Hobby Lobby retail chain donates defunct Massachusetts campus to proposed C. S. Lewis College.
A few days after Christmas I caught up with some news stories about the sale of the boarding schools evangelist Dwight L. Moody founded for poor children in 1879 (the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies) and 1881 (the Mount Hermon School for Boys). Hat tip to Philadelphia journalist W. G. Shuster for the links.
The basic facts according to news reports:
- The Massachusetts schools had gone co-ed in 1971, consolidated on one campus in 2005, and needed to find an appropriate owner for the unused and deteriorating Northfield Campus.
- Hobby Lobby, a privately held retail chain with a Christian vision, purchased the property for a nominal $100,000 and a commitment to preserve the historic campus and building. They are planning to spend about $5 million in operations and capital improvement projects over the next few years.
- Hobby Lobby then donated the property to the C. S. Lewis Foundation, which since its founding in 1986 has been looking for a way to start a great books college based on a Christian educational vision.
- The C. S. Lewis Foundation (which earlier purchased and refurbished Lewis’s Oxford home known as “The Kilns” and holds periodic seminars there) plans to launch C. S. Lewis College on the Northfield campus in 2012 with an initial entering class of 400, a faculty of 40, and a staff of 45.
So what is the story behind the schools Dwight L. Moody founded and the campus that will soon take the name of C. S. Lewis?
Moses Stuart pioneered modern biblical study in America.
After returning from the most recent meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, noted New Testament scholar Dan Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary raised a longstanding concern. Qualified graduates of evangelical seminaries find it difficult to gain admission to prestigious biblical studies programs in the United States. The critical assumptions of the modern academy prohibit many evangelicals who regard the Bible as authoritative from being accepted by the scholarly guild.
This problem is certainly now new. But more than 500 comments on Wallace’s blog indicate that it still elicits strong reactions. Since the early 20th century, evangelicals have been treated as outcasts by some of the very schools their forebears founded. This reversal has obscured the historic role of evangelicals in bringing America up to date with German and British advances in biblical scholarship. Andover Seminary’s Moses Stuart in particular earned the title “Father of Biblical Science in America” for his distinguished career teaching generations of pastors and scholars at America’s first seminary.
As the Roman Catholic Church recognizes Hawaii's hero as a saint, what should we think about his chief posthumous critic?
It has been a good year for my old home state of Hawaii: it started the year with one of its own becoming President, and on October 11 one of its most famous heroes will officially become a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.
Even among Hawaii’s most Protestant Protestants, Damien de Veuster is praised as a man who exemplified incarnational, sacrificial ministry. The Belgian priest did not first go to the islands to minister to the Hansen's disease victims of the Kalaupapa colony on Molokai, but in 1873 he eagerly volunteered to minister.
“My Lord, remembering that I was placed under the pall on the day of my religious profession, thereby to learn voluntary death is the beginning of new life,” he told his bishop, “here I am, ready to bury myself alive among these unfortunate people, several of whom are personally known to me.”
Damien was not he first to volunteer to help the settlement (whose residents were not there voluntarily: isolation of those who had contracted Hansen’s disease was enforced by law from 1866 to 1969). But he seems to have been the first to work with the assumption that he too would contract the illness. Where other workers had left medicine, supplies, and food at a distance for the patients to use, Damien’s work almost ensured infection. “The manual labor of the roughest kind which he did for the lepers, to make them more comfortable, could not fail to produce frequently cuts, punctures and abrasions, by which the danger of inoculation was greatly increased,” a 1904 item in the Journal of the American Medical Association explained.
“You know my disposition,” Damien wrote two days after arriving in Kalaupapa. “I want to sacrifice myself for the poor lepers. The harvest is ripe.”
A bit more than a decade after his arrival, Damien discovered an early sign of infection: he had blistered his feet in a scalding footbath, but did not feel any pain.
“From henceforth I am forbidden to come to Honolulu again, because I am attacked by leprosy,” he wrote his bishop. “Its marks are seen on my left cheek and ear, and my eyebrows begin to fall. I shall soon be completely disfigured. I have no doubt whatever of the nature of my illness, but. I am calm and resigned and very happy in the midst of my people. The good God knows what is best for my sanctification. I daily repeat from my heart, Thy will be done.”
From some of his earliest days in the community, Damien had identified directly with his parishioners and patients. “I make myself a leper with the lepers, to gain all to Jesus Christ. That is why, in preaching, I say we lepers, not my brethren, as in Europe.” He continued to serve among them as one of them until his death on April 15, 1889.
Damien’s life, ministry, and death are certainly inspiring. But as his canonization draws nearer, I’ve been thinking more about the role criticism has played in both his life and in his fame. Nearly every biographical sketch talks about some kind of between Damien and other religious leaders. Honestly, much of this seems to be mere boilerplate for modern depictions of heroic Christians--they must always be in conflict with other religious leaders. Still, the depictions are not wholly unwarranted. Damien apparently exasperated some church leaders and government workers with his repeated requests for help. And when word of his work began to be publicized (largely due to the publication of one of his letters in Belgium) and supporters began sending him money, some Catholic officials reportedly worried that he was becoming prideful.
The troubling Christian forerunners of Tiller's killer.
"The shooting of abortion physician George Tiller continued a long, dark tradition in American politics," Jon Shields wrote in a fascinating op-ed for Christianity Today earlier this month. "Radicalism on the fringes of social movements has been a surprisingly enduring phenomenon in American politics. There were violent abolitionists, axe-wielding temperance crusaders, Black Panthers in the civil rights movement, Weathermen in the New Left, and eco-terrorists in the environmental movement."
Indeed, in the wake of Tiller's murder I've seen more discussion of Christian history than I've seen since The Da Vinci Code movie came out. Shields points to various social movements, but in the blogosphere over the past few weeks there has been a focus on two particular moments in history: Dietrich Bonhoeffer's participation in an attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler, and the violent abolitionism of John Brown, Nat Turner, and others.
"When it came to defying Hitler's regime, Bonhoeffer saw that several excruciating moral questions were on â€˜the borderland' and could not be settled with absolute certainty," Al Mohler wrote in an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune. "Eventually, he was convinced that the Nazi regime was beyond moral correction and no longer legitimate. Christians, he then saw, bore a responsibility to oppose the regime at every level and to seek its demise. He acted in defense of life and was finally willing to use violence to that end."
He immediately added this: "America is not Nazi Germany. George Tiller, though bearing the blood of thousands of unborn children on his hands, was not Adolf Hitler. The murderer of Dr. George Tiller is no Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Dr. Tiller's murderer did not serve the cause of life; he assaulted that cause at its moral core. There is no justification for this murder, and it is the responsibility of everyone who cherishes life and honors human dignity to declare this without equivocation or hesitation."
Newspaper clippings document teetotalers’ dedication, even in driving rain.
Memorial Day weekend seemed like a grand time for camping with friends in North Carolina, and it was, right up until a downpour began Sunday night.
According to plastic cups left out on the picnic tables - the storm hit after dark, leaving precious little time for securing items beneath tent canopies - a good two inches of rain fell in about as many hours, and additional sprinkles every half hour or so ensured that nothing had a chance to dry out. Two tents in our group were flooded out, though luckily not ours. My 3-year-old daughter managed to sleep through the whole thing.
Church historian that I am, as I lay awake, listening to heavy drops pelt the rain fly, I thought, This must have happened a lot at 19th-century camp meetings. I wonder how they handled it?
Upon returning to the electrified world, I ran some Web searches to find out.