Highlights from the 2018 Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium

Over the weekend students and faculty from our department took part in the fifth annual Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium (MUHS), joining peers from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, Bethany Lutheran College, Martin Luther College, and our hosts, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

Six Bethel History majors presented their research at Saturday’s three concurrent sessions:

  • Kerry Bloomfield, “Evangelical Marriage Manuals from 1970-1979”
  • Andrew Fort, “The Quintessential American Cowboy”
  • Hannah Harville, “The Christian Palestinian Experience with, Involvement in, and Response to the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict since the First Intifada”
  • Nelson Menjivar, “Catalonia and Spain: Origins of a Nationalist Movement”
  • Sarah Sauer, “The Moderating Role of Virtus Romana in Augustine’s Desacralization of Nature”
  • Matt Velasco, “The Development and Impact of the Confessing Church”

(Most of these students are currently taking HIS499 Senior Seminar and will be giving more final versions of their research papers on Monday, May 21, 6pm, CLC 109. All are invited!)

Faculty members Amy Poppinga, AnneMarie Kooistra, and Chris Gehrz moderated panels during the symposium, and Prof. Poppinga spoke on the closing faculty roundtable (“Students’ Religious Literacy in a Pluralistic Society”).

(If you’d like to see some highlights from various sessions, Prof. Gehrz live-tweeted the symposium at the hashtag #MUHS2018.)

Thanks to Dr. Tycho de Boer and the rest of our hosts from Saint Mary’s for putting on a fine symposium. We’re looking forward to having MUHS return to Bethel next year.


Meet Our Majors: Emma Beecken ’16

Throughout the semester, I will be interviewing a variety of history students, alumni, and professors, with the goal of answering the question: what can be done with a history major? To begin, we will be looking into some insights provided by Emma Beecken ’16, who has majors in both the History and Education departments. This post will mostly benefit current History/Education double majors, but is definitely worth a read for anyone in the department considering a future in education.

Emma Beecken is currently a senior here at Bethel, with majors in History, K-6 Elementary Education, Social Studies Education 5-12, and a minor in Communication Arts and Literature 5-8. She spends her very limited free time nannying, preparing copious amounts of baked goods, and participating on Bethel University’s forensics team, where she has experienced success at both the state and national level. She is a great lover of Disney films and The Chronicles of Narnia, and will eagerly explain that she resonates strongly with Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia. Below is a photograph of Emma, followed by her fascinating responses to my interview questions.

An image of Disney's Belle next to her biggest fan, Emma Beecken
From left to right: Disney’s Belle and Bethel University’s own Emma Beecken. The similarities are stunning, aren’t they?

You have a triple major in K-6 Elementary Education, Social Studies Education 5-12, and History, with a minor in Communication Arts and Literature Education for grades 5-8. That is quite a few things. How did you decide on this combination of majors and minor? 

When I was little, it was a constant trade-off between playing school, pioneers, and pioneer school, so I guess this combination didn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. I’ve always been passionate about children and education, and I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to be a teacher. Throughout high school, opportunities to plan and teach lessons with students of a variety of ages reaffirmed my passion for teaching younger kids. At the same time, I couldn’t help loving history. I figured I could get my history fix by adding a Social Studies Ed major, which would also increase my marketability as an educator. That turned into adding a History major when I realized that the only other classes I would need in order complete the major were courses I would be disappointed not to take. That seemed like a sign I was heading the right direction, so I went for it, summer classes notwithstanding. It was definitely the right decision.

How do you feel the Education and History majors complement each other?

Personally, I couldn’t be happier with this combination. They are very different, and yet they complement each other beautifully.  The study of history teaches you to analyze, synthesize, and critically evaluate a body of information, and then make and communicate informed decisions. That is exactly what a good teacher needs to be doing. A truly loving teacher is analyzing a student, using all of the quantitative and qualitative data that’s available, and then acting on that information to do everything possible to help that child. It’s critical thinking, problem solving, the study of people, cultures, and different perspectives—basically, it’s being part of a giant history case study all the time. And yet it’s so much more, because it is helping a child who was created in the image of God, using every tool I can and every strategy I’ve learned to love that child as tangibly and as fiercely as possible. History has refined those tools, making me that much better of an educator.

There’s also an inherent benefit in teachers who love to learn about one subject in particular. I love teaching Social Studies because I love Social Studies. That in itself is going to make a world of difference to the students. This summer, for example, I was nannying, and we spent part of our days studying history. Because that’s what I love, I planned the most for it, had better ideas, and got the most excited about it, compared to other subjects. Grown-ups’ attitudes are contagious, so the kids got excited too. By the end of the summer, they were begging for more history. That provided a perfect and totally natural platform for teaching reading, writing, critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving— all of those skills critical for success, but which are much less engaging when taught in isolation. The same would be true for any other interest. If someone truly loved science or physical education, their excitement and eagerness to create the best lesson possible would result in kids who picked up those passions and all the skills snuck in with them. Adding a history major enhanced my understanding of and love for history, which will only serve to benefit my kids. At the end of the day, majoring in history was an amazing decision for more than just my desire for a “history fix,” but also for the success of my future students.

Conversely, what is the most difficult about your combination of majors and minor?

The most difficult thing about being an Elementary Education/History major is, perhaps, also one of the most beneficial: they are very different majors. Consequently, they draw very different types of people. By the time I got to upper level courses that were filled primarily with students in the major, it was almost like culture shock going from a history course to an Elementary Education class. Speaking in generals, there’s a big difference in the way the people in these majors think, organize themselves, engage in group projects, as well as a difference in personalities. This goes for professors too—even the syllabi feel a little different between the two departments. I have to recalibrate when I switch from course to course, while still trying to find my niche in both. While this can be a tad sticky, it’s also pretty wonderful. I get to see an amazing spectrum of people from all walks of life, hearing a range of ideas and perspectives, and then have to opportunity to bring all of those ideas together.  

Tell me about your student teaching experience. What is the most exciting or enjoyable about it? What has been challenging for you?

Right now, I’m spending half days in a third grade classroom, which will become a full-time student teaching placement in a few weeks. My classroom is 100% English Learners and very high poverty, so it’s been a very different experience than my many practicums in suburbia. To be honest, this isn’t easy. Every single one of my twenty seven, eight, and nine-year-olds is testing low, and, as a whole, they are really struggling. And yet, every time I think about them, it’s like Mama Duck instincts kick in. I love these kids so much. I would give my right arm if that would help them. And then, at the end of the day, you leave after teaching your lesson and realize that, for a few of those kids, it wasn’t enough. They are going to need not just your right arm, but your left arm and maybe even more because they are so far behind. That can be discouraging. Yet, at the same time, it’s also extremely exciting. By God’s grace, I can do something! Seeing them understand and improve is my constant aim. The kids are amazing. I love them to pieces. Challenging or not, they are still the most enjoyable and most exciting part of each day.

You recently completed your Senior Seminar for the History Department over the summer as an independent stuy. As the only current Bethel History student who is done with Senior Seminar, what would you like to share about your senior research? 

A portrait of Hannah More, the subject of Emma Beecken's senior research project
A portrait of the great Hannah More, described by Miss Beecken as a great “lynch pin of history.”
Brownies from the aforementioned Hannah More-themed party, each accompanied by the title of one of Hannah More's books
Brownies from the first-ever Hannah More party. You may notice that each brownie comes with a Hannah More book recommendation.

My senior research project was one of the highlights of my time so far at Bethel. I studied Hannah More, the late eighteenth century best-selling British author, who worked closely with William Wilberforce to evangelize Great Britain. Being able to immerse myself in her life through an extended period of time and extensive research was not only a great opportunity to refine my skills as a historian, but also to dive into something I adored. In this case, it was a brilliant woman of God who did amazing work for the Kingdom, serving as both a fascinating woman to research and a great role model. Dr. Gehrz expertly guided me through the process of making sense of history and faith, and I have come out of that project a stronger historian and a stronger Christian. Plus, Hannah More was just kind of awesome. My friends may have thrown me a Hannah More-themed party when I finished, but that’s another story.

Tell me about your educational and/or vocational plans post-Bethel. Has your student teaching experience influenced these plans?

My goal is to go wherever God can best use the passions He gave me to bring Himself the most glory. So, with that in mind, I’m pretty open at this point. International missions work is not out of the question, and I won’t be surprised if I end up pursuing a master’s degree in either Gifted and Talented Education, Special Education, or maybe something else completely- who knows? I’d also be extremely happy to adopt a bajillion-and-twelve children and be a homeschooling mom though, so I’m flexible. In the short term? I’d be pretty pleased to be teaching in an upper elementary classroom next year.

What advice would you have for other students who are considering pursuing degrees in both History and Education?

Go for it. Seriously. You won’t regret it, and neither will your future students. More practically, be sure to get involved. I made the mistake of feeling like I wasn’t a “real” History major because I was also an Education major, yet at the same time feeling like I wasn’t a “real” Education major. That was kind of silly. I wish I had more fully embraced the department events, people, and connections that were available for both majors, rather than discounting myself from either. In other words, double-dip on Christmas parties, because really, it’s all for the love of the students anyway.

Highlights from the 2015 Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium

On Saturday six people from our department represented Bethel at the second annual Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium. Hosted this year by Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato after our neighbors at Northwestern kicked off the event in 2014, the symposium featured undergraduates from Bethel, Bethany Lutheran, Northwestern, and Martin Luther College presenting research findings on a wide variety of historical topics.

The first Bethel presenter was Jacob Manning ’15, who shared his Senior Seminar project on the disparate influences on Adoniram Judson, a pioneering American missionary in Burma in the early 19th century. Some highlights from Jacob’s presentation via Prof. Gehrz, who was live-tweeting the event:

Then Kelly Van Wyk ’15 spoke in the post-lunch session about her research (also from Senior Seminar) into American women of the 1940s as seen through the lens of superhero comic books.

Then Prof. Gehrz opened the closing faculty panel with his comments on “Western Civilization and the Christian Liberal Arts.” (Look for them later this week at his personal blog.) In addition to him and the two presenters, students Cody Bishop ’15, Maurice Do Carmo ’16, and Elizabeth Hynes ’16 attended the symposium.

Thanks again to Ryan MacPherson and our friends at Bethany for hosting. The 2016 Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium will be next spring on Bethel’s campus.

History Majors Win 1st and 3rd Place in 2015 Library Research Prize!

Congratulations to Fletcher Warren ’15, winner of the 2015 Bethel University Library Research Prize for his Senior Seminar paper, “‘A Long Way from Minneapolis’: Minnesotans in the Spanish Civil War.” And to Kelly Van Wyk ’15, winner of 3rd place in the same competition for “The Paneled Lives of Extraordinary Women: Comic Books, Superheroines, and American Women in the 1940s” (also from Senior Sem).

The trophy for the BU Library Research Prize
Yes, this coveted trophy!

Drawing on primary sources at multiple archives in addition to the holdings of the Bethel Library, Fletcher explored the motivations and experiences of the sixty Minnesotans who fought in the International Brigades during the 1936-1939 conflict in Spain. The Library prize is not the first contest Fletcher has won with work connected to this project, which he’s now developing into a book-length manuscript. A chapter detailing the ideological background of the Minnesotan volunteers for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War won the Undergraduate Prize in the 2014 George Watt Essay Competition, from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives in New York.

You can learn more about Fletcher’s research on April 30, 10:15am in the Bethel Library, when he gives a talk on his project and the coveted research prize trophy is again handed over to the History Department. (Taylor Ferda won the inaugural competition in 2010, followed by Matisse Murray in 2013.)

Kelly will be presenting her innovative work on comic books as a primary source at the Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium — April 25 at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, MN.

Highlights from Last Night’s Senior Seminar Presentations

Last night we hosted one of our favorite events of the year, as family, friends, and faculty gathered in CC 430 to hear students in HIS499 Senior Seminar present their research for the semester.

(If you’re new to the History Department… Senior Sem is the capstone course in our major; students conduct original research projects on topics of their choice, meeting Monday nights for a seminar discussion of the discipline of history, and working closely with the instructor — Prof. AnneMarie Kooistra this fall — to produce a lengthy paper and formal presentation.)

For those who couldn’t be there in person, Prof. Chris Gehrz shared some highlights on our department Facebook page. You’ll see that there were some interesting themes running through the four presentations: two had to do with the intersecting histories of masculinity and Christianity; two sought to retrieve the stories of 19th century Americans.

What’s New in 2014-2015? Curriculum and Courses

This year’s crop of History majors and minors at Bethel will be the first to experience a curriculum that’s been significantly revised. While our programs remain small (about 36 credits for the major, half that for the minor) and flexible (mostly giving students choices within categories), it’s been updated in several important ways:

  • Screenshot of the title sequence for "Past & Presence"
    Screenshot of the title sequence for our Past & Presence webisodes. (Click through to YouTube to see a rough cut of our “road trip” episode, culminating in a visit to Duluth, MN.)

    Probably the most notable change is that we’ve created a new course, HIS290 Introduction to History, as a requirement for both majors and minors. Blending face-to-face instruction (a two-hour Monday evening seminar) with online elements (weekly department webisodes and a course blog), HIS290 will introduce students to the theory and practice of history as a discipline, with particular emphasis on how Christians engage in study of the past and connections with vocation and career. You can read more about it at Prof. Chris Gehrz’s blog: first this introduction, then this update on what he and colleague Sam Mulberry did this summer to prepare for the webisode series, Past & Presence.

  • Students will continue to study history from multiple regions, taking two courses each from U.S., Global, and European (ancient, medieval, and modern) categories. The most important change here is in doubling the Global requirement from one course to two — at least one of which (as in the other two categories) needs to be 300-level.
  • With the new Intro course, the old Introductory category requirement goes away. (Though most of those courses still satisfy regional distribution requirements.) Likewise, with each category now requiring an upper-division course — all of which feature high expectations for writing and reading, plus elements of original research and/or historiography — the Foundation category has disappeared. (Though Modern Europe, Modern America, and Roman Civ still meet other requirements.)

One of the reasons we were able, at long last, to expand and deepen the Global requirement was the full-time addition of Amy Poppinga to our faculty. In addition to HIS328G Muslim Women in History (which debuted last year), Amy has created another new upper-division course, HIS/POS356 Modern Middle East, which premiered last week. She writes:

It has been interesting to develop my course curriculum this summer in the midst of the daily news, dominated by the struggles facing the region we will be studying. At the same time, I think students will be challenged by our need to stay on top of current events weekly, and will be enriched by building their knowledge of both the history and cultures of the countries of the Middle East. It has been hard to narrow down the selection of films and documentaries we will draw from and I am looking forward to having students assist me with determining which of these media resources will be most helpful for the students following in their footsteps. To me, that is one of the most exciting things about being a part of an inaugural course. This first group will inform how the course develops over time and I hope that these students will be excited by that opportunity.

(This spring Amy will also get a chance to teach a 200-level course on her primary field of expertise as a part of Bethel’s Honors program.)

Amid the larger curricular shifts, our capstone experience, HIS499 Senior Seminar, remains both unchanged and always unpredictable, as Prof. AnneMarie Kooistra explains: “…every new semester means a slew of new research projects from veteran History majors. I always look forward to assisting students as they get a glimpse of what it feels like to be a professional historian, and to do what they often consider their best work as Bethel students.”

<<Read the previous entry in this series of updates

Highlights from Finals Week

We still have two days to go, but it’s been a busy finals week here in the Bethel History Department. On top of exams being taken and papers coming due, we’ve had several special events:

  • Family, friends, and alumni joined faculty Monday night in enjoying excellent presentations by our eight spring Senior Seminar students.
  • On Wednesday morning professors treated their teaching assistants to breakfast to kick off Study Day.
  • Later that day, two of our TAs gave presentations on special projects they completed in Prof. Amy Poppinga’s course, HIS212U Introduction to the Muslim World: one shared her research into Muslim-Christian interactions at various points in history (here’s the blog she produced on that subject), and the other reflected on her experience working as a volunteer at a Muslim private school in the area.
  • Then several of our faculty attended the second annual installment of West by Midwest, an informal festival of innovating teaching. Sam Mulberry talked about his new podcast, Autobiography; Chris Gehrz offered a preview of our department’s new Introduction to History course (HIS290 — debuting next spring as a requirement for all new majors and minors); and Amy Poppinga talked about joining Sam and Chris this summer for the second year that GES130 Christianity and Christian Culture will be offered online. (Learn more at Chris’ blog this morning, where he collected his live-tweets from “WxMW” and wrote about Intro to History.)

Here are some images of the festivities so far. Look for more after Commencement on Saturday, with our students and faculty participating in the 9am ceremony.

Senior Seminar Presentations Tonight!

We’re finally into finals week here at AC 2nd, and that means it’s time for another round of Senior Seminar presentations! Tonight (6-9pm, CC 430 – all are welcome) we’ll hear eight students reflect on their experiences conducting original research into a wide variety of topics. Coincidentally, all of the papers are set in the 20th and 21st centuries — a first for Senior Sem, as far as I know.

In order of when they’ll be presented, here are the papers — each with its thesis or research question and links to three especially significant primary or secondary sources used by the researcher.

1916 ad for Glacier National Park
Great Northern Railway ad for Glacier National Park from a 1916 issue of the Bemidji Daily Pioneer – Library of Congress

Sarah Ouverson, “Manufactured and Manipulated: The Creation and Development of Glacier National Park”

“Although Glacier National Park offers many attractions to the people who visit it, creating this area meant manufacturing an experience as well as manipulating aspects of the environment to fit the mindset and desires of the American visitors.”

Tyler DuBois, “The Spanish Transition: Forgetting and Recovery of the Past”

“In 2007 the Spanish government passed the Law of Historical Memory that opened Spanish society to a retelling of its history and reforming its collective memory of the past. Why after so many years of silencing the past did the governing body of Spain decide to reopen the conversation about what happened during the Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship?”

Fletcher Warren, “‘A Long Way from Minneapolis’: Minnesotans in the Spanish Civil War”

“…why did sixty Minnesotan men travel to a foreign country to fight and die for a government and people they had no previous connection to? In addition, how was their decision to volunteer renewed, challenged, deepened, or shattered by their experiences of war in Spain? And how did volunteers continue to understand their decision as they became veterans and returned to the United States?”

Panel of Pat Parker, War Nurse
One of the superheroines of the 1940s: Pat Parker, War Nurse – Public Domain Super Heroes

Kelly Van Wyk, “The Paneled Lives of Extraordinary Women: Comic Books, Superheroines, and American Women in the 1940s”

“During the wartime Forties, women in factories and women fighting crime [in comic books] both expressed autonomy, agency, and competency while remaining within the bounds of conventional femininity. To what extent were comic books reflecting cultural adaptations to American femininity and to what extent could they have been shaping its revision?”

Sarah Herb, “Life after Liberation: A Brief History of Jewish Survivors’ Experiences after the Holocaust”

“What was the experience of Jewish concentration camp survivors in the British and American zones [of occupied Germany] between the time of liberation in 1945 and the time of reintegrating back into society by the mid 1950s?”

Bob Johnson, “Refugees of the Partition of India, 1947: Experiences and Resettlement”

“What was to become the Partition of India and Pakistan also came with unforeseen tragedy at the time as millions were uprooted and were moved across rushed and tentative borderlines as refugees. This paper will be exploring the experiences of these refugees  and what the underlying causes and impacts the Partition had on Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs alike. The focus will be greatly on the refugee experience as a result of the Partition. In terms of regions it will primarily look at the Punjab experience as well as being supplemented with subjects from Bengal and other areas.”

Mike Vangstad, “From Separation to Participation: The Experience of Bethel College During the Civil Rights Movement”

“A look into Bethel’s past… shows that significant work toward racial reconciliation began in the early phases of the Civil Rights Movement. The process of adaptation and experimentation Bethel underwent throughout this time is enlightening and interesting, inspirational and frustrating.”

Clarion coverage of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Clarion coverage of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Paul Flowers, “Counterterrorism after 9/11: The Rise of Leviathan and the Fall of Privacy”

“[The tragic sequence of events on September 11, 2001] raised two major questions: How do we defend against a threat that looks just like us, and can blend into the background? What is more, how do we balance privacy with the needs of security and safety for the public? These are weighty questions, and ones that are being debated hotly, even now. Throughout the course of this paper, I will examine how counterterrorism policy in the United States has evolved since the attacks on September 11, 2011 (9-11) under the administrations of former president George W. Bush and current president Barack H. Obama.”

Senior Sem Journal: History for a Civil Society

In ch. 6 of his Why Study History?, John Fea proposes that “one way of invigorating our life together as citizens of the United States is through the study of history.” History/Social Studies Education double-major Kelly Van Wyk (’15) found that much of his argument resonated with her experience as a teacher-in-training, but she did not think history could be a “panacea” for American society. (Earlier in this series, Kelly responded to ch. 2, “The Past Is a Foreign Country.”)

Fea, Why Study History?…Examining American society in particular, John Fea asserts that “one small way of cultivating the virtues necessary for a thriving democracy is through the study of history” (117). He supports his claim by suggesting that the study of history teaches its students to apply the humility, empathy, and selflessness of encountering the past to the difficult conversations required in a democratic present. I agree with the general thrust of Fea’s thesis, but I abstain from accepting the wholesale implications that it might suggest if taken too far. I am optimistic that the study of history benefits its students, but I hesitate to fasten the fate of society onto history alone.

My time as a prospective teacher has resulted in many encounters with the relationship between history and civil society. According to my current understanding, there remain no social studies (let alone history) assessments on the United States’ top standardized tests. [Here’s a policy statement on this and related issues by the National Council for the Social Studies.] Many schools push for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education to be emphasized while social studies content is quietly ignored. When a society is focused on hard sciences that produce immediate, tangible results, its goal is shortsighted and weighted with consequences that harm the “with-it-ness” of America’s future citizens. A humorous example of historical ignorance that my professors have mentioned in class is seen in talk show host Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segment, where random strangers fail to answer the most basic questions about American history. Watching this on television, I feel more convinced than ever that Americans, lodged in their original position at the center of the universe, have not learned the humility that comes from encountering the foreign past (118).

The study of history, as Fea describes it, places individuals within the foreign country of the past. As discussed in a previous chapter, the past requires of its students that they check their own understandings at the door and keep an open mind as they interact with monumentally different experiences. History teaches individuals how to engage in open dialogue despite opposing worldviews, and in that sense I agree with Fea’s assertion that studying history produces better citizens within a democracy. The longer someone spends trying to understand what is different or unfamiliar to them, the higher chance they will walk away from that encounter with wisdom.

Though history does teach many of the virtues that American society needs to cultivate in order to survive, I feel inclined to caution readers before they leave the house and pledge unlimited financial support to a “We Need History Back In Our Schools” initiative. History education might recover some of the values that American society has left by the wayside, but it is not the panacea to remedy all social issues. The problem rooted at the bottom of this society is the same problem rooted at the bottom of every civilization across the span of time: sin. The sinful nature of humankind is a curse that leaves us dead to the evil we provoke and the harm we cause to one another. Only Jesus Christ has the power to redeem a world so fallen. As Christians, we must be hopeful that we can reflect Christ in this world and alleviate a part of the suffering; however, we will never be able to create suffering’s final cure.

– Kelly Van Wyk

<<Read the previous entry in this series

Senior Sem Journal: Christian Resources for the Study of the Past

Having largely rejected a “providential” reading of history by Christians, John Fea dedicates the next chapter of Why Study History? to exploring some other ways that Christian historians might draw on theological resources. History/Social Studies Education major Sarah Ouverson (’14) counter-balanced two such resources: the belief that human beings are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and a belief in the reality of sin.

Imago Dei (“in the image of God”) is how humans were created by God, and I think there are many valid aspects of this belief that are useful for Christian historians to contemplate. The most significant aspect that stood out to me is the idea of who do we study: not just the important political figures but people from every walk of life and culture — being created in the image of God, they all are inherently valued by God. While I agree strongly with this idea, it does not help me to make sense of the human condition fully. Throughout history we study people who have done horrific things and to understand the human condition the reality of sin is the most useful for me.

Blake, God Judging Adam
William Blake, God Judging Adam (1795) – Tate Galleries

I first like that Fea talks about the freedom of our choices because that puts responsibility on individuals for the choices they make. Fea says, “The freedom to make choices with our lives can lead us towards a life of communion with God, but it can also lead us into sin” (p. 90). Due to the Fall sin is a part of human life, “Christians believe that because of the fall, the image of God in all of us has been tarnished by sin” (90). Humans are fallen beings and while we are each valued by God, and ought to be by one another due to Imago Dei, sin is a part of the human condition that one cannot forget. In studying history a historian looks for the relationships and forces that caused an event to happen or a decision to be made and almost always, I would say, there are selfish forces at play. Fea writes, “…there are no heroes in history. While people may perform heroic acts, all humans are tainted by sin and are susceptible to acting in ways that preference themselves over others and God” (91). I think it is important to not only associate the reality of sin with the extreme villains in history but the ordinary person, and how that may have brought about a certain choice. It’s greatly helpful to remember the reality of sin when asking myself the question, ‘How could anyone have done this?’ Seeing figures such as Hitler and realizing that he is an extreme example of what the Fall meant for human beings…

A final point that resonated with me was Fea’s claim that “In the long run the most convincing histories will be those that portray their protagonists with faults as well as virtues” (92). This reminded me of the first time I had a teacher look at the perception of Americans from the opposition’s points of view. Our country does not always have noble, virtuous reasons for going into another country. Often such acts are for our country’s own gain. Thus I agree with Fea that the convincing histories will show an understanding of the faults and virtues. I see Imago Dei fitting back in here, because not only should the reality of sin be understood in the faults of people but the image of God should be seen in the virtues of people.

– Sarah Ouverson

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