Century Marks

Century Marks

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).

Caste in or out

The Hindu priesthood has been traditionally limited to upper-caste Brahmins. A few years ago the government in a southern India state, which owns most of the temples, began training priests regardless of their caste, including the lowest caste, the Dalits. In reaction, Brahmin groups filed  suit, claiming that the government has no right to impose itself on priest selection or training. There is a shortage of Hindu priests. Critics of the Brahmin suit believe it’s intended to maintain Brahmin privilege and keep in place a 4,000-year-old caste system (Los Angeles Times, October 1).

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).

Work diary

Keeping a daily work diary can help enhance creativity and motivation, according to research done by Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile. She recommends spending about ten minutes each day, preferably at a regular time, reflecting and recording challenges, successes and other work-related experiences. Her research was based on the study of thousands of daily diary entries written by more than 200 professionals (theatlantic.com).