Friday, March 7, 2014

"The Christian Century" Reviews "Why Study History?"

John Turner has written a generous review of Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past at the website of The Christian Century magazine.  He reviews my book alongside Margaret Bendroth's excellent, The Spiritual Practice of Remembering.  Here is a taste:

So what are Christians to do with the good advice from these two muses? They should follow Fea’s advice to examine aspects of the past that initially repel them. Fea tells of a student with progressive views who chose to write a thesis about Jerry Falwell and the rise of the Christian right. He also recounts the reactions of students who read the diaries and sermons of slaveholding American Christians. It is easier to devote ourselves to historical subjects that we like or imagine to be more like us. Fea reports that his students have cultivated their capacities for empathy and compassion and became “better Christians.” Such encounters, Fea maintains, remind us that we are “imperfect creatures in need of improvement and redemption.”

Bendroth’s book is perfect in size and scope for adult education classes. Participants might reflect on their religious heritage and how it has shaped their place in today’s church. As she notes,
remembering involves more than organizing anniversary celebrations, publishing yearbooks, or hanging pictures of the church choirs on the walls. Churches need congregants who will tell stories about the life of the church, music directors who will provide the context for the composition of beloved hymns, and ministers who will incorporate the congregation’s messy and complex history into sermons.