Conference Next Weekend

The Western Fellowship of Professors and Scholars meets Oct 19-20 in Manhattan, Kansas.  I will be posting the rest of the schedule, but here are the themes for the breakfast panel discussion.

1.  New Interest in Modern Pentecostalism’s Kansas Origins, Dr. Robert D. Linder

Professor Linder is Kansas State University Distinguished Professor
(Ph.D., University of Iowa, 1963): History of Modern Christianity from the Reformation to the Present; History of Religion and Politics in Europe, Australia and the United States.

Greatest quote: “History, religion, politics, baseball! These are the important things of life. What else is there?” — Professor Bob Linder

2.  Renaissance Adorations and the Black Magus: Interpreting an Iconographic Transformation, Tamica L. Lige

 Until the middle of the fifteenth century the iconography of the Adoration of the Magi remained fairly consistent, with three white kings shown arriving to pay homage to the Christ Child. Around 1450, however, a shift in representation occurred, and one of the magi was now portrayed in the guise of a black African. Scholars have put forward various reasons for the appearance of the Black Magus. One view suggests that the Magi are thought to represent the three known continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa and that the “blackness” of the Magus symbolizes his native land. A second links the Black Magus to sin and heresy due to medieval associations of blackness with death, the underworld, and witchcraft. Another examines the Queen of Sheba as an archetypal figure to the Magi and suggests that written descriptions of her blackness inspire the adaptation of a Black Magus in Adoration scenes. This paper builds on these theories, but argues that representations of the Black Magus also need to be analyzed within the contexts specific to individual works of art. To further this end, this study examines several European examples of the Adoration of the Magi through various lenses to discern meanings specific to each. In order to interpret the meaning of the Black Magus in these works, I will explore the relationship between the Queen of Sheba and the Magi, the effects of reformist ideas in Northern Europe at the time, and the role a patron’s interests play in the iconography of works they commission.

Tamica Lige, of Manhattan KS, is an Italian Renaissance art historian. Her work thus far has explored art patronage by elite families, iconography, and methodology. Ms. Lige’s interests generally surround religious works commissioned by lay patrons and range from architecture to painting.

The Underground Railroad in Kansas: Cooperation of God’s People, Karre L. Schaefer

 We will explore the little-known Underground Railroad in Kansas. Recently, scholars have found that contrary to original belief, African-Americans ran most of the Underground Railroads in the Eastern United States. However, as usual, Kansas is unusual.

Because of the lack of African-Americans in Kansas, the Underground Railroad was run by white Americans. Mostly, these consisted of various Protestant denominations who joined together to help African-American runaway slaves escape to Canada and Mexico.

Congregationalist members, such as the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church, while believing that the United States was an authority in place by God, chose to run the UGRR contrary to that authority. Working with the Quakers in Harveyville and other churches, an alternate route was created to throw the slave-hunters off track as they traveled up and down the well-known route. These men and women who ran this railroad believed they did so by authority of God Almighty. This was no small thing – harboring a fugitive slave in Kansas meant immediate death. This Railroad is a case where God’s people put their lives on the line so that others could be free. I will leave us considering whether we would do the same thing.

Karre Schaefer is a graduate student in the Political Science Department at Kansas State University. After receiving her BA in history, she set out to explore why people did what they did, and found herself concentrating in Political Thought. Ms. Schaefer combines political thought, religious thought, Biblical principle as well as enlightenment to seek answers to why social movements occur and their long-term effects.

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WFPS 2012

Religion on the American Frontier, 1801-1901.

The Western Fellowship of Professors and Scholars will explore

the theme of New Religious Movements in the 19th century.  Several colorful and novel religious movements sprung up in America as the country was expanding westward; some promoting new revelations and new practices, and others claiming to return to primitive patterns and teachings.

What was it about this period of history that produced diverse groups such as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, Christian Scientists, Disciples of Christ and churches of Christ, and Pentecostals?

The WFPS will meet in Manhattan, Kansas, October 19-20, 2012.  Stay tuned for further announcements, and watch your mailbox and email for an official call for papers.

Concluding Thoughts on Learning Ancient Languages

One of my students this morning asked if I knew where we could get a flux capacitor.  If we had one, we could build a time machine and transport ourselves back in time and learn Greek by immersion in the language and culture.  Barring that, we could go to Greece for a six-week summer language immersion program and we would be speaking real Greek.

I think that would help quite a bit.  We would be internalizing the language and building vocabulary.  It still wouldn’t be ancient Greek; there would still be a lot to learn if we wanted to read Paul or Plato.  Ideally, we could spend a couple of years mastering the modern language and then enroll in a classics program at a University in Athens or Thessaloniki.

Lacking a time machine or the funds to live in Greece several years, the old fashioned text book approach to learning grammar and vocabulary will get you there.  I have decided in my teaching of Greek to use all the help I can find, to try creative things like conversations, drama, role playing, games, etc.  Someday I will bring some Greek food to class, blindfold students, and have them name each item in Greek based on taste.

But it still comes down to this: the goal of most of us who study ancient languages is not to communicate with ancient people but to analyze ancient texts.  For that reason, we can’t get away from learning grammar.

If I were able to become proficient in communicating in ancient Greek I would succeed in creating my own style.  I don’t know if that would help me or anyone else who wanted to study ancient literary or documentary texts.

I had a class in “Latin Prose Composition.”  When I thought I was getting pretty good, my professor told me my style was too poetic.  Well, I had been studying Latin poetry but not so much prose.  My professor was right, of course.

I have found that each ancient author has his or her style and it takes quite a bit of effort to get used to a new author.  Without developing good analytical skills that can be an insurmountable challenge.

So I probably won’t be joining the ancient Greek conversation cult.

Another Cult

The cult that is currently trying to draw me in is the cult of speakers of ancient languages. They don’t just study ancient Greek, they have conversations in it and argue over how it should be pronounced.

I first became susceptible to the thinking of this group nearly thirty years ago. I was learning two languages at the same time: biblical Hebrew and German.

In fact, I was in my second semester of Hebrew when I started my German class, and about six weeks into the German class I felt more confident in that language than in Hebrew.  If someone asked me to say something in German I could blurt out, Guten Tag! or Wie Geht’s.  If asked to say something in Hebrew, I might mutter, bereshith bara or something like that.

So I thought to myself, what if we could reconstruct ancient Hebrew conversation and learn the language conversationally?

A couple years later I found myself in a graduate program in classics and started asking the same questions.  Since the dialogues of Plato were already conversations, I thought, they might be a great place to start.

Then I found out it wasn’t a new idea, in fact, folks had already been doing it with Latin.  Not only had it been done, but up until just a year or two previous it had been done at my university.  They taught Latin conversationally and continued their Latin conversations outside of class.

The program had been discontinued because the university officials thought it was becoming a cult!  The students began to imagine they were medieval monks living in medieval monasteries, and evidently some of the students had evidently converted to medieval Christianity, and the university was threatened with lawsuits for advocating a particular religion.  All this I learned through the grapevine.

Soon after learning about this I found myself teaching Latin, strictly by the book, not by immersing myself and my students in Latin conversation.  I had a few students in the class who had learned Latin via vocis viventis by the conversational method.  I was impressed with them the first few weeks.  Their pronunciation was excellent and they had a pretty good head start.  But I also noticed that by the sixth or seventh week of college Latin they had reached the limits of their high school students, and from then on no one had an unfair advantage.

More to come . . .

Banned in Missouri

Kurt Vonnegut from http://www.alternativereel.com/includes/top-ten/display_review.php?id=00088
Click on image for more Kurt Vonnegut quotations.
  • I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee.
  • I have also told them not to work for companies which make massacre machinery, and to express contempt for people who think we need machinery like that.

Are those thoughts contrary to the teaching of the Bible, or more specifically the teaching and practice of Jesus?  Evidently a school board in Republic, Missouri thought so and removed the book Slaughterhouse Five from the high school curriculum.

It’s been a while since I read the book.  I suppose there was some profanity in the language of some of the characters.  I don’t particularly like that and I tend to tune it out.  But that’s not what I remember about the book.  Slaughter House Five is one of the great anti-war books of recent times, one that makes us question our righteousness even in the one war we consider just, noble, and necessary.

My cousin read the book his senior year in high school, just before embarking on a career in the air force.  He thought it was a great book.  The questions raised by Vonnegut didn’t stop him from serving his country.  I think everyone who is going into the military should read the book.

Cloning Scandal in Kansas

NCAA officials are

investigating reports

that the University

of Kansas used cloned athletes to win the Big-12 Championship and advance to the “elite 8.”

A reporter searching the high school records for  Marcus and Markief Morris, the famed “Morris twins,” revealed a surprising fact: There is no record of Marcus or Markief attending high school.  Instead there was only one name–Mark Morris.

Anonymous sources from the university of Kansas Medical School mention suspicious cloning activity around the years 2004-2008.

A spokesman for coach Bill Self says the Jayhawks “deny the allegation and defy the alligator.”  Further, coach Self adds, even if it were true it violates no rule.

We have the original rules, written by coach Naismith himself.  There is no prohibition of using cloned athletes.

Meanwhile, there are also reports of suspicious activity in the genetics lab at Kansas State University.

Coach Frank Martin has been quoted as saying,

KU obviously had an unfair advantage with two Morrises.  If we had two Jacob Pullens, we would have been unstoppable.

Faith in Reason?

Bill Moyers notes a  study from the University of Michigan “deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information.”    The study found that when people who had been misinformed “were exposed to corrected facts in new stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs.”

We often base our opinions on our beliefs … and rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions.”

This explains a lot about politics.

I would also like to point out something about faith and reason, from a Christian point of view.

It is not an empirical reality that people in fact live according to reality and make decisions according to reason.  Reason is an ethical imperative.  We ought to live according to truth, reason, and reality.  The common human refusal to face reality is another name for sin, collusion in willful self-deception.

Faith, in the Christian sense, is not about clinging to irrational beliefs in spite of facts.  Faith is a commitment to living according to justice, peace, and truth.  Life according to justice, peace, and truth is the Way of Jesus Christ; and it includes making decision according to reality.

One fact of recent history is that the Wall Street High-rollers reckless ways destroyed the economy, forced middle-class taxpayers to bail them out, and made billions in personal profits in the process.  People are justifiably angry but they have no way to pour out their wrath on the guilty.  So they look for a target nearer at hand and they find the people who cut our meat, harvest our vegetables, changes the sheets in our hotels and perform other dangerous, difficult, or menial tasks that we prefer not to do ourselves.

We can’t punish them directly, so instead we choose to punish their children.

The children of undocumented workers have broken no laws.  The state representatives today voted to punish them by tripling their tuition rate if they chose to go to college in the only home state they know.

This is not a solution to any real problem.  It will not increase revenue, it will only prevent the kids from getting an education and contributing to the state economy.

Maybe our state senate will show more wisdom.