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 also 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.
I enjoy science fiction, and one genre within the world of science fiction is that of utopian visions of the future. I have just finished reading Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (1626), a description of an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru.
There were a few serendipitous moments as I read Bacon's vision of a utopian society. For instance, I was surprised at the Christian identity of the island, but even more so at the way in which the island became Christian.
Emreculha, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
The recent Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region is a reminder of some pressing issues Christians need to consider when shaping informed opinions on two key matters related to warfare: territory and technology.
The following is a new article of mine published in the Journal of Presbyterian HIstory - click here for the link. It deals with interwar attitudes to war among Canadian Presbyterians. The full bibliographical information is as follows: Gordon L. Heath, “Canadian Presbyterians and the Rejection of Pacifism in the Interwar Years, 1919-1939,” Journal of Presbyterian History 98, 2 (Fall/Winter 2020): 67-77.
Image from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Armeniangenocidemap.gif
Today I presented a paper entitled "'The accursed partnership of Turk and Teuton': American Churches and the Armenian Genocide". The paper examines the reaction of American churches in the First World War to the devastation of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
If you would like read the research in more detail, see my chapter in The Globalization of Christianity: Implications for Christian Ministry and Theology.
For an analysis of how Canadian churches responded to the genocide, see my chapter in Canadian Churches and the First World War.
For the implications of the genocide for the teaching of global Christianity, see my article in McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry.
Sycophant: “someone who shamelessly does anything to please one’s leader or promote one’s political party”
Having watched what seems to be endless politicking for the past few years, I have made a checklist of actions that poison civil political discourse. What I find vexing and distressing is that Christians seem zealous to enter into the folly of such dysfunctional political engagement.
I have no desire to see Christians disengage from political action – I just wish that they would go about it in a less partisan, toxic, and harmful way. Thus, my little list to identify sycophantic behavior that harms Christian witness, dehumanizes people, destroys relationships, poisons civic engagement, and undermines national unity.
One of my interests in life is reading old newspapers and seeing how people in the past responded to current events. As Remembrance Day approaches, here are some glimpses of how those in the past reacted to the end of one of the world’s worst conflicts. The following images remind us of many things, one being the enormous sacrifices made – may we never forget.
If you think today’s media is wildly biased, spewing vitriolic commentary, and destroying the fabric of the nation, you need to read up on early twentieth-century reporting during wartime Canada. It was so bad that one commentator wrote: “This prostitution of a great privilege…is the darkening curse of Canadian journalism.”
The issue then was support for the nation’s war effort. It was a hostile binary world of French (Catholic) versus English (Protestant), and the tensions – stoked by the irresponsible and partisan media – turned to violence as rioters took to the streets in Quebec.
With the US in the midst of an election, and Canada teetering on one, there is wisdom be gained by looking back to a time when the media had run amok and was tearing the nation apart.
Image of Pelagius taken from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pelagius_from_Nuremberg_Chronicle.jpg
The history of Christian theological debate is far from stellar. Accounts of violence are endemic, marring the witness of the church. For those today mired in theological disputes, there is one brief description in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History(731) that is a pithy helpful reminder of what to do (or not to do) when passions over doctrine are running high.
As I noted in my previous blog, I finished reading the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People (c. 731) this past summer. There was much to note, but one thing that caught my attention were his comments on the making of a worship leader.
Surprisingly, the metaphor used for drawing on one’s theological training in ministry was “chewing the cud.”
Image of Bede is entitled "The Last Chapter" by J. Doyle Penrose (1902). Image from public domain.
I am embarrassed to admit it, but it took me twenty years as a professor of Christian history to finally get around to reading the entirety of the Venerable Bede’s The Ecclesiastical History of the English People (c. 731). But I did it this summer, and it was worth the wait.
There is much to say about the book, with its fascinating descriptions of saints and sinners, relics and miracles, missionaries and monarchs, and church divisions and unions. But what I want to address here is how the text stirs the imagination when it comes to post-Christendom missions and possibilities.