Century Marks

Century Marks

Preemptive strike

When 60 Minutes was working on a story about the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren called Jeff Fager, head of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes. The ambassador said he had heard that the program would be a hatchet job. Later, Bob Simon, the reporter on this story, told Oren that he has gotten all kinds of reactions to stories he’s done, but never before has he gotten a reaction to a story before it was broadcast. “Well, there’s a first time for everything, Bob,” the ambassador responded. The ambassador was concerned that the story about Christians leaving the Holy Land would have a negative effect on tourism, a multibillion-dollar business in Israel and the West Bank. He wanted the Christian exodus blamed on Muslim extremists rather than Israeli policies (60 Minutes, April 22).

Dog heaven

Megachurch pastor Rick Warren was asked in an ABC News interview whether dogs and cats go to heaven. “Absolutely yes,” Warren said. “I can’t imagine God not allowing my dog into heaven.” Cathy Lynn Grossman, religion editor for USA Today, sent a follow-up question to Warren, asking if rebellious pets are denied heaven. Grossman as­sumed that her dog would be disqualified. As a puppy he chewed up a copy of War­ren’s popular book, The Purpose-Driven Life, for which he’s never repented—as far as she knows. Warren’s response: “Dogs, which have no ability to sin nor moral conscience, do not have an ability to reject Jesus,” therefore they get a free pass to heaven (USA Today, April 9).

Baptized fraternity

Dick Allison, retired pastor of the University Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is developing spiritual friendships with men who are in prison. Some of these men have become members of his church. He baptized three of them in horse troughs in the prison. An inmate at an out-of-state prison declared: “I want to become a member of the Horse Trough Fraternity of Baptized Believers.” These prisoners find it meaningful to belong to a church, even if they can’t attend it. One confessed that the only group he had previously belonged to was a gang of skinheads (Christian Reflections, 2012).

Arms and the state

Arms manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Gruman, General Motors and Raytheon are the largest, most powerful interest groups in the U.S., claims Andrew Feinstein (The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade). The arms industry is driving foreign and domestic policies and is involved in shady and illegal business deals at home and abroad. The American arms industry lobbied for the war in Iraq. Halliburton, which gave over $1 million to the Republican Party between 1998 and 2003, was a huge beneficiary of that war. Lockheed Martin pushed for the expansion of NATO, because it called for Eastern European countries to upgrade their militaries, often buying from U.S. companies. Congressional members with defense contractors in their districts find it nearly impossible to oppose America’s going to war (review in TLS, March 30).

Whoops, Hoops

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Baylor University are under investigation for rule violations involving impermissible texts and phone calls used in recruiting players over a 29-month period. In anticipation of the NCAA imposing sanctions on the basketball teams, the Baptist university has already self-imposed a number of penalties. The women’s team won the national championship last month and the men’s team played in the regional championship, losing to the University of Kentucky, the eventual national winner. Kenneth Starr is Baylor’s president. Starr’s investigation of the Clinton administration led to President Clinton’s impeachment  (ESPN.com, April 10).