It is the 11th of October 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1962.
Many important books were published this year. They included Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," one of the earliest books to ignite the environmental movement. John Steinbeck published his travelogue "Travels with Charley." Kesey's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" was published as was "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. But no book was more important than that of Thomas Kuhn and his "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." If you've not heard of the book, you certainly know the phrase which arose from it: a paradigm shift. While work-a-day definitions of the phrase might not carry the weight that Kuhn gave it, it was an essential idea in the history of ideas. The idea being that we vacillate between typical and revolutionary phases. We might say that in 1962 a revolutionary phase was commencing.
1962 was the year that the Cold War got real. The disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of the previous year gave way to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Soviets and the US were officially in the Space Race. Yuri Gagarin had been the first person and Soviet to go to space the previous year. The Americans were rushing to match the feat. This year, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth from Space. The Soviets sent Laika, the Soviet space dog, to become the first animal to orbit the earth.
Everything was indeed changing. A few unknown bands were producing new music. The Beatles recorded for the first time with their full line up at Abbey Road. The Beach Boys released their debut album "Surfin' Safari" this year as well. The first rock concert in San Francisco was held in this year. It was "Chubby Checker's Twist Party" in honor of the number one record from that year. But not everyone was keen on the new music and suggestive dancing. The Diocese of Buffalo banned that song from any church or school activity. Bishop Joseph Burke complained that the song and dance were impure.
And perhaps the ban on the twist tells us something of a church, Catholic in this case, that was trying to balance traditional culture with burgeoning modernity. In this critical context in 1962, on this the 11th of October, Pope John XXIII called the 21stecumenical council to order. This Second Vatican Council would become one of the most important councils in over 500 years. Pope John called it not for any specific doctrinal reason, but rather to emphasize the necessity of pastoral work in a rapidly changing culture. The council's goals were self-awareness as a church, renewal from within, and dialog with the broader church and world.
The watchword for the council was "aggiornamento," which means "an updating." The goal wasn't to change doctrine but to update it when possible. Nothing could have been more up to date than the fact that portions of the council were televised. Folks could switch over from the Beverly Hillbillies or Bonanza to see the Pope and his almost 3,000 bishops from over 100 countries join in elaborate pomp and circumstance from inside the Vatican. The council was significant, especially for the Catholic liturgy, which saw the most change coming from the council. No longer were priests to celebrate the mass with their backs turned to the congregation, and the services were to be held in the vernacular instead of Latin.
While the council has been rightly seen as necessary symbolically for the Catholic Church's development, we should be careful not to see it as primarily a battle between the conservatives and liberals. While church practice changed, both Protestants and Catholics alike agreed that no doctrines were altered. Since this 21st council took place in 1962 amidst a pandemic of dividing everything into "right" or "left," we might see many contemporary charges, for or against the council, as more culture war residue than real schism. This kind of interpretation of the council by non-Catholics can be interesting. Still, despite pockets of resistance, the council is overwhelmingly popular with Catholics who saw the pastoral event as opening the ancient church to the modern world. The council officially closed in 1965, three years after it opened on this, the 11th of October, in 1962.
Today's reading comes from a protestant theologian who, in this year, 1962, was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. He was also one of only a few Protestants invited to be a guest at the 2nd Vatican Council. This is Karl Barth, from a sermon on Ephesians 2.
"Look once again to Jesus Christ in his death upon the cross. Look and try to understand that what he did and suffered he did and suffered for you, for me, for us all. He carried our sin, our captivity and our suffering, and did not carry it in vain. He carried it away. He acted as the captain of us all. He broke through the ranks of our enemies. He has already won the battle, our battle. All we have to do is to follow him, to be victorious with him. Through him, in him we are saved. Our sin no longer has any power over us. Our prison door is open…when he, the Son of God, sets us free, we are truly free.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 11th of October 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man whose surfer knots are rising, and his board is losing wax. But that won't stop him baby, 'cause you know he's coming back, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.