Century Marks

Century Marks

A cut apart

Theologian and Bible scholar Rudolf Bultmann grew up in a family shaped by the pietist revival in Germany. His father, a pastor, eventually became a liberal, but his mother re­mained attached to the pietist tradition. The two took their theological differences to their graves. The tombstone of Bultmann’s father reads: “I believe in God my father,” a line that reflects the theological liberalism of Adolf Harnack. His mother’s tomb­stone declares, “I know that my redeemer lives” (Konrad Hammann, Rudolf Bultmann: A Biography, Polebridge).

Takeover

As late as the mid-1970s the National Rifle Association (founded in 1871) focused on hunting, conservation and marksmanship. But at its annual meeting in 1977 it was taken over by radical gun rights activists, who reshaped the group’s orientation. The old guard had plans to move headquarters to Colorado, but the new leaders decided that the real action was in Washington. Today the NRA is arguably the most powerful lobbying organization in the country. William J. Vizzard, a retired Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms official, says the NRA has no interest in compromise. “They’re not interested in fixing things. They want to stir things up, and the more they stir things up, the more members they get and the more money they make” (Washington Post, January 12).

Heart and head

Canadian re­searchers compared Anglican and Pente­costal responses to sermons and found, unsurprisingly, that Anglicans prefer more significant intellectual content than do Pentecostals. Yet participants from both groups responded to sermons predominantly on the basis of their emotional appeal. Both Anglicans and Pentecostals favored sermons dealing with grace and forgiveness (Anglican Journal, January 10).

Precarious state

Most Christians in Syria back the Alawite-dominated regime led by Bashar al-Assad. They prefer a flawed secular government to one run by Islamic hardliners. Syrian Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, are a significant portion of the business and professional classes. They do not fear bloodshed were there to be a regime change. What they fear is being treated like second-class citizens. A victory by the opposition forces could lead to the emigration of hundreds of thousands of Syrian Chris­tians (Current History, December).

Anonymous Christian?

Abraham Lincoln, a skeptic and a free thinker, never joined a church. However, he did have close contact with several Presbyterian pastors. James Smith, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Illinois, preached the funeral sermon for Lincoln’s son Eddie. Afterward, Mary Todd Lincoln joined his church and Lincoln became his friend. Phineas D. Gurley, pastor of the New York Presbyterian Church, often visited Lincoln at the White House to discuss the Bible and theology. Lincoln frequently attended this congregation’s midweek prayer service. Lincoln sat in the pastor’s study with the door ajar, to avoid making a commotion over his presence (Presbyterian News Service, December 20).