Century Marks

Century Marks

Get over it

Some Muslim leaders are saying that the Islamic world needs to learn to shrug off insults made against their religion and Muhammad. One group points to an anecdote in the tradition in which a woman put thorns in Muhammad’s path and threw manure at him when in prayer. Muhammad not only tolerated this tormented woman, he went to visit her when she fell ill. A popular Egyptian blogger has stated that violent protests “were more damaging to Islam’s reputation than a thousand so-called ‘Islam-attacking films’” (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, September 22).

Caught in crossfire

Christians who have fled Syria due to the uprisings against the Assad regime are the most frightened among the refugees, according to a BBC News correspondent. They are afraid to speak up for fear of reprisals. One reason they have been under attack is because of the perception on the part of the rebels that Christians support Assad. While some do support the Assad regime, which has protected Christians, some Christians are supporting the uprising too, including a few who are prominent members of the Syrian National Council, the main opposition group. “I see no future, not only in Syria but in all the Middle East,” one Christian woman said. “If people get a chance to leave this region, they will just do it,” she said (BBC).

Flip-flop

Utah is arguably the most conservative state in the United States. Its many Mormon residents often assume that the Republican Party is God’s Party. In their early days, however, Mormons were so overwhelmingly Democratic that Brigham Young assigned some families to support Republicans in order to foster a climate of bipartisanship. Utah voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt four times and for his Democratic successor, Harry Truman. Utah flipped to the Republican Party in the 1950s in response to the cold war and later in reaction to the civil rights movement and youth unrest. The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision on abortion sealed Republican support in Utah (Mary Barker, Religion Dispatches).

Best books on the Puritans

  • Perry Miller, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century and The New England Mind: From Colony to Province. Miller, an atheist and heavy drinker who is widely regarded as the greatest historian of American Puritanism, admired the Puritans as serious intellectuals who lived out their beliefs.
  • Edmund Morgan, The Puritan Family. Morgan, Miller’s student, gives a sympathetic treatment of the warmth and passion of Puritan family life that belies the stereotype of Puritans as legalistic killjoys.
  • Charles Hambrick-Stowe, The Practice of Piety. Hambrick-Stowe brilliantly explicates the Puritans’ devotional practices and their fervent love of God.
  • Harry Stout, The New England Soul. While Miller emphasized the changing nature of Puritanism in America, Stout finds that Puritan theology, focused on the doctrine of covenant, remained quite stable throughout the colonial era.
  • Jill Lepore, The Name of War. Lepore compellingly recounts the tragic, brutal history of the Puritan war with Native Ameri­cans in the 1670s, which in terms of the percentage of people killed remains one of the deadliest wars in American history (Thomas Kidd, Patheos, July 17).

Bedside manners

When Dr. Jerome Groopman realized there was nothing he could do to treat a patient’s cancer, he went to her hospital room. “Barbara,” he said to her as he grasped her hand, “we’ve been honest with each other every step of the way. I know of no medicines that I can give at this point to help you.” After a long and heavy silence, she said to him, “No, Jerry. You do have something to give. You have the medicine of friendship” (New York Review of Books, September 27).