In Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong James W. Loewen tells us that he encountered a marker at the Little Bighorn River battlefield in Montana dedicated to U.S. Army soldiers killed “while clearing the district . . . of hostile Indians.” He also studied markers dedicated to “patriots” who were actually slave traders or Klansmen racists.
Recently I was in New York to hear the St. Olaf Choir sing, transcendently, at Carnegie Hall. I was there both as a member of the college’s board and as a devotee of a cappella music. After the concert an alumna asked whether I would join a little company, including St. Olaf president Mark Edwards and his spouse, for a private showing of “woolies” at the Seamen’s Church Institute.
The church regularly gets criticized for being behind the times. Let the culture come up with something and, in time, churches follow, critics say. Let there be rock music and 30 years later there is Christian rock. The secular culture invents horror films and 50 years later evangelicals follow with Christian horror films.
Every year I wait for the January issue of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research. I tear it open to see its center spread: the Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission, compiled by David B. Barrett, research professor of missiometrics at Regent University, and his team.
Four decades ago, when I began to write this column, my assignment was to “lighten up” the magazine by gently poking fun at the foibles and follies of the mainstream and all the other religious streams. But times have changed. Ecumenical manners no longer allow us to take potshots at one another.
When we Marty kids were in grade school, we entered any contest that pointed toward a prize. During those Great Depression years, we would have experienced great elation if we’d won even a bauble. But not then nor in any subsequent years of my life have I won a contest.
The only college paper I saved was written when I was a sophomore. Dated “Thanksgiving 1946,” it turned up a couple of years ago in my files. My assignment had been to “picture what you’ll be like and what you’ll be doing in January 2000.” My essay was, of course, jejune and is, of course, embarrassing, but since January 2000 has come, here goes:
Aristotle says that three elements are necessary for a successful argument: ethos, pathos and logos. Ethos refers to the character of the one who speaks or writes. Is he credible? Do we regard her as a good person, someone whose experiences inspire curiosity or trust?
I almost got through the '90s without mentioning contemporary art controversies. You did not read anything here about Piss Christ and Elephant Dung Mary or the people who make their livelihood off the brouhaha over such images—religious "antidefamation" interests, lawyers, third-rate artists, and public officials who express outrage. But now I feel compelled to comment.
The Alexian Brothers established Bonaventure House some years ago as a place of refuge, spiritual care and healing of many sorts for people afflicted with AIDS. Almost 40 people suffering from the disease are under its roof, and many more have been taught how to care for themselves in independent living.
Recently I cohosted with actor John Mahoney (of the TV show Frasier) an annual event called "Jubilate." It supports Chicago's Bonaventure House, where the Alexian Brothers serve AIDS victims, who also serve each other. Each year such opera singers as Catherine Malfitano, Samuel Ramey and the friend who got me into all this, Susanne Mentzer, donate their services.
A reader from Texas sent us a copy of a letter issued by a church summer camp: "Dear Parent(s): As you were aware, yesterday we went to the Mary T. Meager Aquatic Center. Sometime after we left the facility, some evidence of deification was located in the pool. The water was tested and found to be safe.
During the decades that I've been writing this column I've had two self-imposed rules: Never engage in literary feuds, since they are odious and boring; and never defend yourself, here or in a letter to any editor. But I can ask questions.
Crayola's recent announcement that it will change the name of its Indian red crayon to avoid misunderstandings about the color's origin (it comes from a reddish-brown pigment found in India) made me reflect about what color changes marketers might suggest to make the church more appealing. Let's imagine a memo from MegaMarket Church Consultants Inc.
Readers supply us with more items for this column than we can acknowledge or print, but we do our best to sneak these signs of human fallibility in among our weighty pronouncements. Recent mail has brought the following:
You would never have read anything by me and probably never have heard of me were it not for Jerald C. Brauer, who died September 26 at age 78. When Christian Century editor Harold E. Fey asked Brauer, then dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School, to recommend a young writer who might become a contributing editor to this magazine, Brauer gave him my name.