In the July 2011 Christianity Today, its editor-in-chief, Dr. David Neff, asks Bishop Kallistos Ware, “If I were to meet you on a train and ask you, ‘What is the center of the Christian message?,’ how would you succinctly put that?” I liked his reply:
I would answer, “I believe in a God who loves humankind so intensely, so totally, that he chose himself to become human. Therefore, I believe in Jesus Christ as fully and truly God, but also totally and unreservedly one of us, fully human.” And I would say to you, “The love of God is so great that Christ died for us on the cross. But love is stronger than death, and so the death of Jesus was followed by his resurrection. I am a Christian because I believe in the great love of God that led him to become incarnate, to die, and to rise again.” That’s my faith. All of this is made immediate to us through the continuing action of the Holy Spirit. (41)
A little later in the interview, Ware pointed out: “‘God so loved the world.’ That is what we should start from” (41).
Also in this issue Christianity Today listens “to the voices of Christians from the bottom of India’s hyperstratified society” (4) in “India’s Grassroots Revival” (28-36).
In another article, we learn about Dr. Catherine Clark Kroeger’s fight for the downtrodden who have known the suffering of abuse. I’d never heard of Dr. Kroeger before, the poorer I; in this article I learned of her biblical scholarship, her classical education, her death at 85 on February 14 of this year, her lecturing at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, her love for the Scriptures, her Women, Abuse, and the Bible (which I just ordered used, for $7.25), and her concern for those whose lives have been broken by domestic violence (42-45).
Dr. Kroeger was so concerned for victims of abuse and for their batterers that in 2003, at the age of 78, she started Peace and Safety in the Christian Home (PASCH). I am likely the last to have heard of this significant organization, which is a “loose coalition of Christian academics, social work professionals, researchers, clergy, and counselors affirmed [in their] desire to solve the problem of abuse in Christian families” (44). I went online and found PASCH and read its latest newsletter, too.
In this newsletter, I found the following disturbing information:
In “The Edge of Darkness,” a recent op-ed piece in The Boston Globe (10 September 2010), Nathalie Favre-Gilly and Deborah Collins-Gousby wrote that costs (compiled by the Center for Disease Control) of domestic violence exceeded an estimated $5.8 billion every year. This includes nearly $4.1 billion in the direct costs of medical and mental health care, and another $1.l8 billion in the indirect costs of lost productivity. As a result of the brutality they endure, victims of domestic violence lose a total of nearly 8 million days of paid work—the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs—and nearly 5.6 million days of household productivity each year. In this article, the authors raise the question: “What does it say about us as a society that we continue to view domestic violence as a problem that can’t be fixed?” The church of Jesus Christ has a long career of throwing itself against insurmountable evils. Only consider the abolition of slavery that was accomplished through the efforts of dedicated Christians such as Wilbur Wilberforce and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The church has spearheaded efforts to eliminate poverty, hunger, ill health, illiteracy, child abuse and neglect, and a host of other social issues. When will we take domestic abuse off the “impossible” list and apply our powers of prayer and persuasion, our God-given talents, and our conviction to stemming this evil? (2)
Then there is an article from which I learned that a certain author has sold well over 400 million copies of her work, “dwarfing all published works not written by God or Chairman Mao” (50), that these seven books contain 4,100 pages, and that this series has become the most successful film franchise ever, even more successful than Star Wars and James Bond. Of course this piece by Mr. John Granger “(no relation to Hermione)” (53) is discussing Harry Potter. From it I learned that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (sold in the U.S. as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) has 17 chapters, just as C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (52), and from there I read a terrific analysis of why Rowling’s “cultural tsunami” (52) is here to stay: (1) “a complex yet nearly invisible ‘ring composition’; (2) an alchemical drama; and (3) an engaging picture of the faculties of the soul” (52).
This article is a compelling look at Harry Potter by Granger, a writer “who has written and edited as many books about the Hogwarts saga as there are novels in said series” (50). Almost everyone in the world knows that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, opens in theaters on July 15.
There is so much more. I have only mentioned a fraction of the articles I read and enjoyed. I also enjoyed quotations, short updates on the latest world news in “Gleanings,” revelations about social media in “Briefing,” insights on other cultural phenomena, challenges to help a hungry world, reviews of books and music, and personal reflection pieces, such as Dr. David Neff’s sensitive, honest, and faith-strengthening article on his father, who died recently (67). Here is one memorable paragraph:
Fathers and sons often don’t see eye to eye. Dad listened to Rush Limbaugh. I listen to NPR. Dad played Alan Jackson on his stereo. I have Thomas Hampson on my iPod. But on this we agreed: The Christian faith is essentially eschatological (67).
My favorite “Worth Repeating” quotation was from Sue, who noted: “Clearly Jesus thought the problem was in the person doing the lusting. Why have we continually instead tried to put the blame and responsibility on the woman?” (62) (from Her.meneutics: “Beyond SlutWalk: A New Conversation about Sexual Assault,” by Katelyn Beaty).
Another good “Worth Repeating” quotation was from Rick, who asked, “Shouldn’t love, respect, and humility come quicker to Christians than judgment?” (62)
It’s been a great joy over the last years to write on occasion for Christianity Today and for its affiliated magazines, and everyone on the CT staff is such a joy to work with. It sounds trite, perhaps, but one would like to think that a magazine that works very hard to present an attentive, compassionate, Christian approach to living is peopled by diligent, kind writers, editors, designers, and many other amazing staff members.
And Christianity Today is just that.