I can’t remember the last time I read much about hell—the topic of a symposium in this issue—but those of us who recite the creed weekly do include “he descended into hell” as part of what we believe about Jesus Christ.
Odysseus wants nothing more than to get home. For the Greeks, as for
most ancient peoples, the house and city were islands of order in the
midst of a howling wilderness. They would do anything to stay home or,
having left, to get back.
Something Pope Benedict XVI said about immigration while he was in the U.S. sent CNN commentator Lou Dobbs into a rant that went something like, “We don’t need popes or preachers telling us what to think and how to vote. . . . Religion is about saving souls, isn’t it? . . . We have something called separation of church and state in this country, after all.”
When Jesus talks about making wealth our “master,” sometimes he is
speaking to the peasants who may not have bread to eat, and at other
times he is speaking to the collaborators with the Roman Empire who are
able to accumulate wealth for themselves. Somehow he addresses both
groups simultaneously and leads them all toward the justice and peace
of the kingdom of God.
James Fenimore Cooper Jr. and Margaret Bendroth are rummaging through church attics and basements in the New England states, especially Massachusetts, looking for records of early American life. Some churches are reticent to part with old documents, but the two historians point out how vulnerable the documents are and offer to keep them in a climate-controlled rare book room at the Congregational Library in Boston. Among their findings: a church in Middleboro possessed an application for membership submitted in 1773 by a slave (New York Times, July 29).