Sightings – Martin Marty – A Holy and Small Great Council

Orthodox Council
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presides over the Orthros and Synodal Divine Liturgy and concelebrates with the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Chania, Crete. PHOTO: © JOHN MINDALA from Ecumenical Patriarchate on Flickr. Creative Commons license. 

Those of us who have great regard for many aspects of the Orthodox Church can this week go back to showing that regard mainly by appreciating and displaying the visual beauties of icons and art work from the Orthodox tradition. We can return to listening to its chants and other sacred music, exploring its devotional practices, and revisiting the history of that part of the Christian Church which, through many centuries, was most exposed to its enemies, whether in the centuries of Ottoman rule or the decades of Soviet Russian strictures. What we can’t do is locate “Stop the press” releases after its Holy and Great Council, which concluded on Sunday, June 26.

Not that “we” were not looking for signs of motion in the Orthodox bloc, or had not been urged and given time to look. While especially metropolitan areas in the West demonstrated evidences of parish vitality and members’ loyalty, Christians and others who were not part of Orthodoxy often found the faithful flocks worshipping and celebrating at some cultural distance from “everybody else.” Not that there was no notice of some recent newsworthy events, beginning with the last-minute move of the Council from Istanbul to the island of Crete. Now and then a news release or a blog spread word of the forthcoming gathering, and a few daring prognosticators foresaw enlivening trends as the various factions in the Church promised to regard others with some favor. But we ended up with little marketable news, or even news of the less-marketable sort noticeable in parishes, seminaries, and the like. Continue reading “Sightings – Martin Marty – A Holy and Small Great Council”

Martin Marty – Religion in Global Affairs

John Kerry
John Kerry, US Secretary of State

When in the 1980s Scott Appleby and I were first chartered to deal with one particular public expression of religion, the complex of militant fundamentalisms, we were confronted with a global scene for which we were not prepared. We soon found out also that very few others were equipped to monitor and highlight these and other negative and positive religious outbursts. We were well supported and soon well surrounded by the few pioneers in this field.

Domestically, two factors have forced awareness on conscientious people. The polarization of citizens on what came to be called “social issues” revealed that most of the troubling (and promising) topics had their roots in religion. Also, much of the ammunition in the soon-stimulated “culture wars” dealt with religion among fighting factions. Whether or not publics are more ready now than they were decades ago to deal with this new world is up for debate. Continue reading “Martin Marty – Religion in Global Affairs”

Martin Marty – The Ups and Downs of Religion

Martin Marty

Those (of us) who do sightings of religion in public life are schooled to notice not only the “what” of religious phenomena and happenings, but also the “where” of each.

A guiding theme in my observing and reporting derives from a provocative and (only slightly) over-stated claim of José Ortega y Gasset: “Tell me your landscape and I will tell you who you are.” It takes more than our “place” to explain our whole selves, but location tells much.

Two items this week popped up on my screen as reminders.

First was a Christian Headlines story by Veronica Neffinger announcing the “Top Ten Most Bible-Minded Cities in the Country.” The Barna Group, reporting through the American Bible Society, listed ten cities which were most “Bible-minded.” Never mind right now what “-minded” here means.  Continue reading “Martin Marty – The Ups and Downs of Religion”

Martin Marty – Blasphemy


Those [of us] who are expected to monitor religious trends have reason to find talk of blasphemy a complex challenge to commentators and responsible citizens.

Islam is an international supplier of reasons for pondering and arguing themes associated with blasphemy. Most terrorism by factions in or at the edges of the Islamic world(s) is usually occasioned by fanatics who act in defense of Allah against heretics, the religious “other,” and “infidels” who are seen or claimed to be blasphemers.

Is it time to rethink blasphemy?

The dictionary can be succinct: blasphemy is radical irreverence or disrespect shown to that which is sacred, holy—especially when deity is involved. But the borderline between hard-core blasphemy and mere irreverence is blurry, and often seen by “the eyes of the beholder.”

This week’s New Yorker prompted reflection on the borderline. Was it crossed or only tip-toed-toward in Simon Rich’s piece, “Day of Judgment” (January 8), illustrated by a Jesus-looking figure gesturing past a score of microphones to an unseen audience.

Irreverent to the core, yes: but was it blasphemous? The star of the article is named “the Messiah,” a proper name in Judaism and Christianity alike. Continue reading “Martin Marty – Blasphemy”

Billy Graham | The University of Chicago Divinity School

Billy Graham | The University of Chicago Divinity School.

Martin Marty on Billy Graham.

Martin Marty – Pope Francis

Pope Francis greeting pilgrims
Pope Francis greeting pilgrims

Depressed, weary, or frightened by stories of USIS and ISIS and other horrors, plus by debates over “religious extremism” and the role of Islam, we focus instead on the not-unimportant figure of Pope Francis, who makes news and inspires reflection. We recommend as a jumping off point Eamon Duffy’s review of three major books: “Who Is This Pope?” which is easy to access online (see “Sources” at the end of this column.)

For a change, we also word-searched “Protestants and Pope Francis” and were astonished to observe how many and how varied were the answers to Duffy’s question, “Who Is This Pope?”

Note first how acceptable this pope is among what many consider “standard-brand ecumenical Protestants,” who historically were on the front lines of engaging, interpreting, plus—until the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and some aftermath operations—critiquing and opposing the Roman Catholic Church.

Their spokespersons in the aftermath had much to criticize in Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. They cheer Pope Francis for many of his ways. Continue reading “Martin Marty – Pope Francis”

Martin Marty – Blasphemy and Freedom

Blasphemy and Freedom.

Martin Marty writes about the tragedy in Paris. And, like always he is worth reading.