Century Marks

Century Marks

Old battle

Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island, believed that freedom of religion and political freedom were inextricably linked. Pagans, Jews, Turks and even anti-Christians should be given the freedom to worship as they wished, or not worship at all, he believed. Current public debates about the role of religion in public life go back to the conflict between Williams and the Massa­chusetts Puritans. The Puritans wanted to create a Christian commonwealth. Williams created a government that was based on the will of the people and didn't depend on God's blessing. Williams set the tone for the U.S. Constitution, which doesn't mention God or invoke God's blessings on the country (John M. Barry, author of Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul, in the Los Angeles Times, February 5).


John M. Buchanan, editor/publisher of the Christian Century, has been named winner of the 2012 David Steele Distinguished Writer Award by the Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG). "In recognizing John Buchanan, the Writers Guild is mindful of John's concise, yet often profound editorial columns in the Christian Century which have provided the church with continuing guidance and inspiration," said J. Barrie Shep­herd, chair of the PWG award committee. Buchanan retired from pastoral ministry at the end of January after 48 years—the last 26 at Fourth Presby­terian Church in Chicago. He continues to serve at the Century (PCUSA News).

Ecclesial spectacle

Like most presidents in the modern era, Harry Tru­man's church attendance while vice president and president was erratic. He didn't give advance notice of when or where he would attend, typically showing up just before the service began in order to minimize distractions. He wrote a note to the minister of the First Baptist Church in Washington that "it now re­quires so many people to get me around there is no pleas­ure in going anywhere." To the pastor of his home church, Grandview Bap­tist in Grandview, Missouri, he said: "I don't want people to come to church to see the president. They ought to go there to worship God" (David Holmes, The Faiths of the Postwar Presidents: From Tru­man to Obama, University of Georgia Press).


Last month a car drove through the front doors of the Happy Corner Church of the Brethren in Clayton, Ohio. The driver drove the car around the sanctuary, causing extensive damage. The driver then abandoned the car, which was thought to have been stolen (WDTN, January 19).

Haves and have-nots

Economist Richard Wolff says that both rich and poor Americans tend to think of themselves as middle class, but the middle class has nearly disappeared. The businesses that had success catering to the middle class in the past—Sears, for example—are having difficulty today. Upscale boutiques and high-end department stores at the one end and discount stores at the other end are doing well (The Sun, February).