this book that I wrote
49:18
you know it’s in some ways picking up
49:21
where passional and marsden search for
49:24
Christian America left off right and i
49:28
think i think what distinguishes the two
49:30
books is number one I think mine is sort
49:33
of one authored work that has a little
49:35
bit more of a coherence than the you
49:37
know the individual essays that are in
49:38
that book but also Knoll hatchet marsden
49:40
were engaging a sort of late 70s early
49:43
80s sort of Francis Schaeffer Jerry
49:45
Falwell you know I’m more sort of
49:47
engaging with the bargains of the world
49:48
and the more contemporary but to get to
49:50
your question I reason I bring up that
49:53
book the search for Christian America is
49:55
you know some that some of these guys
49:58
have devoted themselves deeply to trying
50:00
to bring change in this area and and I
50:05
wrestle with this myself nothing’s
50:08
changed you know the scholars have not
50:12
really made a dent in this sort of
50:16
Christian nationalist culture now
50:19
they’ve probably made a dent among an
50:21
educated class of christian college
50:23
students who read this book in their
50:24
American Revolution class or something
50:26
like that right but they really haven’t
50:28
made a dent at all in fact I would even
50:29
argue since the appearance of these
50:31
books and this is nothing against those
50:32
historians I think since the appearance
50:34
of those books the Christian nationalist
50:36
sentiment for a variety of reasons
50:37
whether it be the Bush administration or
50:39
whatever has become stronger in some
50:42
ways so you know I mean one of the
50:47
things I tried to do with this book is
to to write it you know for a Christian
audience
50:53
I trying to publicize it in sort of
50:57
circles you know I’ve done 25 radio
interview so far for the book about 75%
of them have been on conservative talk
radio I’ve gotten hammered I mean I’ve
gotten you know it’s sometimes it’s been
a little ugly and I’ve just tried to try
to keep civility you know where I don’t
get I’m not allowed to have a word in
edgewise on this issue you know I mean
that’s somebody who said we were arguing
the other day about Thomas Jefferson’s
51:20
religion and I said well certainly
51:22
Jefferson was a nice guy was saying do
51:24
Jefferson was born again and it
51:26
certainly Jeffers certainly Jefferson
wasn’t an Orthodox Christian he rejected
the inspiration of the Bible the Trinity
even the resurrection you know well he
wasn’t an Orthodox Christian but he was
a believer you know how do you how do
you argue with that how do you you know
the beta and then okay and now you know
let’s go to the commercial break Oh
51:42
short of it so so in some ways I’m sort
51:45
of i’m sort of you know caught up in
51:49
these two minutes sound bites that I’m
51:50
sort of railing it I don’t know I
51:53
honestly don’t know how it you know I
51:55
mean now a positive example I taught a
51:58
five-week attend an evangelical free
51:59
church in insane where i live in
52:02
mechanicsburg i taught a five week class
52:06
on this book that was a wonderful
52:08
experience most of the people there had
52:12
read David Barton and that’s it and in a
52:15
face-to-face sort of community of people
52:17
there about 45 50 people who are in the
52:20
class it was a wonderful experience now
52:23
I don’t know if I convinced everyone but
52:25
there was this you know this so you know
52:27
i just got done reading day I James
52:29
Davis and hunters book to change the
52:30
world he talks about this idea of sort
52:33
of faithful presence you know you know
52:35
doing what you can in the places where
52:37
God has placed you whether that be
52:39
westshore evangelical free church you
52:41
know or the mosier’s know that church
52:43
right or or you know the local community
52:47
center or the rotor you know and is that
52:50
going to make a dent who knows but you
52:52
know hunter has some interesting things
52:53
to say they’re about the way a culture
52:54
gets changed now so I wish I could give
52:59
you some kind of definitive answer to
53:00
that but it’s it’s tough you know in
53:03
some ways you’re like a donkey feel like
53:05
a Don Quixote all the time
53:06
tilting at these windmills but you know
53:09
that’s our vocation right you know we
53:11
just keep hammering it we just keep
53:13
hammering at keep going it yeah oh I
53:16
think most if not all the people of
53:19
poach history in this way they are
53:21
speaking of that I’ve heard of our
53:25
historians professors yeah people with
53:27
doctors that kind of says to me that in
53:30
order to get to that point you have to
53:31
study and pursue it like crazy mm-hmm
53:34
and so do you see a possibility for
53:36
people with a history minor one side
53:39
major so like people looking at your
53:41
people that are you majoring in history
53:42
you see it possible for them to get this
53:46
perspective on history without digging
53:49
deeper than the standard textbook
53:55
it does i understand i’m thinking about
53:57
it it’s a good question you know how is
54:01
the casual sort of history buff you know
54:03
you’re probably right it’s obvious going
54:06
to take more reading than just the
54:07
standard textbook having said that you
54:09
know i’m optimistic on this again maybe
54:11
I’m a little too optimistic in this
54:13
whole presentation I’m very much aware
54:14
of that but um I’m optimistic in the
54:17
fact that you know there are you know
54:20
look at the look at the New York Times
54:21
bestseller list people do read history
54:23
you know people people are interested in
54:25
reading David McCullough and you know
54:28
barbara tuchman magus you little older
54:31
now or ron sure no on washington or
54:33
something to that effect but they might
54:38
be the people who might just have to be
54:39
willing to change their minds based upon
54:41
any time you know they might be open to
54:43
changing their minds is we the people
54:45
that read david art and are not really
54:47
you know they’re looking to have their
54:49
physician confirmed and they’re not
54:51
particularly interested in the
54:53
complexity and so forth of the past but
54:55
maybe you know it and I could be my
54:58
argument here could my problem here
54:59
could be sort of just the failure of us
55:01
being a sort of liberally educated
55:02
society to begin with you know that
55:05
could be that could be the issue but
55:09
it’s amazing though to me I mean I mean
55:11
this is this is why I continue to do
55:13
this I mean what’s amazing to me is that
55:14
there are Christians who are picking up
55:17
david barton it by the millions in some
55:19
cases and reading him and you know or
55:22
marshall and manual the light and the
55:24
glory you know you know i’m guessing if
55:27
you go into the typical sort of
55:29
evangelical household and they have one
55:31
history book it’s either going to be
55:32
something by david barton or something
55:33
by the late Peter Marshall and David
55:35
manual you know about providential
55:38
history and that’s so you know could
55:42
there be an alternative literature on
55:45
that that’s but again you need to be
55:46
careful i mean i remember the first time
55:48
i talked about this and again i’m deeply
55:50
committed to sort of going into these
55:52
local places and doing these things I
was in a retirement center and I was you
know I was young I was you know younger
dumber and you know i went in there like
the you know the academic you know i’m
going to show you that america wasn’t a
Christian nation you know in a very
conservative part of Pennsylvania

you know and I went in both guns blazing
you know and it was awful it was for me
it was him back you know I look back on
embarrassed by that because I was trying
to convince these people that everything
they believed all their life was wrong
and I was ready to slam it down their
throats and you know and fortunately
they invite me back I can’t believe why
they fight me back every twice a year to
speak but but um you know that’s not the
way to do it you know I mean there’s
there’s got to be a sort of sensitivity
and a grace associated with how to pull
this off and most academics aren’t sort
of in tune to you know wired to do that
56:45
but yeah yeah David as we see the danger
56:53
yeah we try to shy we’re possible
56:58
however writing history is it something
57:02
that our readers expect for
57:05
interpretation this is interesting i was
57:08
at a meet I was at a meeting of the
57:09
conference on faith in history out of
57:11
the way was six or eight years ago and
57:13
there was this graduate student I think
57:15
she was so calm Canada he might have
57:17
been from like British Columbia some
57:18
from University British Columbia who was
57:19
critiquing George Marsden’s biography of
57:21
jonathan edwards and was very upset
57:24
because it was such a detached you know
57:27
scholarly biography and this and this
57:30
woman was saying you know hey I’m a
57:32
Christian I wanted to know you know I
57:33
wanted to you know learn I know I wanted
57:36
to grow spiritually from from reading
57:38
you know I wanted to I wanted Marsden to
57:40
say yes and Edwards was right you know
57:42
we should know and actually marcin has
57:44
done that in other sort of essays and
57:46
non-academic places but you know she was
57:49
very disappointed at how d’italie on his
57:51
account of the Great Awakening right you
57:53
know this was this was God moving I want
57:55
to know this i want Marsden to tell me
57:57
this you know and and so so yeah I think
58:01
I think you’re everybody’s looking for
58:03
that in history and I just don’t think
58:08
that’s the historians primary task of
58:10
doing now it’s hard not to I’m not hit
58:12
sitting here arguing for some type of
58:14
objectivity or anything like that but
58:16
but I would argue we try as hard as we
58:18
can knowing limits to sort of tell the
58:20
truth and this is sort of how we believe
58:22
it happened you know someone else could
58:24
be doing the same thing and come up with
58:25
a completely different different
58:26
orientation I’m not suggesting that you
58:28
know but yeah I mean the past the it’s
58:32
two sides of the same coin I mean on one
58:35
hand I’ve stressed strangeness and far
58:37
in this and difference and so forth but
58:40
there is another side of that coin right
58:42
the past does speak to the present it
58:44
does help us to understand the
58:45
complexities of our world today you know
58:48
it should in some ways provide us with
58:50
some kind of guidance in the present and
58:53
so forth but they’re the danger becomes
58:54
just making the past little more than
58:56
sort of a useful you know it’s what’s
58:58
good for us and you know that’s that’s
59:00
the danger when you go that direction
59:01
but certainly that’s an important part
59:03
of it yeah
59:05
so I’m just wondering so with with your
59:09
take on on how history is supposed to be
59:11
on how history supposed to be practice
59:13
are all other disciplines when they
59:15
approach history only practicing a
59:16
pseudo history that it seemed to be what
59:19
I am didn’t it yeah I’ve said this and
59:22
had colleagues at Messire just you know
59:24
you know grow me on this you know but I
59:27
actually had an English major in a class
59:30
where I dementia miss and she was very
59:31
upset that you know literature you know
59:33
engaging with you know and and I would
59:35
agree but I do think I mean history is a
59:39
separate discipline I think for a reason
59:42
you know we do we do sort of approach
59:46
the past with with the purpose of trying
59:49
to understand what happened good or bad
59:51
and all its sort of complexities rather
59:55
than using the past you know
59:57
sociologists might use the pass but the
60:00
whole purpose right or point of a
60:01
sociologist using the past if we’re give
60:03
me for you sociology majors here right
60:05
is to is to provide some necessary sort
60:08
of background for the point that they
60:09
want to make you know in the present or
60:12
how their study of human behavior
60:14
affects the way we live today again the
60:17
hit past the his study of history can do
60:19
that but I don’t think that’s the
60:20
primary purpose and i can’t speak with
60:23
any degree of authority to the way other
60:24
disciplines do it but there is something
60:28
unique pick up weinberg it’s a great
60:30
great did you know Weinberg Tracy when
60:32
you were at UW with you or never got to
60:35
know him yeah are you familiar with the
60:37
book I mean it’s a great yeah it’s a
60:38
great I use it with my teachers i teach
60:41
a i teach a history sort of teaching
60:45
history course and that’s the sort of
60:48
foundational text in that course yeah
61:05
I just question like I’m not sure how
61:09
conceptually your
61:23
if that’s it
61:28
well I think there’s there’s debate
61:31
among historians torian’s about the role
61:35
of empathy I have a colleague in my own
61:37
Department who believes it’s impossible
61:40
to empathize in the pen you know you can
61:41
be example of you know you can’t
61:43
empathize with Hitler there’s the danger
61:44
of you’ll you’ll buy into what he’s
61:46
saying you know something to that effect
61:48
I mean it Hayden white and others have
61:51
other sort of theorists have sort of
61:54
made this same case that empathy is not
61:56
I tend to disagree i mean i think i
61:58
think empathy and understanding is at
62:02
the core of the discipline i mean you
62:03
need to you need to learn to listen to
62:06
someone else to walk in their shoes if
62:08
it means I mean that’s that isn’t the
62:11
method that i’m referring to now you
62:13
could walk in the shoes of someone that
62:15
you Fred’s I said at the talk that you
62:17
might find morally reprehensible I think
62:20
history requires us to do that and to at
62:24
least understand you know what the world
62:27
needs to understand something about the
62:28
world in which they lived and understand
62:31
something about you know how they how
62:33
they engaged with that world so again
62:38
I’m not sure I’m answering your question
62:39
or not but I mean I think I think it’s a
62:42
fundamental difference from from sort of
62:44
looking for the past simply for moral
62:46
lessons you know help us live better in
62:51
the present it’s it’s it’s encountering
62:54
the foreign country you know i i’d like
62:58
to think that empathy you know i’d like
63:00
to think history you know I tell us to
63:01
my students all the time I think by
63:02
studying history you learn to understand
63:04
people that are different from you and
63:06
nice this actually may be a transferable
63:09
skill if you want to use that phrase
63:10
that that might actually help you get
63:12
along better with the person in the
63:14
cubicle next to you that you might not
63:15
like in your first job you know because
63:17
you learn you learn these kinds of
63:19
skills about empathize and how to listen
63:27
all right thank you very much everyone I
63:30
appreciate your attention

Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? “Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights, and Christian America”

John Fea’s Virtual Office Hours: Fall 2015 Season – Episode 12

00:08
greetings everyone and welcome to the
00:10
virtual office hours this is episode 12
00:12
of our fall 2015 season my name is John
00:16
fee I’m your host here I teach American
00:19
history at messiah college Abby Blakeney
00:21
our producer as usual behind the camera
00:23
she’s back from Thanksgiving break which
00:26
basically means after today we only have
00:28
two more office hours to do here in our
00:31
fall season and as you really recall we
00:34
are thinking about the place of America
00:38
as the role of America should say as a
00:42
Christian nation and how people
00:44
perceived of America throughout much of
00:47
American history how people perceive
00:49
themselves as living in a Christian
00:50
nation some of you remember that July
00:54
hopefully in July sometimes in the
00:56
summer the second edition of my book was
00:58
America founded as a Christian nation
01:00
will be out so we will be revisiting
01:03
we’re here revisiting that things are
01:04
getting ready for that release now again
01:07
just a caveat I’ve been making this
01:09
caveat before when we talked about the
01:11
idea that Americans believed that they
01:14
were living in a Christian nation we of
01:16
course are stating that historically
01:19
that’s a historical statement it’s not
01:21
an ethical statement it’s not a moral
01:23
statement so again if you want to argue
01:26
with my premise here that America it has
01:29
always seen itself as living in a
01:31
Christian nation what you would need to
01:33
do is you would need to look at the
01:35
evidence I’ve mounted both in the book
01:37
and over the course of the last 11
01:38
episodes and try to suggest that no
01:42
Americans didn’t think that they were
01:44
living in a nation that was Christian
01:46
that would be a historical critique of
01:49
what I’m doing as opposed to it so the
01:50
ethical or political critique to say
01:52
people are wrong for believing that that
01:55
they lived in a Christian nation this is
01:58
again the difference between historical
02:00
thinking and other kinds of thinking my
02:04
point is historically whether they were
02:06
right or wrong whether they were
02:07
following what the founders truly
02:09
believed America has always understood
02:12
themselves as living in a Christian
02:15
nation at least up until the 1970s as
02:17
we’ll see you next week or maybe the
02:18
week
02:18
after today I want to focus on civil
02:22
rights movement now religion and
02:25
christianity has been a dominant theme
02:28
recently in among scholars who were
02:30
writing about the civil rights movement
02:32
and the way they’re writing methyl
02:34
Christianity and forms are had informed
02:37
the civil rights movement thinking here
02:39
especially of David Chappelle’s book
02:41
stone of hope in which he points to an
02:44
Old Testament prophetic tradition that
02:47
that really defined the vision of the
02:50
civil rights movement what I want to
02:52
focus on quickly with you today’s I want
02:54
to think about one particular episode in
02:56
the civil rights movement and that is
02:57
Martin Luther King Junior’s visit to the
02:59
city of Birmingham in April set of 1963
03:03
it’s in that year that King come South
03:06
comes to Alabama to fight against
03:09
segregation in that city many of you
03:11
know the story he is eventually put into
03:14
prison by the public safety commissioner
03:17
of the city Eugene Bull Connor and while
03:20
he is in prison he writes what becomes
03:22
known one of it as one of his most
03:24
famous pieces of writing the letter from
03:26
a Birmingham jail now that letter is
03:29
written from prison obviously and it’s
03:31
addressed to the white clergy in the
03:35
city of Birmingham and most of these
03:37
white clergy that he’s writing to
03:39
believe that segregation should be
03:41
handled locally they don’t like king
03:43
they think he’s an outside agitator
03:45
who’s coming in and disrupting the good
03:48
order of the city which is pretty much
03:50
based upon racial segregation so King
03:54
writes this letter it’s published it’s
03:55
put out in the pamphlet form so it gets
03:57
a kind of national ventually gets a kind
03:59
of national audience and it’s a
04:01
fascinating argument because on one hand
04:03
King is arguing for a a nationalist
04:08
vision right where there is if there’s
04:11
injustice anywhere or injustice anywhere
04:14
i should say is a threat to justice
04:15
everywhere in other words he’s a
04:20
challenging localism he’s challenging
04:22
the idea that local governments local
04:26
clergy get to decide what is right and
04:29
what is wrong on this
04:30
question of race and thus challenging
04:32
segregation in the process so he appeals
04:34
to people like Abraham Lincoln and
04:36
others these great figures of American
04:39
nationalism to say you know we you know
04:42
we have to we have to stop the kind of
04:44
localism that’s going on we have to stop
04:47
these local prejudices and local ideas
04:49
especially if they’re challenging what
04:51
he believes is justice and king secondly
04:56
sort of defines justice through his
04:59
vision of what it means to be a
05:01
Christian so he’s making constant
05:03
appeals in the in letter from a
05:05
Birmingham jail about just laws and
05:08
unjust laws right he’s referencing
05:10
people like everybody from Agustin to
05:13
Aquinas to Paul Tillich the modern
05:17
theologian to he’s going back to the
05:19
Bible and showing how Shadrach Meshach
05:22
and Abednego in the Old Testament
05:24
challenged King Nebuchadnezzar who is
05:27
putting an unjust law upon them so this
05:31
idea of civil disobedience is rooted in
05:33
the Bible it’s rooted in theology at the
05:38
same time then King is bringing these
05:41
two ideas together this idea of
05:43
nationalism vers / localism and this
05:47
Christian idea of justice to suggest a
05:49
new vision for the nation which is going
05:52
to be defined by the idea that we are
05:55
indeed a judeo-christian country and we
05:58
must live up to the principal’s not only
06:01
of our founding fathers but the
06:02
principles as well of God I think he
06:06
summarizes this very very well in
06:09
towards the end of the letter and if I
06:12
can just find it here I want to make
06:15
sure i get the wording right where he
06:17
says he basically says he reminds the
06:20
birmingham clergy here that he’s
06:22
standing up for quote what is best in
06:25
the American dream and for the most
06:27
sacred values in our judeo-christian
06:30
heritage thereby bringing our nation
06:32
back to those great wells of democracy
which were dug deep by the founding
fathers in their formulation of the
06:39
constant
06:39
tution and the Declaration of
06:41
Independence again it’s a powerful
06:43
convergence here of American values
06:46
national values and Christian values and
06:50
King is calling us to a sort of
06:52
different kind of Christian nation a
06:54
sort of beloved community in which
06:56
people are not judged by race or by the
06:58
color of their skin so clearly here even
07:02
Martin Luther King a man of the left a
07:04
man of the civil rights movement makes
07:07
his case based upon many of these
07:11
Christian nationalists kind of
07:14
sentiments that we’ve seen all the way
07:16
in American history all the way from all
07:18
the way back in the early 19th century
07:20
we have two more episodes to go will
07:23
hopefully get to the end of the
07:24
twentieth and twenty-first century here
07:26
in the meantime thanks for watching and
07:29
we’ll see you next time