Century Marks

Century Marks

Old atheism

Near the end of his career, Karl Barth was asked to write a response to an essay by atheist Max Bense. Barth’s response reflected his sense that Christians don’t need to argue better than atheists, they need to live better. He called his response “The Rationality of Discipleship” (not “The Rationality of Theism”). Barth wondered why Bense felt the need to attack Christian faith when there are so many gods plaguing modernity: money, sex, sports. But Barth reserved his sharpest barbs for Christians. Practical atheism, which exists even in the church, is the really pernicious kind of atheism, he said. Practical atheists acknowledge God’s existence, yet they go about life as though God doesn’t exist. “The atheists of the other kind live on the fact that we are not better Christians” (Theology Today, October).

In need of prayer

The prayers of Barry C. Black, the first African American and Seventh-day Adventist to be chaplain of the U.S. Senate, have become pointed during the government shutdown. “Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable,” he prayed one morning. After he prayed on another occasion for God to “remove from them that stubborn pride which imagines itself to be above and beyond criticism,” Senate majority leader Harry Reid seemed genuinely contrite. “I think we’ve all here in the Senate kind of lost the aura of Robert Byrd,” Reid said, invoking the long-term senator from West Virginia who valued gentility and compromise (New York Times, October 6).

Not in our parking lot

For seven years a number of Christian ministries have been serving the poor and homeless in the parking lot of a Dauphin County administrative building in Pennsylvania, but they’ve been told they must find a new site. A bank that leases space from Dauphin County complained about instances of public urination and defecation and said that its employees have been harassed by homeless people. Representatives of the mission groups don’t deny those problems but say that if they don’t have a centralized location, the volunteers and food will dwindle and that if the services are removed to a more remote location, the homeless people will have difficulty finding them (Patriot-News, September 20).


This is the first year that Thanksgiving Day in the United States and the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah coincide, which has led to a flurry of Jewish levity and commercialism. A nine-year-old New York boy raised over $48,000 on Kickstarter for his trademarked “Menurkey,” a turkey-shaped menorah. A mother outside Boston teamed with an artist to create and sell Thanksgivukkah- or Turkukkah-themed shirts, cards and posters. Ten percent of sales are going to a Jewish hunger relief organization. Hanukkah actually begins the evening before Thanksgiving (AP).

Good news in Turkey

St. Giragos Armenian Church in Diyarbakir, Turkey, severely damaged during the 1915 massacre and deportation of Christians, recently underwent an extensive $3 million restoration. It has plans to hold regular services. The reopening of this church is part of a reevaluation by Kurdish Muslims of the role their ancestors played in the killing of minorities, including Armenians. The Kurdish city paid 15 percent of the renovation cost (RNS).