Century Marks

Century Marks

Triumph of liberalism

Robert Bellah, a sociologist of religion, believes that liberal Protestantism has been eclipsed because it has been so successful. It has infiltrated and transformed secular humanist culture. The teaching in religious studies departments in many American universities has a liberal Protestant bent. The reform of other religions, including Catholicism at Vatican II, and the work of international human rights movements reflects the influence of liberal Protestantism. Even the growing ranks of the so-called “nones” have more in common with unorganized liberal Protestantism than with atheism (First Things, June/July).

Hymn comeback?

“Our God,” a praise hymn by Matt Redman, is the most popular song sung in American churches, according to a chart that tracks such matters. Approaching the top ten list is a retro hymn, “In Christ Alone,” cowritten by Keith Getty. Getty represents a newer group of songwriters who try to get more content into their songs than the usual praise songs. Getty believes hymns should be singable without a band and should say something bold. “I think it’s to the church’s poverty that the average worship song now has so few words. . . . It is so focused on several commercial aspects of God, like the fact that he loves our praises,” Getty says (NPR, July 8).

Going gently

When Charlie, a highly regarded orthopedist, discovered he had pancreatic cancer, he refused all treatment. He ended his practice, never entered a hospital again, and spent time with his family until his death. This is not an unusual approach for doctors, according to Ken Murray, himself a physician. Doctors know what options they have at the end of life and how futile extreme efforts often are. While doctors often must use extreme measures to keep other people alive to meet relatives’ expectations, they refuse these measures themselves. Studies have shown that people in hospice care often live longer than people with the same disease who seek active treatment (Health Care Blog, August 6, 2012).

Revolution reading

These five books on the American Revolution, selected by American historian Thomas Kidd, were all written for a general audience by academic historians: Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution; David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride; Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence; James Byrd, Sacred Scrip­ture, Sacred War: The Bible and the Amer­ican Revolution; and Maya Jasa­noff, Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World. Kidd himself has authored two books on the topic: God of Liberty: A Religious History of the Amer­ican Revolution and Patrick Henry: First among Patriots (Patheos, July 2).

Muslim rocks

A group of young Muslim musicians, known as “nasheeds,” are combining hip-hop, country and pop music with the traditional message of their faith.  Nasheeds are supposed to “remind people of God,” said 22-year-old Mo Sabri of Johnson City, Tennessee, one of the first Muslim singers with his own channel on Pandora. His most popular song, “I Believe in Jesus,” has been viewed on YouTube more than a million times. Sabri said he wrote the song as a reminder that Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet and that all faiths should follow Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbor (RNS).