Century Marks

Century Marks

Real spirituality

The Vietnam War underscored for Ismael García the colonial status of Puerto Rico. An inordinate number of Puerto Ricans were drafted to fight that war, even though they couldn’t engage in electing the people who were responsible for it. García was also disappointed in the church at the time, because he thought it ignored social and political realities on the island and focused instead on whether it was appropriate for women to wear slacks and how long men’s hair should be. In time García, who became a Christian ethicist, discovered Christians who modeled a life of social activism and inner spiritual devotion. He identified three traits of these Christians: they view God as sovereign in all spheres of life; they are committed to projects and concerns larger than their own personal interests; and they know that faithful living entails social analysis and cultural interpretation (“On Spirituality,” in A Spiritual Life, edited by Allan Hugh Cole Jr., West­min­ster John Knox).

Sing out

People still sing together in churches and ballparks, but what is absent in America, say Karen Loew, is “community-oriented, community-building, sometimes spontaneous” singing. One obstacle is the lack of a common repertoire of songs. “Since we’re out of practice as a society, the person who dares to begin a song risks having no one join her.” Protest movements have long been known by their music. While the Occupy movement has incorporated some music, it has not generated original music (Atlantic, March).

Land of unbelief?

The National Opinion Research Center at the Univer­sity of Chicago polled 30 countries to determine the level of belief, unbelief or doubt about God. Japan turned out to be the country with the lowest level of belief; the Philippines had the highest level. The countries with the lowest levels of belief tended to be either former socialist states or situated in northwest Europe. The countries with the highest levels of belief tended to be Catholic ones, especially in the developing world, with the U.S., Israel and Cyprus the exceptions (NORC/University of Chicago, April 18).

No first class

In 1979 the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador visited an urban slum where people lived in shelters made from scrap tin and cardboard. A reporter traveling with Romero asked: “How do you feel when you see a community like this?” Romero responded: “I just think of what I have already preached. There shouldn’t be first-class people and second-class people” (Spiritual Life, Spring).

Theological wit

Wit and humor were an integral part of Martin Luther’s theology. Writing against rationalistic, good-works-oriented religion, he declared: “As soon as reason and the Law are joined, faith immediately loses its virginity.” Luther used bathroom humor, which he directed against the devil, the pope and death. He called the pope “dearest little ass-pope.” About the devil he wrote: “If he devours me, he shall devour a laxative (God willing) which will make his bowels and anus too tight for him.” Shortly before his death Luther said to his wife Katie, “I’m like a ripe stool and the world’s like a gigantic anus, and so we’re about to let go of each other” (Word and World, Spring).