Century Marks

Century Marks

Past imperfect

David Barton’s historical revisionism about American history has been wildly popular with conservatives who want to believe, like Barton, that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and that the founding fathers did not share modern notions about the separation of church and state. Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and a Republican candidate for president in 2008, said he wished that every American could be made to listen to a telecast of David Barton lecturing, even if at gunpoint. However, Barton’s latest book, The Jefferson Lies, has drawn criticism not just from liberals or professional historians, his usual critics, but from a group of evangelical pastors, black and white, from Cincinnati. They called for a boycott of Barton’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, because the book seeks to justify Thomas Jefferson’s ownership of slaves and glosses over the third president’s racism and heretical views about Christ. Thomas Nelson has since pulled the book from the market (NPR, August 8, and World, August 9).

God in the rocks

Early in his career, Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin told his spiritual director that he intended to abandon his interest in rocks and natural philosophy to focus on the spiritual life. His spiritual director responded that if he were to do so, he’d be abandoning his vocation as a Jesuit, since Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, urged his followers to find God in everything, no matter what they were doing (James F. Salmon SJ, with Nicole Schmitz-Moormann, in The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity, Wiley-Blackwell).

Tower of power

Cell phone companies are having difficulty finding places to build new towers, so they are looking to church buildings, which means that many churches may get a new source of income. The Catonsville Presbyterian Church in Maryland, for instance, has struck a deal with a cell phone company: the company is allowed to put three antennas in the steeple, in return for which the church is paid over $1,000 a month for each antenna (NPR, July 26).

Worship revolution

Poet Christian Wiman says that “mystical experience needs some form of dogma in order not to dissipate into moments of spiritual intensity that are merely personal.” On the other hand, “dogma needs regular infusions of unknowingness to keep from calcifying into the predictable, pontificating, and anti-intellectual services so common in mainstream American churches.” Practically, this means that “conservative churches that are infused with the bouncy brand of American optimism one finds in sales pitches are selling shit. It means that liberal churches that go months without mentioning the name of Jesus, much less the dying Christ, have no more spiritual purpose or significance than a local union hall. It means that we—those of us who call ourselves Christians—need a revolution in the way we worship” (Image, Spring).

Aints go marching in

For one night in August the St. Paul Saints, a Minnesota minor league baseball team, will become the “Mr. Paul Aints.” The game is being sponsored by the Minnesota Atheists. The letter S will be covered in all Saints signs and logos around the stadium. The Saints have hosted several events with religious themes, and the club thought it would be inconsistent to say no to the atheists (RNS).