Century Marks

Century Marks

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).

Spirituality of play

The physical benefits of sport have long been known. Some people argue that sports also help moral development. The spiritual benefits are less acknowledged. Sports psychologist Mark Nesti argues that sport ideally involves the mind, body and spirit. Sport as a spiritual activity is best realized when it is seen as a form of play, a way of losing one’s self in the process and not focusing on personal gain alone. Sport also involves sacrifice and suffering, which Nesti doesn’t see as contradicting the notion of sport as fun. “Play can be serious—indeed it should be serious or it’s not really play” (Third Way, July/August).

Tower of power

Cell phone companies are having difficulty finding places to build new towers, so they are looking to church buildings, which means that many churches may get a new source of income. The Catonsville Presbyterian Church in Maryland, for instance, has struck a deal with a cell phone company: the company is allowed to put three antennas in the steeple, in return for which the church is paid over $1,000 a month for each antenna (NPR, July 26).

Worship revolution

Poet Christian Wiman says that “mystical experience needs some form of dogma in order not to dissipate into moments of spiritual intensity that are merely personal.” On the other hand, “dogma needs regular infusions of unknowingness to keep from calcifying into the predictable, pontificating, and anti-intellectual services so common in mainstream American churches.” Practically, this means that “conservative churches that are infused with the bouncy brand of American optimism one finds in sales pitches are selling shit. It means that liberal churches that go months without mentioning the name of Jesus, much less the dying Christ, have no more spiritual purpose or significance than a local union hall. It means that we—those of us who call ourselves Christians—need a revolution in the way we worship” (Image, Spring).