Century Marks

Century Marks

Normal belief

A Florida state judge has ruled that a schizophrenic man sitting on death row can be executed despite the fact that the legally insane are not supposed to be executed. The reason, the judge ruled, is that this murderer believes he is the “Prince of God” who will some day sit at God’s right hand. The judge said that since this is a normal Christian belief, it doesn’t prove the convicted man is crazy (The Week, October 26).

Strangely familiar

The King James Bible, Shakespeare and the Book of Common Prayer shaped the English language more than any other literature. The BCP, which is celebrating the 350th anniversary of its 1662 edition, was largely the work of Thomas Cranmer, who was appointed archbishop of Canterbury by King Henry VIII. Cranmer borrowed freely from the Sarum Missal, the Latin liturgy that the English Catholic Church had used for centuries, and he wrote many original prayers and collects. Cranmer wanted this prayer book to be for the people, not just the priesthood, so he used ordinary phrases and biblical similes, some of which live on in our language today (“for better, for worse,” “from ashes to ashes,” “peace in our time”). Echoes of the BCP can even be heard in the writings of secular authors like Virginia Woolf and Samuel Beckett (New Yorker, October 22).

Keep it short

A vicar asked the duke of Wellington what he would like his sermon to be about. “About ten minutes,” the duke replied (Tolstoy on War, edited by Rick McPeak and Donna Tussing Orwin).

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).