Daily Archives: 9 Dec 2016

Do To Others … America, Russia, and Elections

A lot of Americans are very exercised over the suggestion that Russia meddled in our recent election.  The widespread handwringing would be amusing were it not so hypocritical.

Mind you, I dislike the notion that anyone interefere with the due process of democratic elections but I find it necessary to point out that America has meddled in the elections of other countries for a very long time and very few of us were concerned about those usurpations of the democratic process.

Our country has propped up vile dictators all around the world while simultaneously silencing the voices of the people.  So now that there’s just a suggestion that it has been done to us all of a sudden we care?  Why didn’t we care before?

Perhaps if we don’t want our elections toyed with we should stop doing it to others.  Or, barring that, at least drop the act of pretend moral outrage when someone does it to us.  If you aren’t upset when you do it, you aren’t allowed to be upset when it’s done to you.

The SCSC Prize Winners!

Book Prizes:

Roland H. Bainton Prizes:

History/Theology: Robin Barnes, Astrology and Reformation (Oxford University Press, 2015)

Literature: Christopher Warren, Literature and the Law of Nations, 1580-1680 (Oxford University Press, 2015)

Art History: Katelijne Schiltz, Music and Riddle Culture in the Renaissance (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

Reference: Kevin Killeen, Helen Smith, Rachel Willie, The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, c. 1530-1700. (Oxford University Press, 2015)

Gerald Strauss Book Prize:

Katherine Hill, Baptism, Brotherhood, and Belief in Reformation Germany: Anabaptism and Lutheranism, 1525-1585 (Oxford University Press, 2015)

Article/Essay Prizes

Nancy Lyman Roelker Prize:

Morgan Ng, “Collage, Architectural Inscription, and the Aesthetics of Iconoclasm in Jacques Perret’s Des fortifications et artifices (1601)” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 45.3 (2015)

Harold Grimm Prize:

Rady Roldán-Figueroa, “Martín de Roa, S.J. (1559-1637) and the Consolidation of Catholic Literary Culture in Spain” European History Quarterly 45, no. 1 (2015): 5-33

SCSC Literature Prize:

Eleanor Hubbard, “I Will Be Master of What Is Mine Own: Fortune Hunters and Shrews in Early Modern London” SCJ (2015)

Carl S. Meyer Prize:

William Keene Thompson, “Conflict and Compromise in an English Parish: Long Melford Under Edward VI” presented at SCSC Vancouver 2015

Congrats to all the winners!

The Stunning Power of Guilt

Listen to this NPR story.  No. Words.  Just listen, and hear the terrifying power of guilt and its very long reach.

Lived Religion and the Long Reformation in Northern Europe c. 1300–1700

New at Brill- for you Church History peeps-

18265Lived Religion and the Long Reformation in Northern Europe puts Reformation in a daily life context using lived religion as a conceptual and methodological tool: exploring how people “lived out” their religion in their mundane toils and how religion created a performative space for them. This collection reinvestigates the character of the Reformation in an area that later became the heartlands of Lutheranism. The way people lived their religion was intricately linked with questions of the value of individual experience, communal cohesion and interaction. During the late Middle Ages and Early Modern Era religious certainty was replaced by the experience of doubt and hesitation. Negotiations on and between various social levels manifest the needs, aspirations and resistance behind the religious change.

Contributors include: Kaarlo Arffman, Jussi Hanska, Miia Ijäs, Sari Katajala-Peltomaa, Jenni Kuuliala, Marko Lamberg, Jason Lavery, Maija Ojala, Päivi Räisänen-Schröder, Raisa Maria Toivo.

The good folk at Brill have provided a review copy and that review will post by the week’s end.  The most engaging of the essays, to the present reviewer, was Appeal and Survival of Anabaptism in Early Modern Germany by Päivi Räisänen-Schröder.  This essay is the fourth chapter of ten and appears in the section titled Lived Religion in Daily Life.  The entire table of contents is available at the link above and will not be repeated here.

As to the essay of greatest interest, which will occupy us in what follows, it is an excellent example of the importance of perspective in historical research.  That is, researchers are obliged to examine historical periods from the point of view of someone other than the ‘victors’ who invariably ‘write history’.  In Räisänen-Schröder’s work we are treated to a really rather unique examination of the Anabaptist movement.  For example

To quote Benjamin Kaplan, it was quite possible to be “a friend to the person, yet an enemy to the cause”, as “one did not identify the individuals whom one knew personally – neighbors, relatives, fellow citizens, friends – with the remorseless, faceless ideologues who (one imagined) marched under the banner of those confessions” (p. 105).

Thus, we are disabused of the notion that the Anabaptists were universally despised.  Räisänen-Schröder also attends to primary sources, which are cited rather a lot throughout the essay, in order to allow us to see things from the Anabaptist side at first hand.  Of these Anabaptist texts, Räisänen-Schröder notes

Rather than treating them as expressions of their writer’s inner thoughts, I have read them as strategic narratives intended to present the writer in a certain light (p. 106).

So, for instance

Melchior Greiner, for his part, had criticized the lax moral standards of the Lutherans almost twenty-five years earlier, in 1574. He complained that attending the Lutheran Eucharist would force him to receive the sacrament together with “the unworthy”, “among whom he can see no repentance”.  He considered this a severe risk for his salvation (p. 111).

Who were these believers and why did they break from the dominant Churches?  Was it for theological reasons (as is often asserted) or because of something else.  Räisänen-Schröder shows us the apparent reason, when wryly writing

Especially among the rank-and-file members, being an Anabaptist was more a question of good practice than of correct doctrine (p. 115).

Theology took a back seat to morality in the minds of early Anabaptists in Germany.  This, naturally, calls into question the common consensus of research.  Furthermore, they were not viewed as theological heretics by their non-Anabaptist neighbors.

If Anabaptists were truly and generally believed to be heretics, denunciation would surely have resulted – any other course of action would have been too much of a “salvific risk”. Otherwise, we might have to reassess the fear of God’s wrath as a social and cultural force in Early Modern village society. This is a question that in my view has not been studied in sufficient depth and that, given the nature of the sources, is very difficult to answer (pp. 123-124).

Räisänen-Schröder concludes

Early Modern laypeople were less interested in theological doctrines and confessional distinctions than maintaining a set of beliefs, practices and values that helped them give meanings to and cope with the joys and hardships of life emotionally, intellectually and practically (p. 126).

Imagine, for a moment, that Lutheran Pastors and Church members had actually lived their faith and behaved ethically and morally… The Anabaptist movement may never have lasted past the disaster of Münster because its ethical impulses would have been found in Lutheranism.

The value of this essay, and many others in this helpful collection, is that it helps us to question the correctness of our preconceptions.  As such, it is extraordinarily educational and highly informative.  It does, in sum, what a good text is supposed to do: it makes us think about what we think.

Tolle, lege!

A Bit of Magic for your Friday…

Can Calvinism Make you Happy? Jon Balserak on the OUP Blog

Here.  Read it.

Calvinism is a bleak, oppressive form of Christianity.” The sentiment is a common one. Finding quotations like this one from John Calvin’s letter to the Catholic Cardinal Sadoleto may seem to confirm it. “Whenever I descended into myself or turned my eyes to you, extreme terror seized me, which no expiations or satisfactions could cure.” Here, we surmise, is the rotten heart of Calvinism: the lost soul searching for some kind of mercy only finds endless self-examination compounded by a terrifying vision of a merciless Creator. Powerful pieces of literature like Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and John Updike’s In the Beauty of the Lilies have helped to perpetuate this negative image, inserting it firmly into the modern consciousness.


An Addition to the ‘Useful Sites’ Segment of the Sidebar

Thanks to Christophe Chalamet for mentioning a journal on twitter which, upon visiting, I discovered is accessible online at e-periodica.ch.  The site has a fantastic search feature and you can actually see pages of print journals that have long been unavailable except to library visitors at very specific locations.

Thomas Oden’s Obituary

Mike Bird has it.  Oden was very good in his earlier days but admittedly went a bit off the rails in his latter.  Nonetheless, he was a good scholar and we all benefit from his work.  May he rest in peace.

Oden was a former liberal who turned “orthodox” after discovering the church fathers. He was deep in liberalism, writing his dissertation on Freud and Bultmann – kerygma and counselling. But the church fathers turned him towards the light of the evangelical and apostolic faith, for which he became a key advocate. He exposed the suicide of liberalism in his book Requiem: A Lament in Three Movements which is the best critique of liberal theology I’ve ever read (the second best is Thomas Reeves, The Empty Church). I will remember Oden for his attempt to advocate a form of “consensual Christianity,” which is basically C.S. Lewis’ “mere Christianity” reading the church fathers and John Wesley.