Commonplace Book #182

1928: Detroit observed Good Friday today as never before. Sixteen theatres and many churches besides were filled to capacity during the three-hour period. I wonder how one is to understand this tremendous devotion of this pagan city. How little place the real spirit of Christ has in the industrial drive of this city. And yet men and women flock by the thousands to meditate upon the cross. Perhaps we are all like the centurion who helped to crucify Jesus and then was so impressed by the whole drama of the cross that the confession was forced from his lips. “Surely this was the son of God.”

Before going to the theatre service I passed a Methodist church with a message on its bulletin board that explains many chapters in American church history. It was: “Good Friday service this afternoon. Snappy song service.” So we combine the somber notes of religion with the jazz of the age.

I wonder if anyone who needs a snappy song service can really appreciate the meaning of the cross. But perhaps that is just a Lutheran prejudice of mine.

Reinhold Neibuhr, Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic, 144.