Century Marks

Century Marks

Live from Jerusalem

Two Amer­ican religious broadcast networks are poised to cover the second coming, should Jesus return to the Mount of Olives as they expect. Daystar Television Network already has a 24-hour-a-day live webcam beamed from a building it owns on a hill overlooking Jerusalem. Trinity Broad­casting Network, its competitor, has bought the building next to Daystar in order to set up its own studio. Israeli critics say the real intent of these evangelical broadcast networks is to proselytize Jews in Israel. Daystar already has 24-hour programming on two Israeli channels, and TBN is negotiating to get its own TV outlet in Israel (Chicago Tribune, October 1).

Resistance movement

Calling the church hierarchy corrupt, Catholic theologian Hans Küng says “the only way for reform is from the bottom up.” He sees hope in resistance movements among priests in his native Switzerland and in Austria. Up to 400 Austrian and about 150 Swiss priests have joined the movement. Initiatives taken in opposition to church teaching include serving communion to divorced and remarried people, letting unordained persons lead services and putting women in important positions in the hierarchy. Early in his teaching career, Küng was a colleague of Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI (Guardian, October 5).

Flip-flop

Utah is arguably the most conservative state in the United States. Its many Mormon residents often assume that the Republican Party is God’s Party. In their early days, however, Mormons were so overwhelmingly Democratic that Brigham Young assigned some families to support Republicans in order to foster a climate of bipartisanship. Utah voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt four times and for his Democratic successor, Harry Truman. Utah flipped to the Republican Party in the 1950s in response to the cold war and later in reaction to the civil rights movement and youth unrest. The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision on abortion sealed Republican support in Utah (Mary Barker, Religion Dispatches).

Best books on the Puritans

  • Perry Miller, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century and The New England Mind: From Colony to Province. Miller, an atheist and heavy drinker who is widely regarded as the greatest historian of American Puritanism, admired the Puritans as serious intellectuals who lived out their beliefs.
  • Edmund Morgan, The Puritan Family. Morgan, Miller’s student, gives a sympathetic treatment of the warmth and passion of Puritan family life that belies the stereotype of Puritans as legalistic killjoys.
  • Charles Hambrick-Stowe, The Practice of Piety. Hambrick-Stowe brilliantly explicates the Puritans’ devotional practices and their fervent love of God.
  • Harry Stout, The New England Soul. While Miller emphasized the changing nature of Puritanism in America, Stout finds that Puritan theology, focused on the doctrine of covenant, remained quite stable throughout the colonial era.
  • Jill Lepore, The Name of War. Lepore compellingly recounts the tragic, brutal history of the Puritan war with Native Ameri­cans in the 1670s, which in terms of the percentage of people killed remains one of the deadliest wars in American history (Thomas Kidd, Patheos, July 17).

Bedside manners

When Dr. Jerome Groopman realized there was nothing he could do to treat a patient’s cancer, he went to her hospital room. “Barbara,” he said to her as he grasped her hand, “we’ve been honest with each other every step of the way. I know of no medicines that I can give at this point to help you.” After a long and heavy silence, she said to him, “No, Jerry. You do have something to give. You have the medicine of friendship” (New York Review of Books, September 27).