I’ll always remember the day last July when John Henry Newman’s beatification was announced. My family and I were en route to Heathrow Airport, barreling along in a van driven by my fearless godmother, who had promised we would not miss our plane. Her mobile phone signaled a text message, and from where I was sitting, clutching my seat, I had the chance to read it aloud.
Likely no culture has been so ignorant and contemptuous of place as is contemporary industrialized society. We may not even qualify as a culture, since that word generally connotes a form of social organization that connects people and places through time. By that criterion, industrialized society fails miserably.
It is by living and dying that one becomes a theologian, Martin Luther said. With that comment in mind, we have resumed a Century series published at intervals since 1939 and asked theologians to reflect on their own struggles, disappointments, questions and hopes as people of faith and to consider how their work and life have been intertwined.
Abraham haunts me. When I wrote my first Faith Matters column in 1997, I began with those three words. At that time I was in transition—moving from Maryland to North Carolina, and from a faculty position teaching undergraduates at Loyola College in Maryland to a position as dean of Duke Divinity School.
George Carey, archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, says he is ready to back legislation that would legalize assisted dying for the terminally ill in England and Wales. Admitting it’s an about-face for him, Carey now argues that by “strictly observing the sanctity of life, the Church could now actually be promoting anguish and pain, the very opposite of a Christian message of hope.” Justin Welby, the current archbishop, is strongly opposed to assisted dying. “What sort of society would we be creating if we were to allow this sword of Damocles to hang over the head of every vulnerable, terminally ill person in the country?” Welby said (Ecumenical News).