Archive for the ‘History’ Category

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The Work of King: A Panel in Sioux Falls

20 January 2014

If you’re local, please attend!

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The Work of Martin Luther King, Jr.

King’s politics had real depth, driven by a keen awareness of socio-economics, theology, and the human condition. Please join Sioux Falls Seminary as it celebrates the legacy of the great civil rights leader through a panel of esteemed commentators:

Mark Blackburn, Augustana College
Ceca Cooper, University of Sioux Falls
Robin Duncan, Sioux Falls Psychological Services
Christina Hitchcock, University of Sioux Falls
Gary Strickland, Sioux Falls Seminary

WHEN: Thursday, January 23, 7:30pm
WHERE: Sioux Falls Seminary, 2100 S. Summit Ave., Sioux Falls, SD

Refreshments will be served.

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Book Review: R. Todd Romero, Making War and Minting Christians

20 May 2013

R. Todd Romero, Making War and Minting Christians: Masculinity, Religion, and Colonialism in Early New England (Amherst: MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011). 255pp.+xiii. $26.95.

The interaction of native tribes with early English settlers meant each culture had to change. That change included masculinity, argues R. Todd Romero in his attentive history of 17th century New England. Both natives and Puritan immigrants were concerned with manly ideals, ideals which would undergo significant changes through the Pequot War (1636-37) and King Philip’s War (1675-76). Sensitive to the underlying gender scripts, Romero’s book unspools a nuanced double-narrative.

In Part I of Making War and Minting Indians, Romero chronicles the cultural “counterpoint” between native and Anglo-American groups. A surprising similarity exists between the two. Each culture valued assertive, strong men with military skills. Each culture connected manhood to religious zeal. Nevertheless, Puritans and other Englishmen chose to highlight the differences. Manhood for them meant a carefully defined patriarchy, strenuous labor, educated western civility, and biblical, evangelistic zeal. The greatest commonality between the two worlds, it seemed, was martial culture. But the brewing of actual war between the parties made for a deep bifurcation.

In Part II Romero takes a deeper look at the colonizing efforts of Puritans with the Indian “praying towns.” Imposing western notions of manhood upon natives was a priority, even to the point of insisting (in the case of Thomas Shepard) that one must “make men” of Indians before “making Christians” of them. Puritans, especially at Massachusetts Bay Colony, struggled to get Indian men to abandon polygyny, as well as their lax posture of discipline that made children “sawcie, bold, and undutifull” (125). Assimilation efforts foundered after King Philip’s War destroyed remaining goodwill between Puritans, Christian natives, and traditional natives.

Part III of the book plays out the re-scripting of masculinities in and after the throes of war. Presented with annihilation through war or (especially) disease, some tribes sought to bargain with the Christian God. Other tribes felt a strong pull back to their traditional earth religion practices. Puritans, for their part, strenuously preached God’s providence in warfare – even as missionary efforts quickly devolved. While rhetoric between the groups transpired criticizing their inferior senses of manhood, Romero picks up on some unwitting crossovers. For instance, “The evolution of Anglo-American martial culture after the 1670s was especially ironic, given that successful colonial warriors often adapted the very Indian tactics they had formerly dismissed as dishonorable and unmanly” (191).

By necessity, Romero works from Anglo-American records. His deconstruction of their rhetoric smacks of ungraciousness at times, but he uses a hermeneutic of suspicion to render a better picture of actual native culture. Readers may find themselves frustrated that Romero does not choose to distill many conclusions from his study. A “cross-cultural” study through “gender counterpoint” does not yield larger anthropological or historical insights so much as make the reader feel the dialectical mutation between American societies. One might look to Ann M. Little’s Abraham in Arms to clarify a picture of the geopolitical legacy of New England.

Romero’s careful soundings of 17th century America amount to a genuine contribution to colonial studies. Researchers and local historians will benefit most from this sensitive narration of Anglo and Indian masculinities forged in a tumultuous era.

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Bootlegging in South Dakota, 1929

23 April 2013

In a study of South Dakota Congregationalist churches, Jesse Fenn Perrin tried to pinpoint, among other things, which social sins ministers thought presented the greatest threat. In Perrin’s survey there were ten listed: gambling, theft, corruption in public office, juvenile delinquency, sex misbehavior, public dance, vandalism, poverty, lax law enforcement, and bootlegging. The response?

Bootlegging is the most serious problem according to the ministers. Seven report that in their community it is very serious. Twenty-six report it as a serious problem. Nine say that it is a minor problem and only six report that it is not a problem with them. The public dance is the second most serious problem in the South Dakota towns. Public dances usually nowadays carry with them a crowd that are strong patronizers of the bootleggers and the whole situation at the dance hall becomes very unwholesome.

(Jesse Fenn Perrin, “Preaching in South Dakota Congregational Churches,” B.D. Dissertation, The Chicago Theological Seminary, June 1929, 34).

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Getting Men (Back) in High Heels

25 January 2013

Louis XIV sports 'em

Louis XIV sports ’em

We men were there first, you know. Long before women sported high heels to accentuate their legs and curves, men looked to raised shoes to show off their social privilege. Whether as riding attire or as fashion to express nobility or just to add a few inches, the unwieldy design was employed. Heels languished for men during the democratic revolutions of the modern period. Only in the mid-19th century did women – usually for pornographic purposes – begin to make them fashionable for the fairer sex. BBC News offers an encylopedic review.

Will men look to heels again? Truthfully, they already are. “Raised heel” shoes add several inches to a man’s height, though companies assure their customers that the heel is “hidden.” I suspect it will take several decades for men to flaunt heels again, pending the cool-down of the current fitness craze and the arrival of an ostentatious “leisure class,” that is, an identifiable group of men who want to relay to the world that they can exist in a world of play, having evaded the typical demands of blue collar labor and white collar uniformity.

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One Small Quip for [a] Man…

25 August 2012

Neil Armstrong is dead at age 82.  While a half dozen new biographies of the iconic moon-walker will undoubtedly be released in the next year, the truth about him will probably remain well concealed.  Armstrong’s silence throughout his life was deafening.  Where others like Buzz Aldrin learned to live in the limelight, he retreated into the space-like quiet.

Armstrong never sought to be a spokesman.  How ironic he is known for his words!  Even his legendary quip, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” was, by his own belated admission, botched: it was supposed to be “One small step for a man…”  Still, that slogan, correctly delivered or not, stands out precisely because of the personal void around Armstrong.  He ushered the world into the great beyond.

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NASA’s Territorial Pissing

29 May 2012

With a blog name like “Men on the Moon,” why not talk about men on the moon every once in a while?

With the advent of commercial space flight, the old guard of NASA want businessmen everywhere to know that the moon (at least select parts of it) is their jurisdiction. In July 2011 the world received “NASA’s Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities,” a set of guidelines to private sector missions. The document included parameters for lunar explorations, namely, “exclusion zones” of historically significant areas. The Apollo landing sites, for example, should not be approached by a lander within 2km, and even rovers are prohibited within immediate vicinity.

Is it just me, or is the “preservation” line ringing a little hollow here? Since the surface of the moon is essentially a collection of powder, what is being preserved is NASA’s claims to real estate, which belongs to them by virtue of a set of footprints. One doesn’t have to go to the moon to discern the tell-tale trail they’ve spritzed into the lunar dust.

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Can Women Propose to Men on Leap Day?

29 February 2012

Of course, women can propose to men on any day they please, provided they are willing risk rejection and/or strange looks from general society.  But according to a  tradition dating to the 18th century and popularized during the Victorian period, women are especially permitted to propose to their man on February 29.  Leap Day proposals are discussed as possibilities in the USA, UK and Scandavian lands (though, from what I gather, rarely practiced).  Urban legends sometimes claim that she-proposing harkens back to Sts. Patrick and Bridget, but Patricia L. Richard claims it was only in 1864, with the advent of mass advertising, that any noteworthy number of people actually defended the right of a woman to pop the question on the rarified February day.