Wife Harriet claims to be able to tell whether we are at a meeting of the American Historical Association or the American Academy of Religion by looking at the kinds of tweed jackets men are wearing and whether or not those jackets have elbow patches.
The Martin Martys of Chicago are friends with the Martin Martys of Zurich, Switzerland. Decades ago the Chicago Martys had the Zurich Martys as house guests. That meant, Swiss hospitality style, that we were invited back to visit them. Over the years we’ve been back to see them again.
In this ecumenical era not only churches but cultures are melding, merging, learning from one another and even transposing and trading their distinctive characteristics. For example, Finland, historically Lutheran, has come to exemplify old Catholic understandings and uses of purgatory at a time when the Catholics themselves think and talk less and less about purgatory.
Moons have passed since I’ve passed on to you some of the little items readers send me. These collections of errors, mostly typographical, are a popular, often requested feature of this column. (Why do people prefer the reproduction of other people’s errors to my own errorless prose?) In any case, these are dated items, which I’ve carried over from the previous millennium.
For those who date the birth of Jesus from zero, this Christmas season was his 2,000th birthday. Aware of that, my son Joel asked, “Dad, you read all the periodicals and notices? Were you impressed by how little anyone made of that?” I rechecked the periodicals and notices and was indeed impressed.
Things seemed to be going smoothly on the ecumenical front at the beginning of the new millennium. Among many church-unity and church-amity signs was the year-ago burying of the hatchet by Catholics and Lutherans over the once-divisive subject of justification by grace through faith. True, the parties left the hatchet-handle partly exposed, since there still is some work ahead.
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:16-17).
Unsolicited, unwanted or unforwarded Christmas cards and gift catalogs keep coming to my temporary abode in the president’s house at Minnesota’s St. Olaf College. I paged through some of them the other day and found that the almost universal greeting now has nothing to say about Christmas. Just “Happy Holidays!”
The Marty male line since 1792 goes like this: Rudolph begat Bendicht begat Gottfried begat Emil begat Martin begat Joel begat Noah begat Muhammed. E-mail from Joel in Minnesota: “A Baby Boy! Muhammed Noah Marty! I’m so excited that I don’t even know if I have the spelling or weight facts completely straight, but here goes: After a very long day of labor, . . .
The other night, while doing my bathtub reading of scholarly journals, I came across two references to one subject. Taken together they almost roused me from the torpor induced by the whirlpool. Not quite. But later, when I recollected that emotionless time in tranquillity, I woke up to the import of my reading.
There are more possible moves on a chess board than there are neutrons in our universe, I once read in a chess encyclopedia. I recently asked a University of Chicago mathematician whether that could still be true, now that we know there are hundreds of billions more galaxies than we had thought, each with hundreds of billions of stars. He calculated a bit and said yes.
Do you remember how zealous you were about reaching “perfect attendance” marks in grade school? How careful you were about avoiding the first “absent” day? How easy it was to fall into a pattern of delinquency and how you thought your parents foresaw a life of crime for you after even the smallest precedent-setting misdemeanor?
As we collect ever more evidence about times past and places afar, we find that there seem to have been no times or places when or where environmental edens existed (at least not since the original Eden).
Rats! I’ve been found out. We squeakers-by hope to slide through life without ever having our fallibilities and failings found out. When I became a graduate student at the University of Chicago I knew at once I was in over my head.
Readers send us instances in which misused words, typographical errors or strange turns of phrase provoke chuckles. The backlog of these is large, a fact that makes it possible for me to dip into the pile to illustrate almost any kind of point. The point today has to do with headlines gone astray.
"Admiral, the great navy of the State of Nebraska,” my 1991 citation from Governor Ben Nelson of Nebraska declares. It continues, “I do strictly charge and require all officers, seamen, tadpoles and goldfish under your command to be obedient to your orders as Admiral. . . .”
Every half century or so the Christian Century moves its offices. As our old Dearborn Street neighborhood seems to be “going condo,” we moved to Michigan Avenue last autumn. We’ve traded the historic Old Colony Building for the equally historic Monroe Building. I don’t keep desks in the places from which I’ve retired, but I do drop in on this office, and savor the occasions.