Though the World Council of Churches' consensus document Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry is a work of enormous significance, it may strike one as bland. Gordon Lathrop, a Lutheran theologian, presents much the same material in two books (the first published in 1993) that are lively, provocative and challenging.
The 20th century has been scarred by the mass murder of ethnic groups in Armenia, Nazi-occupied Europe, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo. On a smaller scale, hate crimes against certain groups also erupt in this country. What factors converge to make such violence possible? Can anything be done to prevent it?
The U.S. Supreme Court's opinions about the relationship between religion and the state have been increasingly separationist, argues Phillip Hammond, a distinguished sociologist of religion and contributor to the so-called civil religion discussion. Although the nation "began as a de facto Protestant society," it has since the close of the Civil War moved toward greater and greater government neutrality not only toward differing religions but also toward the difference between religion and irreligion. This is as it should be, Hammond thinks. Behind the Constitution, he contends, is a "constitutional faith," and separationism, rightly understood, is its legal or judicial expression.