The Christian Century

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The Christian Century is a Christian magazine based in Chicago, Illinois. Considered the flagship magazine of US mainline Protestantism,[1] the biweekly reports on religious news; comments on theological, moral, and cultural issues; and reviews books, movies, and music. The Century website hosts blogs by Drew Hart, Carol Howard Merritt, Elizabeth Palmer, and Daniel Camacho, along with a network of more than 100 outside bloggers.

The Christian Century
Christian Century Dec 2010.jpg
Cover of the December 14, 2010, issue
Editor/PublisherPeter W. Marty
Managing editorSteve Thorngate
PublisherChristian Century Foundation
First issue1884
CountryUnited States
Based inChicago, Illinois
LanguageEnglish Edit this at Wikidata

The Century's current editor and publisher is Peter W. Marty, while Steve Thorngate is its managing editor. Regular columnists include Philip Jenkins, Kathryn Reklis, Brian Bantum, Lil Copan, Sam Wells, Debie Thomas, Isaac Villegas, Debra Dean Murphy, and Stephanie Paulsell. The magazine takes a "liberal" editorial stance.[2]

The magazine describes its mission as follows:

For decades, the Christian Century has informed and shaped progressive, mainline Christianity. Committed to "thinking critically and living faithfully," the magazine explores through argument and reflection what it means to believe and live out the Christian faith in our time. As a voice of "generous orthodoxy," the Century is both loyal to the church and open to the world.


The Christian Century was founded in 1884 as The Christian Oracle in Des Moines, Iowa, as a Disciples of Christ denominational magazine.

In 1900, its editor proposed to rename it Christian Century in response to the great optimism of many Christians at the turn of the 20th century that "genuine Christian faith could live in mutual harmony with the modern developments in science, technology, immigration, communication and culture that were already under way." Around this same time, the Century's offices moved to Chicago.

The magazine did not receive widespread support in its denomination and was sold in a mortgage foreclosure in 1908. It was purchased by Charles Clayton Morrison, who soon labeled the magazine nondenominational. Morrison became a highly influential spokesperson for liberal Christianity, advocating higher criticism of the Bible, as well as the Social Gospel, which included concerns about child labor, women's suffrage, racism, war and pacifism, alcoholism and prohibition, environmentalism, and many other political and social issues. The magazine was a common target for criticism by fundamentalists during the fundamentalist–modernist debate of the early 20th century.

During the Second World War, the magazine helped provide a venue for promotion of ideas by Christian activists who opposed the internment of Japanese Americans. Critiques of the internment policy, by writers such as Galen Fisher, appeared regularly in the Century and helped bring awareness to the situation. However, it also published articles opposing American interventionism in the war for the benefit of the Jews persecuted under the Nazis. As late as 1944 the magazine published articles such as "A Reply to Screamers" by Fred Eastman[3] which admonished the suggestion that there was a moral obligation for the United States to aid in the plight of European Jews being murdered during the Holocaust.

In 1956 the magazine was challenged by the establishment of Christianity Today by Carl F. H. Henry, which sought to present a theologically conservative evangelical viewpoint, while restoring many social concerns abandoned by fundamentalists. Both magazines continue to flourish, with the Century remaining the major independent publication within ecumenical, mainline Protestantism.

The magazine was heavily involved in covering and advocating for the civil rights movement. It sent editors to a march in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and was one of the first national magazines to publish Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail.

In 2008 both Martin E. Marty and former editor James M. Wall concluded long runs as Century columnists. Other writers published by the Century over its long history include Jane Addams, Reinhold Niebuhr, Richard John Neuhaus, Albert Schweitzer, Wendell Berry, and Marilynne Robinson. Marty, writing about the 1940s, described the Christian Century at that time as an "anti-Zionist" publication.[4] In recent years, the magazine has published both pro-Palestinian and pro-Zionist authors and argued for a two-state solution to the conflict.


  1. ^ Gary B. Bullert, "Reinhold Niebuhr and the Christian century: World War II and the eclipse of the social gospel," Journal of Church and State 44 [2002] 271-290.
  2. ^ Left-wing scholars attack the best-selling 'Da Vinci Code', Richard N. Ostling| Associated Press, July 10, 2004 [1]
  3. ^ Eastman, Fred (February 16, 1944). "A Reply to Screamers". The Christian Century. Vol. 61 no. 7. pp. 204–206. ISSN 0009-5281.
  4. ^ Modern American Religion: Under God, Indivisible, 1941-1960, Martin E. Marty, University of Chicago Press, 1999, p. 189.


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