Finding Their Place in the World: Teaching History with a Redemptive Perspective

Why should you love teaching history?

Austin explains the delight of guiding students through the darkness and brilliance of the past. He recommends two trade books that fit into American history class, and that call high school students to find their place in the story of God’s work among his people.

I love to teach history because it is the one subject where we differ as Anabaptists from many other Christians and from the world.

It is the place where I get to teach my students about how to view what’s happened in history.

History is really messy and really bad things have happened. We get to dive right in and talk about all that nasty ugliness and see how God is working to redeem this messed-up situation.

This year for our theme of American history, I decided to choose two books written by Anabaptists that cover American history quite well and to put it right into my theme for the school year and for my bulletin board. I’m having them read In God We Don’t Trust by David Bercot and writing a book report about that. It’s just been really exciting to watch my students who—most of them aren’t Anabaptists, some of them are even Christians—respond to that book. It’s really exciting.

Then also, [they’re] reading A Change of Allegiance by Dean Taylor. One of our students actually chose to become a conscientious objector because of reading that book. It’s just really, really encouraging to be able to teach them how to view this world and to teach about the two-kingdom theology, to talk about how American history isn’t as pretty as American people want to think it is. There’s some messed up parts about our history as well.

To also talk about the amazing power of forgiveness and the way that in the Nickel Mines School shooting that’s changed the world. It’s gone all over the world and God has gotten a lot of glory from that situation.

The other reason that I love to teach history is because I get to just share my own life, because my life is part of history, their lives are a part of history. We can look at what’s happened in their own lives and talk about it. I just love to just dive in and help them have a brand new perspective about the world they’re living in.

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Arlyn Nisly

5 years ago

Another thought-provoking book that is guaranteed to unsettle some conventional thinking is “Christianity and Politics: The Attempted Seduction of the Bride of Christ” by Christopher Petruzzi. It’s a pretty easy read, and offers a different take on questions like the validity of the US Civil War as a means of abolishing slavery. Here is an interview that introduces you to him and his thinking:

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