Century Marks

Century Marks

Take a stand

Robert D. Putnam (author of Bowling Alone and coauthor of American Grace) was raised a Meth­o­­dist and was active in church as a Methodist youth. He recalls that in the late 1950s, in a small conservative town and in a rather conservative Methodist congregation, his pastor said bluntly, "Racism is a sin." Putnam says that was powerful, prophetic language then, but there's still plenty to be outraged about now. "The growth of inequality and class segregation in America is ripe for a religious prophecy that says 'here I stand and I can do no other'" (interview in Hedgehog Review, Spring).

Basic question

When theologian Philip Clayton was a doctoral student at Yale, his adviser, Hans Frei, told him that theologians who were preoccupied with method weren't actually producing profound or enduring theology. "You are not a theologian until you have written a Christology," Frei said. That argument has shaped Clayton's own teaching. He asks his students to answer the question Jesus raised with his disciples: "But who do you say that I am?" If you choose to call yourself a Christian, says Clayton, "this is the question that stands before you at every waking moment" (Trans­forming Christian Theology, Fortress).

An App for that

Exodus Inter­national has developed an application (or app) for Apple's iPhone that purports to deliver "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ." The app is a resource for meetings, videos and news stories that suggest one can "grow into heterosexuality." Apple gave the app a 4+ rating, meaning that it contained "no objectionable material." But after Truth Wins Out, a pro-gay group, launched a petition against the "gay cure app," as it became known, Apple pulled it from its website. Exodus International is petitioning to have the app reinstated (theatlantic.com and exodusinternational.org).

Rite of passage

After World War II some Japanese communities created a ritual to help their returning soldiers reenter society. The soldiers would be thanked and profusely praised for their service, and then an elder would make an authoritative proclamation: "The war is now over! The community needs you to let go of what served you and served us well up to now. The community needs you to return as a man, a citizen, and something beyond a soldier" (Richard Rohr, Falling Upward, Jossey-Bass).

Bell’s hell

Chad Holtz, a United Methodist pastor in North Carolina, says he has long had doubts about the traditional Christian view of hell. When he made a favorable Facebook comment about Love Wins, a book by popular evangelical pastor Rob Bell that questions that view, Holtz was relieved of his pastorate. Bell challenges the notion that hell is a place of eternal torment for people who aren't Christians and argues that an emphasis on hell is misplaced, although he denies that he is a universalist. Says Holtz: "So long as we believe there's a dividing point in eternity, we're going to think in terms of us and them. But when you believe God has saved everyone, the point is, you're saved. Live like it" (Associated Press).