My blog posts revolve around my interests and vocation as a historian: the intersection of history and contemporary church life, the intersection of history and contemporary politics, serendipitous discoveries in archives or on research trips, publications and research projects, upcoming conferences, and speaking engagements.
I sometimes blog for two other organizations, the Canadian Baptist Historical Society and the Centre for Post-Christendom Studies.
The views expressed in these blogs represent the views of the authors, and not necessarily those of any organizations with which they are associated.
Declining attendance. Rising disbelief. Vacant churches. Deficit spending. Lack of leaders. Harsh divisions. Loss of power. Increasing hostility. Those descriptions fit the experience of many in the post-Christendom western world. And for some, the future of the western church looks grim with no hope of returning to the glory days of the past.
I just finished my World and Writings of John Wesley course and submitted final grades. But even though I am formally done with teaching the course, I can’t stop thinking about a sermon John Wesley preached entitled “Of Former Times” based on Ecclesiastes 7:10.: “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.” (NIV)
I recently found this prayer in the Observer, the United Church's bi-weekly periodical. While it is published in the 1 August 1942 issue - right in the middle of the Second World War - I think it is still a prayer that could be used today (perhaps without the King James language).
This semester I am writing a book chapter on the Canadian churches and the Second World War. As I recently scrolled through the United Church’s bi-weekly periodical entitled the Observer I found a book review for Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”).
The context for the review was the opening months of the war, with Canadians adjusting to a conflict that they had hoped to avoid. The paper’s aim was to educate its readers on current issues, and so the editor thought it important to provide a review of the book in the January 1940 issue.
On the one hand, I was not surprised with the book review being in the paper. The churches at that time had a robust vision for social and political engagement, and to carry out their mission there was a need for a well-informed membership. And to be well informed in that day meant reading Hitler’s ideology and intentions as described so vividly in Mein Kampf.
On the other hand, I was surprised to see it because we live in a cancel culture today that seeks to block people from reading anything distasteful, offensive, or dastardly. And to promote a knowledge of such works seems foreign to many.
For the record, I agree with the paper’s editor on the issue of "knowing your enemies." As a general principle, I prefer knowing to not knowing, even if it means being informed about something as deeply offensive as Hitler’s racist tropes and hateful plans.