Several years ago, early in Advent, I received an interesting note from the sixth-graders in the church school. “Dear Mr. Buchanan: We have some questions about Christmas. 1) Did the star stand still? 2) Were the shepherds and wise men real? 3) How was Jesus born if his parents didn’t have sexual intercourse? Please meet us next Sunday and tell us the answers.”
I recall that we used to sing “This Is My Father’s World” at the beginning of Sunday school sessions, and we would sing it every evening at church camp as we sat on the hard wooden benches. I haven’t chosen that hymn for worship for many years because I know how important it has been to move beyond masculine images in theology and liturgy.
This issue’s emphasis on books exemplifies one of the things I have most liked about the Christian Century over the years: it has helped me to decide what books to purchase and read. I’m still relying on it to do that. For example, I’d like to read all eight recommendations in the field of New Testament.
In the previous issue, Mark Noll, a distinguished church historian, indicated his intention to sit out the upcoming presidential election because no candidate or national party reflects his sense of the pressing issues of the day (None of the above, September 21).
How are we doing? The editors and staff of this magazine periodically ask themselves that question. Are we succeeding? Is the magazine meeting or at least approaching the goal we have set for ourselves of helping Christians think critically and live faithfully? Are we engaging people with lively articles, timely reports, thoughtful reflections?
In his compact book Before God, George Stroup observes that we live in a time when many people no longer understand that their lives are lived coram Deo, before God. Stroup is particularly good in talking about gratitude as the essence of Christian practice. On that topic he quotes Karl Barth: “Gratitude is the precise creaturely counterpart to the grace of God.
Protestants are about to become a minority in the U.S. after almost four centuries of numerical superiority and cultural dominance. A new study by the National Opinion Research Center reports that by the end of the year Protestants will probably make up less than 50 percent of the population.
A recent editorial in Christianity Today suggested that “it may be time for mainline churches to consider an amicable divorce.” The editorial cited a proposal floated informally at the United Methodist General Conference in May to “explore an amicable and just separation” that would free the church from its “cycle of pain and conflict.” Similar talk is heard regularly in Presbyterian circle
If you walk south out of Princeton, New Jersey, on Mercer Street for a mile or so you discover how the street got its name. Hugh Mercer, native Scot, friend and physician of George Washington, was a general in the Continental Army who lost his life in the Battle of Princeton.
Pastors often experience an uncomfortable tension between trying to be both a truth-telling prophet and a caring pastor. That’s the case these days as I, like most pastors, take in the news of ghastly terrorist violence in the Middle East, the ongoing violence in Iraq, and the regular reports of civilians and U.S. soldiers killed.
It is a little unusual for a biography (William Sloane Coffin Jr.: A Holy Impatience) to be published when its subject is not only alive but is the author of his own just-published best-seller (Credo). Bill Coffin, however, is anything but usual.
Scripture assures us that “we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” But pastors and lay leaders end up spending a lot of time fussing with the church structures—the “physical plant,” as we have learned to call it.
Like many ministers, I used the popularity of Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ to focus attention in the church on what we believe about Jesus Christ. But I declined to tell people whether or not they should buy a ticket to see the film.
Martin Marty once noted that there comes a time when you confront the depressing reality that you’re probably not going to read all the books you hoped and planned to read. Your stack of books-to-be-read will outlast you.
This magazine has long straddled the world of religion and politics, convinced that political awareness and engagement are part of faithful Christian living. We do so knowing full well that this territory is highly contested. One of the ways we gauge success is by whether we get criticism from different ends of the political spectrum. That happens a lot.
In discussing two books on the new apocalypticism, Jason Byassee confesses that he failed as a pastor to know what his people were reading and thinking about the topic. I know what he means. I don’t read this stuff either. But a lot of people are reading it.
In Elisabeth Sifton’s The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War, the author describes how Reinhold Niebuhr, her father, moved away from the pacifism that prevailed among mainline religious leaders in the years after World War I.
Along with other folks at the Christian Century, I saw The Passion of the Christ at a special screening hosted by the Chicago branch of the American Jewish Committee, whose offices are in the building next to ours in Chicago.