Post-Holocaust Christian theology has learned to take seriously the Jewishness of Jesus. This has had the salutary effect of encouraging some Jews to take Jesus and the New Testament more seriously, says Jewish scholar Edward Kessler. Jewish scholars such as Pinchas Lapide, Géza Vermes, David Flusser and Amy-Jill Levine have even made Jesus and the New Testament the object of serious study. Lapide concluded that Jesus’ resurrection actually happened, because he could find no other explanation for how Jesus’ disciples became a jubilant community of believers so quickly after the crucifixion (Theological Studies, March).
Apr 25, 2013
Adoptions of foreign children have been increasing among some American evangelicals, with children coming from African countries like Ethiopia, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Adoption is often an extension of pro-life beliefs, a way to address world poverty and a means of evangelizing children. It is also seen as a way of emulating God who through Christ has adopted humanity. Of the 201 accredited adoption agencies registered with the U.S. State Department, over 50 are explicitly Christian, not counting the Catholic agencies. Some families in the U.S. have been suspected of neglecting and abusing adopted children. From 6 to 11 percent of international adoptions fail. The failure rate for children adopted as adolescents is about 25 percent (Mother Jones, April 15).
Music of the heart
Apr 25, 2013
When Joel Kurz was a seminary intern at an inner-city Lutheran mission, he encountered an alcoholic who told him to “learn number 123 in the red book.” Number 123 in the Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal turned out to feature the tune “Down Ampney,” composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams for the 15th-century text “Come down, O Love divine, / Seek thou this soul of mine.” Vaughan Williams had requested that this hymn be sung at his funeral. Kurz later discovered the alcoholic man had been working on a doctorate in music when his wife and son were killed in an auto accident. Kurz concluded that the man must have identified deeply with the plea in this hymn (Weavings, May/June/July).
Apr 11, 2013
At least since the 1980s American evangelicalism has increasingly associated itself with conservative, often Republican, politics. Comparing evangelicals in the U.S. with those in Brazil, Erin McAdams and Justin Earl Lance found that evangelicals in Brazil are not as conservative. In response to the statement, “The government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep,” 96 percent of Brazilian evangelicals agreed but only 67 percent of Americans did. Brazilian evangelicals are no less theologically orthodox than their American counterparts. One reason for the difference is that no political party in Brazil endorses abortion, which takes that issue off the table. Brazil has a multiparty system and only in 2002 did one party target evangelicals (Boston Globe, April 1).
Apr 11, 2013
Fiction was not highly regarded by Americans in the 19th century. The country, says Randall Fuller, was focused on industry, success and salvation, not artistic achievement. Many were taken by surprise, then, by how Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin drew people into its antislavery narrative and moved them emotionally—sometimes to the point of embarrassment. Her novel, which she claimed she didn’t write (“God wrote it. I merely did His dictation”), was outsold in the 19th century only by the Bible (Humanities, March/April).