Century Marks

Century Marks

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).

Running for God

Ryan Hall is a Pentecostal Christian and a world-class marathon runner. At the Beijing Olym­pics he came in tenth, and he hopes to do better in London. His training routine is unorthodox: he doesn’t have a coach, he doesn’t do training at high altitude as many long-distance runners do and, due to his faith, he takes one day off in seven. Hall has taken criticism for his approach, but Tim Noakes, an exercise physiologist at the Univer­sity of Cape Town, says: “The more stable you are as a human, the better you are as an athlete, and religion is a very stabilizing force” (New York Times, July 14).

Dark Christ

Arthur Shearly Cripps (1869–1952) was a missionary to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) who had poor eyesight all his life and eventually went blind. He was known for his poetry, respect for native Africans and radical politics, which comes through in this short poem, “Seen Darkly in Africa”:

To me—as one born out of his due time—
To me—as one not meet to reckon in—
To me (of all injurious aliens chief)
Christ hath revealed Himself—not as to Paul
Enthroned and crown’d, but marr’d, despised, rejected—
The Divine Outcast of a terrible land,
A Black Christ with parched lips and empty hand.

The reference to a “terrible land” was a critique of the unjust land policies imposed by white settlers. The concept of a Black Christ was very controversial in Cripps’s time (T. Jack Thompson, Light on Darkness? Eerdmans).

Mad mullahs?

A nuclear-armed Iran would not necessarily be the worst thing that could happen to the Middle East, argues Kenneth N. Waltz of Columbia University. Ever since Israel got nuclear weapons, there has been an imbalance of power in the Middle East. Armed with nuclear weapons, Iran would provide balance and bring stability to the region, he argues. Western responses to Iran’s desire for nuclear weapons is founded on the notion that Iran’s policies are devised by “mad mullahs.” In reality, Iran is guided by “perfectly sane ayatollahs” who wish to survive just like the leaders of other nations, despite their incendiary rhetoric (Foreign Affairs, July/August).