The Ten Most Influential Christians of the Twentieth Century: Introductory Timeline - Visionary Years
United States poet laureate Robert Pinsky said in a recent interview, "The history of my century is a history in which the visionary has repeatedly collapsed into nightmare. … Pol Pot was a visionary. And Hitler was a visionary."
The century seemed to be one large, visionary experiment in which people desperately sought, as Alexandr Solzhenitsyn put it, "to live without God." Politics was to save us from injustice, science from disease, psychoanalysis from suffering, and literature from despair. When it worked, we benefited (civil rights, a cure for polio), but when it didn't, it turned tragic (the Holocaust, chemical warfare).
And all the while, Christians lived out their faith. Some worked alongside the humanitarians, though with a slightly different agenda (e.g., John Mott, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr.), some opposed the utopians (Karl Barth, C. S. Lewis, Solzhenitsyn); some did an end-around, renewing the church (popes John XXIII and John Paul II) or nurturing the spirit (Billy Graham, William Seymour).
To be sure, the century produced more tragedy and suffering than all other centuries combined, but as the calendar begins a new millennium, the Christian church, though still under attack in many quarters, is larger and stronger than ever—thanks in part to the ten people profiled in the following pages.
1914-1918 The Great War
1917 Russian Revolution
1936 Joseph Stalin begins a bloody purge that would claim millions of lives
1939 Adolf Hitler's invasion of Poland sparks World War II
1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
1942 Nazi leaders decide on their "Final Solution": to kill all European Jews
1945 United States drops atomic bombs on Japan; the United Nations founded
1949 Communist Mao Tse-tung ...