Century Marks

Century Marks

Theological wit

Wit and humor were an integral part of Martin Luther’s theology. Writing against rationalistic, good-works-oriented religion, he declared: “As soon as reason and the Law are joined, faith immediately loses its virginity.” Luther used bathroom humor, which he directed against the devil, the pope and death. He called the pope “dearest little ass-pope.” About the devil he wrote: “If he devours me, he shall devour a laxative (God willing) which will make his bowels and anus too tight for him.” Shortly before his death Luther said to his wife Katie, “I’m like a ripe stool and the world’s like a gigantic anus, and so we’re about to let go of each other” (Word and World, Spring).

Faith in practice

According to a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey, 73 percent of Mormons believe that “working to help the poor” is “essential to being a good Mormon.” That compares to 49 percent who say that not drinking coffee and tea is essential to faithful Mormon practice. Mormons seem to practice what they preach: most go to church regularly, devote nine times more hours a month to volunteerism than other Americans, tithe regularly, and on average give $1,200 annually to causes beyond the church. Mormons “are the most pro-social members of American society,” according to Ram A. Cnaan, social-work scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, who conducted the research (America, April 9).

Space for God

When Anglican theologian Herbert Kelly was asked how we can know the will of God, he responded: “We do not. That is the joke.” Agreeing with Kelly, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says we are left with our free will and our power of discernment to decide what in our life comports with the will of God, and then we trust that God will pick us up and restore us if we make a mistake. Key questions to ask in the discernment process: “What course of action might be (even a little) more in tune with the life of Christ? And what opens, rather than closes, doors for God’s healing, reconciling, forgiving and creating work to go on?” (Rowan Williams, Where God Happens).

Revere ware

Paul Revere, made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about his midnight ride, was a Boston engraver and silversmith. Brown University recently discovered a small engraving by Revere that was tucked inside an old medical book donated to Brown by a member of the class of 1773. It shows Jesus being baptized by immersion. Revere was a Unitarian (NPR, April 15).

Normal folk

Since 2010 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been running a public relations campaign featuring diverse Americans with the tagline, “I am Mormon.” The aim is to show that “Mormons are not that strange,” said one spokesperson. The More Good Foundation is also backing the church’s efforts to present a good image on the Internet. One of its objectives is to help people searching for information get to Mormon-friendly sites rather than hostile sites run by evangelical Chris­tians and ex-Mormons (Wilson Quarter­ly, Spring).