Century Marks

Century Marks

Four-part harmony

Choral music was a major part of the Lutheran Reformation and goes back to Luther himself. He was a competent songwriter and singer, and he saw music as a powerful means of proclaiming the mysteries of God and of moving human hearts. Luther knew that music as an art form has the capacity to bring people together, so he encouraged people to sing together, and in harmony. Luther’s ability to join vernacular words with popular song tunes was instrumental in spreading the Reformation among illiterate as well as literate people. Lutheran schools taught children to sing “psalms and songs” and to sing in four parts (Church History, March).

Revised edition

Albert Schweitzer’s The Quest of the Historical Jesus is one of the most important books on biblical theology in the modern period. Many people don’t realize that Schweitzer published a greatly revised edition—an edition that didn’t appear in English until 2000. Theologians in the U.S. often quote a passage from the original text without realizing that Schweitzer excised it in his revision: “the coming Son of Man lays hold of the wheel of the world to set it moving on that last revolution which [will] bring all ordinary history to a close. It refuses to turn, and He throws Himself upon it. Then it does turn; and crushes Him. Instead of bringing in the eschatological conditions, He has destroyed them.” Another famous section, “He comes to us as one unknown,” was retained in the revised version (Early Christianity 3 [2012]).

Who’s generous?

The wealthiest Americans—those in the top 20 percent—give 1.3 percent of their income to charity; those in the bottom 20 percent give 3.2 percent of their income, even though many of them can’t itemize their contributions as a tax deduction. One theory about why the rich give less is because they are more isolated from and therefore have less empathy toward truly needy people. Lower income people may give more because they are more acquainted with the challenges of meeting basic human needs. Rich people tend to give to the arts and education, whereas poorer people tend to give to social service and church organizations (Atlantic, March 20).

Pastor as theologian

The separation of theological scholarship from pastoral ministry has led to two unfortunate outcomes, says pastor and writer Gerald Hiestand: the theological anemia of the church and the ecclesial anemia of theology. Hiestand suggests that the pastoral vocation and theological scholarship need to be reunited by resurrecting an almost extinct role: the pastor as ecclesial theologian. Doctoral students in theology could be encouraged to make pastoral ministry the context for their scholarship (Expository Times, March).

Living wage

Debates about the minimum wage usually overlook the religious roots of the concept. John A. Ryan, an Irish Catholic priest from Minnesota, coined the term “living wage” and based it on Catholic social teaching. In 1894 he wrote in his diary: “We must have a more just distribution of wealth.” In 1906 he published a book called A Living Wage. In 1937 he became the first Catholic to give an invocation at a presidential inauguration (Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second). A year later FDR signed the first national law requiring a minimum wage law—25 cents an hour (Tikkun, February 26).