Century Marks

The Christian Century, May 31, 2003 | Go to article overview

Century Marks


CONS AND NEOCONS: Scott McConnell is the executive editor of a new journal, the American Conservative, whose mission is to challenge--from the right--the neoconservative movement, which is seen as pushing the Bush administration toward (among other things) war against Arab and rogue nations. McConnell's own journey toward a critical view of the neoconservatives came about in part when he started sporadically attending a mainline Presbyterian church in Manhattan. Although he experienced no big epiphanies, he said that the Christian liturgy rubbed off on him, especially "its all-embracing quality, its summons to universal brotherhood--that makes 'racial passions' of any sort seem a bit shameful." Going back to church, which he hadn't done since his prep school days, had another effect: he began to realize "that the Palestinians, many of whom are Christian, are people deserving of dignity and rights." In McConnell's political circle the word "Palestinian" was rarely used without a sneer, but when the minister referred to Mary the mother of Jesus as "a poor Palestinian women," the phrase "rattled around the mind for a while" (American Conservative, April 21).

GIVE THEM THE WORD: When King James I, 17th-century monarch of England and Scotland, discovered a plot to blow up London's Parliament, he realized how fragile and fractious his kingdom was. His strategy for political and religious reconciliation was to propose a new translation of the Bible, what came to be called the King James (or Authorized) Version. The six committees charged with the new version of the Bible worked roughly during the same time as William Shakespeare. Together, Shakespeare and the KJV gave shape to the English language, bequeathing it with many memorable images and phrases. In Power and Glory: Jacobean England and the Making of the King James Bible, journalist Adam Nicholson uncovers the political and religious contexts of the KJV, including the lives of the translators. For instance, John Layfield had been an explorer of the New World, and he came home to England transfixed by the beauty and bounty of the Caribbean. What Layfield saw in the New World influenced the Genesis accounts of creation and descriptions of the Garden of Eden (Newsweek International, May 12).

GO INTO ALL THE WORLD: The number of short-term missionaries is rising, according to Knight Ridder Newspapers (May 7). About 30,000 Methodists go on short-term mission trips each year. In 2001 the Southern Baptist Convention sent some 34,000 volunteers, about double the number that went annually in the 1990s. This trend, in part, is attributed to technology: air travel is cheaper and easier, and the Internet and cell phones make it easier to connect with partnering churches. In addition to whatever good that short-term missionaries do for the people they go to serve--which is debatable--these people have their worldview broadened and their faith strengthened, some claim. There are detractors, however, including the Vatican, which accuses Protestants of invading traditionally Catholic territory, such as Latin America.

REMEMBER THE SABBATH: Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, a Democratic presidential candidate, is also an observant Orthodox Jew, which makes for some interesting campaign logistics.

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