Century Marks

Century Marks

Good neighbors

“Having good neighbors and feeling connected to others in the local community may help to curb an individual’s heart attack risk,” according to a research team at the University of Michigan. Participants in the study were asked to rate their neighborhood on a scale of one to seven. For every point they gave their neighborhood, they had a reduced heart attack risk over the four years of the study. People who gave their neighborhood a total score of seven had a 67 percent reduced risk of heart attack compared to those who gave only one point—roughly the difference between a nonsmoker and a smoker (AFP).

Blessing Israel

Several high-profile evangelical leaders traveled to Israel last month as a part of the “Christians in Solidarity with Israel” trip put together by the National Religious Broadcasters in response to the most recent conflict in Gaza. The trip had two purposes, according to Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “We are instructed in scripture not only to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but are told that those who bless Israel will be blessed,” Perkins said. “Secondly, it is in the national security interest of the United States to support Israel.” Some evidence indicates that younger evangelicals are not as steadfast in their support of Israel as their elders and are more sympathetic to Palestinians (RNS).

Two-way street

Former Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, in an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (August 14), says the liberation of Israel from violence and insecurity lies in the liberation of the Palestinian people from armed occupation. Tutu condemns Hamas for its missile launches against Israelis, but defends Palestinians’ right to struggle for freedom from occupation. “Peace requires the people of Israel and Palestine to recognize the human being in themselves and each other; to understand their interdependence.”

Cultic atheism

Richard Dawkins, militant atheist and author of The God Delusion, is becoming an embarrassment to the agnostic/atheist/secularist community for the way he has developed a cult of personality. His website encourages people to join the “Reason Circle.” A donation of $85 a month buys discounts on his merchandise and the chance to meet someone from his foundation—but not Dawkins. For that you have to pay $5,000 a year. For $100,000 a year, backers get a private breakfast or lunch with the man himself. “At this point it is obvious to everyone except the participants that what we have here is a religion without the good bits,” says religion columnist Andrew Brown (Spectator, August 16).

Saving churches

By one estimate 7,000 churches close down each year in the United States. A 2012 study predicted that 20 percent of the churches in Philadelphia would close within ten years. Many of these churches are architectural gems. Razing these buildings can be very expensive. A more satisfactory solution is to repurpose them, turning them into art and culture centers or housing units. The Mount Airy Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia is having 20 condominiums built on its property. The sanctuary will be leased back to the congregation for its continued use (Philadelphia Inquirer, August 4).