I have been reading CC since July 1968 when I first moved to Chicago. (Maybe they rewarded me for my faithful long-term subscription!) In the late ‘80's when I returned to Chicago, I served on the Communications Committee of the Church Federation of Chicago with James Wall, then publisher. Sometimes we met in his offices on S. Dearborn, in a classic early 20th century architectural gem. (I can’t remember the name of the building on the south side of the Van Buren Street El. That's the library neighborhood now. I miss Chicago architecture.)
Jim Wall has a blog in which he shares his experience and wisdom, especially abut the Middle East and the religious and diplomatic snake pit that it is, and how the U.S. has done so much to stir it up. When I told Jim in his office that I had been reading CC since 1968, he surprised me by saying, “Then you don’t believe in the virgin birth.” I replied that I had never believed in the virgin birth. He replied that he had to have had something to do with my liberal outlook, and he had.
CC is not what it was. It has become more slick, and it broadened its base. By becoming less “predictably liberal,” it avoided the death that came to Christianity and Crisis. Harvey Cox had said that about C&C. I still read CC but I am continually disappointed when the underlying belief in the supernatural comes through. Now the virgin birth is simply assumed. Martin Kahler wins. (I will blog on him sometime.)
What saves the Christian Century is that it does strive for balance and inclusion of many opinions and covers many aspects of faith and church life, and the arts. The best thing in CC is John Dart, the news editor. (I have followed him since he wrote in Theology Today in the ‘80's on why Jesus doesn’t laugh in the gospels. It’s to distinguish him from the gnostics.)
“Spirituality” has replaced “faith” in much of Protestant and Catholic thinking and practice. An article on "Holy Listening" (Dec. 15) covered this topic well, but was so positive toward this emphasis in the churches that I rolled my eyes half a dozen times. Robert Warren wrote this response that I will second:
"Holy listening has gone on for too long. The rise of so-called spirituality in the churches has coincided with the fall of Christian social work and action. Few Christian clergy or lay-people are involved in movements for social change. Precious few of them are active in the antiwar movement and in movements for LGBT rights, immigrant rights and community organization.
"It is ironic that the great spiritual leaders have been the most socially and politically active leaders. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama led the way to social change from a spiritual base. All of the books on spiritual change call for action to follow prayer and meditation.
"Spirituality in the churches today is ingrown, self-centered and inward-looking. True spirituality will result in the active search for peace and justice in all corners of the world."
I had reviewed the explosion or implosion of spirituality in the churches in the early ‘80's. My sermon that resulted was entitled “The True Spirituality of Social Justice.”
Even so, I am happy to have the connection with the Century.