What a week it was -- and Marty, with all of his wit and insight, offers his analysis!
-- Martin E. Marty
What a week it was. Saturday’s WSJ crowned its front page with the banner words “Deadly Sins,” and gave the whole front page of the Weekend Journal to “Sex Americana.” Gerard Baker deduces there that citizens are increasingly tolerant when public officials “fall” to sexual infidelities—now known as “my mistakes”—but grow more intolerant of hypocrisy when those who preach against sexual sin “do it.”
Back to Friday, June 26: Most talked-about was the NYT cover story about an Assemblies of God minister, Ken Pagano of Louisville, who insisted that members bring exposed firearms into the sanctuary to celebrate “God and guns,” the co-founders of our country. The once anti-gambling Assemblies must notice, on the national level, that this local church is raffling off a handgun, but Pastor Pagano wants to celebrate and defend assault weapons. Critics charge that giving sanctuary to such weapons and carriers and blending them with the gospel is incompatible. Pagano says, “Baloney!” “The issue now is the gospel. So in a sense, it does become a crusade. Now the Gospel is at stake.” Some naïve folks were shocked, not having noticed that for millions, such theology is the real religion.
For weekend balance, the WSJ provides a sophisticated and, yes, balanced editorial-review by Marc Arkin of Peter J. Thueson’s Predestination: the American Career of a Contentious Doctrine. Thueson revisits the verbally violent history of pro- and con- arguers over whether God predestines most of God’s creatures to spend eternity in hell. The review ends with comment that Thuesen “manages to capture the significance of their enterprise. It is nothing less than an unflinching commitment to living always mindful of the eye of eternity,” paying “noble tribute to that sense of awe before the divine that theology captures only through a glass darkly.”
Lawrence W. Krauss in a long editorial “proves” to himself that “God and Science Don’t Mix,” and tells of a debate which, framed the way he frames it, he could not lose. It’s a rather un-nuanced boast which offers nothing new. Science wins? God is dead?
Charlotte Hays in her “Houses of Worship” column reports on the decline in Sunday School attendance and the number of Sunday Schools nationally. Is this because God is dead? No— while boring experiences contribute, social factors are bigger. Parental divorces unsettle Sunday arrangements for the children’s schedules, and soccer wins out over Jesus almost always. Sunday sports and public celebrations are thus other phenomena which show that there are other sanctuaries for the “real religion” of millions
Any phenomenologist looking in on the idol-worship upon the death of icon Michael Jackson would say that in this celebrity-adulation she has located our real religion. And we have only a line or four left for the most religiously-covered event of the week: the confessions of Governor Mark Sanford, who came back from one of history’s most publicized trysts to apologize for his “mistake” and to announce that he’s been rereading the Bible. He’s used the Bible for years in his political efforts to smash everyone who reads it differently than he does. Now it’s a more personal issue: He calls in King David, to identify with that lecher-of-old. What a week!—in “secular” America.
Martin E. Marty's biography, current projects, upcoming events, publications, and contact information can be found at www.illuminos.com.
In this month’s Religion and Culture Web Forum essay, anthropologist and legal scholar Mateo Taussig-Rubbo examines “how the destruction of property and life seems to [generate] a new form of value,” a value frequently identified as that of the “sacred.” Focusing on the wreckage from and sites of the September 11 attacks, Taussig-Rubbo considers issues of property law and conceptions of sacrifice in an attempt to understand how this concept of sacrality comes to be, and what meanings it holds within American culture. Invited responses will follow from Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Kathryn Lofton, Jeremy Biles, and Kristen Tobey.
Sightings comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.