Century Marks

Century Marks

Lament and celebration

The Advent and Christmas seasons can elicit grief, especially for those who have experienced loss since the previous celebration. Cancer survivor Deanna Thompson reminds Christians to allow space for lament during these seasons. Christians have difficulty accepting lament, perhaps because their faith proclaims the resurrection. “To be able to give voice to our deepest sorrows, to attend to the sufferings that ultimately pass none of us by, is to give ourselves permission to lament,” says Thompson. Lament is a necessary precursor to hope (Grace blog, November 13).

Fallout

Islamophobic candidates running for the U.S. Congress didn’t do too well in last month’s election. Allen West, who has called Islam a totalitarian theocratic ideology, lost to Patrick Murphy, a Democratic challenger in Florida. Adam Hasner, also from Florida and known for supporting anti-Islamic events, lost, as did represen­tatives Chip Cravaack in Minnesota and Joe Walsh in Illinois. Candidate Charlie Fuqua in Arkansas, who had called for deporting all Mus­lims, failed to unseat the incumbent in his district (Arab American News, November 9).

Role reversal

Churches and clergy are usually at the center of disaster relief efforts, but many churches and synagogues were devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and they have needed help themselves. Houses of worship in numerous areas were destroyed. The clergy have had disasters at home to deal with, and many have endured long periods without electricity. Jewish synagogues have had the additional challenge of rescuing and salvaging waterlogged sacred texts (New York Times, November 12).

Lifeline

George S. Hendry was a Scottish Presbyterian who taught theology at Princeton Seminary from 1949 to 1973. He considered his 20 years in pastoral ministry and an active life of prayer essential to his teaching profession. Seminary professors should have firsthand knowledge of the world into which many of their students are headed, he believed, and theology should be integrally connected with the life of the church. To take the measure of other theologians, he would read what they had to say about prayer. If a theologian took prayer seriously, Hendry took that theologian seriously, even if he had theological objections. “Prayer is the life line of theology,” Hendry said (Theology Today, October).

The teaching life

The American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature report that teaching positions in religion experienced a modest yet steady growth from 2000 until 2008 but declined from 2008 to 2010. The number of tenure-track positions has declined. The fields of Islam, New Testament and early Christianity, and theology have the most openings (InsideHigherEd.com, November 13).