Century Marks

Century Marks

True joy

According to a fable, St. Francis of Assisi told Brother Leo that true joy comes not from success but in rejection and suffering, which cause us to reflect on Jesus’ pain and rejection. St. Francis compared it to coming back to the friary on a cold winter night and being told by the person who came to the door that he was a simpleton, that he couldn’t come in and should go away. It’s not that suffering is good for us. The point is that pain is a reality of life and that God is present in all reality, including pain and suffering (Weavings, August/September/October).

In the fishbowl

Episcopal priest Barney Hawkins says that parishioners take an interest in the personal lives of priests and pastors and their families. He recalls that in one parish he didn’t want to call attention to the car he drove, so he didn’t trade in his cars until necessary—and then bought replacements that were much the same as the previous model. When he was roasted before leaving that parish, some members put on a skit—with photos for documentation—about the three gray boxy station wagons he had owned while serving there. Hawkins says that church members look at ordained leaders for their authenticity and their flaws (Episcopal Etiquette and Ethics, Morehouse).

SK and FDR

The late Howard A. Johnson, an Episcopal priest, theologian and Kierkegaard scholar, was invited to the White House near the end of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s life. Roosevelt picked his brain about Kierkegaard, since he had been told that Kierkegaard’s later writings helped to explain the rise of totalitarianism and Nazism. Frances Perkins, Roosevelt’s biographer, said that the hour-long conversation made an impression on Roosevelt, as he spoke of it often afterward. “I have never been able to make out why people who are obviously human beings could behave like that,” Roosevelt said, speaking of the Nazis. “They are human, yet they behave like demons. Kierkegaard gives you an understanding of what it is in man that makes possible for these Germans to be so evil” (Anglican Theological Review, Winter).

Shoppers’ choice

“Walmart Moms” are defined by the superstore chain as women with children 18 years of age or younger living at home and who shop at Walmart at least once a month. The Bentonville, Arkansas–based company studies this group very carefully, including their political leanings. President Obama won a majority of their votes in 2008, but their votes are up for grabs in 2012. Obama’s advantage with Walmart Moms drops dramatically in the battleground states that are likely to determine the outcome of the presidential election this fall (Bloomberg.com, August 2).

Past imperfect

David Barton’s historical revisionism about American history has been wildly popular with conservatives who want to believe, like Barton, that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and that the founding fathers did not share modern notions about the separation of church and state. Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and a Republican candidate for president in 2008, said he wished that every American could be made to listen to a telecast of David Barton lecturing, even if at gunpoint. However, Barton’s latest book, The Jefferson Lies, has drawn criticism not just from liberals or professional historians, his usual critics, but from a group of evangelical pastors, black and white, from Cincinnati. They called for a boycott of Barton’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, because the book seeks to justify Thomas Jefferson’s ownership of slaves and glosses over the third president’s racism and heretical views about Christ. Thomas Nelson has since pulled the book from the market (NPR, August 8, and World, August 9).