Thursday, August 27, 2020

The year was 1955, and we remember Joachim Wach. The reading is a prayer from Soren Kierkegaard.

It is the 27th of August 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at, I’m Dan van Voorhis.

The year was 1955.

It was the year Rock and Roll was born, or at least, it’s the year that this new fusion of rhythm and blues, country, and boogie-woogie would be popularly recognized as “rock and roll.” This was due in large part to the recording of “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets used in 1955’s movie Blackboard Jungle. The song spent two months as the #1 pop record in America. Elvis Presley, soon to be the king of Rock and Roll, first appeared on the Louisiana Hayride radio program. It was an early taste of fame. However, it was the following year that he would make his broadcast television debut.

It was the year that Coca-Cola first tried to can its popular soda. Despite the fame of the new “contour” bottle, it was too costly to send bottles of Coke oversees to troops, and thus the prototype can was created. It was another five years before it was sold in cans to the general public. And to finish up this little bit of Americana for the year 1955, it was the year that Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California. The day it opened was a disaster. It was over 100 degrees, and a gas leak closed down much of the park. Also, despite preparing for 15,000 people, almost twice that many came (many with forged tickets), and the park ran out of refreshments.

1955 saw the publication of Nabokov’s “Lolita,” James Baldwin’s “Notes From a Native Son,” Flannery O’Connor’s collection of short stories “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” and the last installment of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, “the Return of the King.” Both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were born in 1955, as were novelists John Grisham and Barbara Kingsolver. In 1955 both Honus Wagner and Cy Young died, the infielder and pitcher were inducted into the Hall of Fame in its inaugural year. Also dying in 1955 were Albert Einstein, James Dean, and Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega Y Gassett.

And it was on this, the 27th of August in 1955 that Joachim Wach died. Wach, a Lutheran turned Episcopalian, was one of the giants in the field of the sociology of religion. Wach was born in Germany in 1898. He was a descendant of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and composer Felix Mendelssohn. As Moses was Jewish, when the Nazis came to power, Wach, his descendant, was removed from his university position. He would come to America, where he would teach at Brown and the University of Chicago.

He made his brief career by reframing Religionwissenschaft against the philosophy of religion. Religionwissenschaft loosely translated as “the sociology of religion.” he taught dealt with facts instead of disembodied ideas. For Wach, the history of religion was more than phenomenology, but rather a study of religious experience, practice, and communities. He did not consider his field antithetical to theology, but his was instead an empirical approach to understand the way people understand their faith. His works include the “Sociology of Religion and Types of Religious Experience—Christian and Non-Christian.” Wach was a seminal figure in the Chicago School of Sociology, which would long be famous for blending the study of sociology and religion. Joachim Wach, the advocate for the study of the sociology of religion and Christianity specifically, died unexpectedly in Switzerland on the 27th of August, in 1955. He was 57 years old.

The reading for today comes from Soren Kierkegaard, a prayer.

O Lord, calm the waves of this heart; calm its tempests.
Calm yourself, O my soul, so that the divine can act in you.
Calm yourself, O my soul, so that God is able to repose in you,
so that his peace may cover you.

Yes, Father in heaven,
often have we found that the world cannot give us peace,
O but make us feel that you are able to give peace;
let us know the truth of your promise:
that the whole world may not be able to take away your peace.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 27th of August 2020 brought to you by 1517 at The show is produced by a man for whom it’s Crystal Pepsi or bust, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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