In the foreword to Just War as Christian Discipleship, Lieutenant Colonel Scott A. Sterling, an army chaplain, recounts a conversation he had with a female officer in Iraq who was eager to make moral sense of her combat experience. Is it right that we are here?
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.
When A History of God hit the New York Times bestseller list, Karen Armstrong suddenly became the go-to commentator on religion. Bill Moyers calls her “one of the foremost, and most original, thinkers on religion in our modern world.” Why is she so widely read? The answer is not immediately clear. Her prose is often maddeningly dense and her points elusive. Her drive to comprehend religion leads her to be constantly comparing elements of different religious traditions, but the connections she draws are not always illuminating.
Old habits die hard. Despite numerous attempts by mainline Protestant denominations to promote historically informed studies of Judaism, repudiate supersessionist theologies and engage in conversations wth Jews, the old habit of bearing false witness against Jewish neighbors lives on. In recent years this practice has thrived especially in mainline Protestant statements on the Middle East.
When Robert Deming lost both his mother and sister in his youth, he was so angry at God that he decided he was an atheist. He eventually came back to the faith not by argument or reason but by the love of his wife. “I would not be a Christian if not for two things,” he says. “The love of someone patient and the beauty of adoration offered lovingly.” His advice to Christians with family or friends who have left the fold: “Be patient with those you love . . . [and] do what you do with beauty, care, and reverence” (thesubdeansstall.org, October 12).