Category: Blog Essay

Ideas Go Places

About ten years ago, I found myself in mid-career and looking for some new direction. A good friend of mine, Dr. Brian Shelton, who had significant experience with study abroad trips, suggested we combine our interests and offer a psychologically and theologically themed Holocaust Studies tour of central Europe. We crafted together a rather ambitious schedule that covered 4 cities in about 9 days. Amidst the many museums, memorials, and related points of interest were two concentration camps, Dachau and Auschwitz. Even though we had over 30 students combined from two different institutions, everything went off without a hitch. A

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The Courage of My Students

Over the past 10 years I’ve had the privilege of leading a Holocaust-themed study abroad experience for undergraduates at Asbury University. After taking nearly 200 students to euthanasia memorials, concentration camps, and extermination centers, I have come to realize just how much courage it takes to say “yes” to a trip like this. To make my case, here is a brief description of what a tour typically involves. The itinerary centers on two European cities – Berlin, Germany and Kraków, Poland. In Berlin (and the surrounding areas) students typically experience the following: an interaction with diplomats at the U.S. Embassy,

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A Stream-of-Consciousness about the Holocaust Studies Tour

Recently, I was given an opportunity at an Asbury University chapel to briefly talk about the tour I lead each May. Given the super-tight time restriction, I thought it might be helpful to create a “stream-of-consciousness” description. I’ve copied it below. Pretzels, pastries, German chocolate, perogies, the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall, the Wawel Castle, Wittenberg and all things Luther, perogies, train rides through the countryside, walking through splendid little German towns, but what is that behind those dark walls…it looks foreboding.  ____ Churches, stunningly beautiful churches, St. Mary’s Basilica – have I ever been inside anything more magnificent? Did

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Book Review: Of Popes and Unicorns

By David Hutchings & James Ungureanu; Oxford University Press, 2022 (263 pages) Accessibility rating 4 (out of 5) Recommendation rating 5 (out of 5) Of Popes and Unicorns, a 2022 offering written by science educator David Hutchings and Humanities Professor James Ungureanu, takes the reader on a brief yet impressively comprehensive tour of the history of the so-called “conflict thesis,” the widely accepted claim that there exists a long-standing and fundamental antagonism between religious thought, notably Christian thought, and the goals and efforts of modern science. In the book, the authors tackle two issues. The first is a careful exploration

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Human Dignity: Invented or Discovered (reprised)

(Talk delivered to AUHP students at Nov, 2022 orientation meeting.) As you know, the honors experience here at Asbury is a themed enrichment program – “Studies in Virtue and Human Value.” This evening, I want to invite you to walk along with me as we explore our theme for a few moments.   Our program’s two guiding questions are, “What gives humans value or dignity?” and “What are the implications of finding value in ourselves and others?” We can start by recognizing that most everyone feels like they have value, it’s instinctive – I am somebody, and my life is

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Premier of “Don’t Forget Us,” Documentary

On Wednesday evening, October 26th, nearly 350 students and community members crowded into the new CLC auditorium to view the first Asbury-student directed and shot documentary, Don’t Forget Us. The evening featured the 42 minute film followed by two panel discussions. The film project was the idea of Journalism professor, Rich Manieri, who traveled with his team of students to Germany and Poland to provide oversight for the project, also helping to write of the script. Here is a link to most of the events of the evening, including the documentary and the panel discussions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-Z9ZthcOao. Prof. Manieri plans to

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Misleading Intuitions

A reflection on 25 days with students in Germany and Poland One of the strongest intuitions of thought uncovered by psychological researchers has to do with the pairing of goodness and beauty. It is most readily detected when we encounter beautiful faces or scenery with the result being that we naturally feel that goodness must be there as well. The effect is so reliable that it has its own name, the “physical-attractiveness stereotype,” or more generally (albeit more awkwardly), the “what-is-beautiful-is-good” effect. And the flip side is also true. That is, when we find something to be good, our judgments

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Book Review: The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self

by Carl R. Trueman; Crossway Books, 2020 (425 pages) Accessibility rating 3 (out of 5) Recommendation rating 5 (out of 5) (Note: This first book review is about two-parts description [to inform a potential reader] and one-part analysis and critique. This ratio may change with subsequent reviews.) Description Carl Trueman, professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College, offers a rather extensive analysis of the historical roots that have yielded the contemporary understanding of the western self. Trueman argues modern selfhood is understood as a predominately-psychological structure, and fully detached from any sense of the sacred. It is

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A Memorial and the Measure of Humanity

In Berlin, just one block south of the Brandenburg gate, sits a relatively new holocaust-related exhibit, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This installation, which opened in 2005, is massive, taking up an entire city block. Yet curiously, as one looks at it from the street, at no point does any part of the display rise above eye level. The exhibit consists of an assembly of over 2,700 rectangular concrete blocks, or stelae, ordered in grid-like rows and columns, spread across an area of 19,000 square meters. The blocks all measure the same in width and length with

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Some Thoughts on Diversion and Hurried Living

Recently, on numerous occasions and across a variety of contexts, I’ve had my attention drawn to the topic of time; specifically, how I treat (and mistreat) it; that is, my time, my slowly but quite certainly expiring life. These referents have served to remind me of how easily I give up my time to practices that, while they may be healthy if well-regulated, far too often eat up significant chunks of my day. For me, the temptation typically takes the form of watching sports, playing games, and just thumbing through social media. To be clear, I do not believe there

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