Date published: November 2, 2010
I am greatly indebted to Douglas John Hall for his How My Mind Has Changed article "Cross ana context" (Sept. 7). But I was unsatisfied with his statement that "the gospel of the cross is not about rescuing us from our finitude."
Hall lays out his "theology of the cross" in a way that seems to deny any kind of achievement on Jesus' part. Jesus was not a success story, he says, in the sense that our society uses that phrase. TKumphalism has no place in the Christian message. True enough on both counts.
However, in the cross there is the great watershed of human history- the victory that Jesus accomplished in embodying the full love and grace of God without wavering or capitulating to the host of human powers arraigned against him. That gracefilled love triumphed on the cross- a love that was Jesus' work. Nothing could end it, not even his suffering and final breath. So, appropriately, Jesus could say of that work, "It is finished." And having accomplished that work, Jesus shares that victory, that hope, transforming our finitude and creaturehood. We become, says scripture, "like him." For me, Jesus' victory becomes the light that lightens the terrible darkness that Hall so capably describes.
Why is it unimportant to celebrate that victory-in-the-cross three days later when God validates the victory itself? It would seem that the truth of that third-day event empowered the early Christians to share in Christ's victory-in-the-cross, and thus make them more than conquerors through Jesus Christ.
H. R. Anderson Jr.
Douglas John Hall in "Cross and context" (Sept. 7) notes that North American Christians have created a success story out of the gospel. I found it startling that Adam J. Copeland's article "Songfest" appears in the same issue, for it is about providing fulfillment musically for every possibility that a congregation desires. There is no question that "every hymnal is a product of its time." However, it is the church's identity, not that of the culture, that should determine the content of the hymnal.
As a young man about to enter seminary, I remember my pastor stating, "Tell me what a congregation sings and I will tell you its theology." Hymns chosen for a hymnal will determine the Christian depth, maturity and mission of congregations for several generations.
Bill L, Bearden
Dream Act . . .
Lillian Daniels's excellent article "Immigrants like us" (Sept. 21) presents a Christian case for compassion and justice on issues of immigrants. To that should be added, I believe, advocacy for the Dream Act, which was recently discussed in Congress. The legislation would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented youth who complete high school here and attend a U.S. college or serve in the U.S. military.
Members of my own family came to this country responding to a dream of a better life; they served as mercenary soldiers of the king of England in the late 18th century. They defected to the side of the colonists and, following the Revolutionary War, stayed in this country. I think that today's immigrants should have analogous opportunity to pursue their dreams.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Privileged rights . . .
How can John Buchanan say one of the ten amendments, the right to religious freedom, is "not negotiable" when the right to free speech or the right to own and bear arms is limited by cities, states and courts? ("Nonnegotiable," Sept. 21). Why would religious rights be specially privileged?
If a court restricted a religious group's activity or the location of its building, why be surprised? Islam believes in plural marriage, but that is not permitted in the U.S.- as decided by laws and courts.
Smoke like Bonhoeffer . . .
Congratulations on "The nicotine jouraal," by Rodney Clapp (Sept. 21)- the dumbest story I have seen in 50plus years of reading the Century. An item for discussion at the next meeting of a church youth group might be this: If one doesn't want to die a martyr's death like Bonhoeffer, one can at least smoke like him. The Century could perhaps follow up with an article titled: "Mellow meditation with medical marijuana."
L. Ray Branton