Century Marks

Century Marks

Faith and fiction

When science fiction writer Ray Bradbury passed away last month, one aspect of his life was largely ignored by those who eulogized him: his faith. Calling himself a Zen Buddhist, Bradbury claimed to be a delicatessen religionist, drawing insights from West and East. Unlike other Buddhists, Bradbury was occupied with “God, sin, forgiveness, grace, and redemption,” says Gregory Wolfe. Sam Weller, his biographer, said: “The guy keeps writing about Jesus, but he doesn’t consider himself a Christian.” According to Bradbury: “The best description of my career as a writer is ‘At play in the fields of the Lord’” (Patheos, June 18).

Mosque on hold

A judge in Tennessee issued a ruling that halted the construction of a nearly completed mosque about 34 miles south of Nashville. He claimed that the planning commission had not given enough public notice prior to a 2010 meeting when the mosque plans were approved. An antimosque group has been battling the mosque construction for the last two years, arguing that Islam is not a real religion and is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. “If you read the judge’s ruling, it is clear he sought a heightened standard of public notice for an issue that involves Muslims,” said Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. A civil rights group has asked the U.S. Justice Department to intervene if the planning commission doesn’t immediately reissue building permits for the 52,000-square-foot mosque (Orlando Sentinel, May 29).

Peace train

Korean churches are developing plans for a “peace train” that would travel from Berlin through Mos­cow and Beijing and on to Busan, South Korea, in time for the World Council of Churches global assembly in October 2013. The plan is to draw attention to the need for peace and reunification in the Korean peninsula. The train, which would carry representatives of churches and of civil society, would pass through North Korea. The National Council of Churches of Korea is also meeting with the governments of North and South Korea in hopes that a peace treaty can be signed in 2013 that marks the 60th anniversary of the cease-fire that ended the Korean War (ENI).

Covering religion

Jon Stewart, host of the humorous Daily Show, appears to be a nonpracticing Jew, but his show covers religion better than any other TV program except for Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, claims Mark Oppenheimer. Writers for the Daily Show find humor in the finer points of religion rather than in caricatures of it. Sometimes the beliefs or practices of religion are shown as bizarre, but often it’s the antagonists of religion who are made to look silly. In one sketch, a Muslim woman’s application to become a foster mother is rejected because she won’t allow pork products in her house. The episode helped to explain Muslim dietary practices while making the foster agency’s objections look ignorant and bigoted (Religion & Politics, May 1).

Divine spark

The word asylum means shelter or protection from danger. One of the first asylums was called the Retreat, and it was established by Quakers in 1796 in York, England. The Quakers, seeing a divine spark in everyone, tried to remove the stigma then attached to the mentally ill. The Retreat emphasized friendship with the insane and incorporated exercise therapy, pet therapy and occupational therapy. The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Quakers opened a similar facility in 1817, inspiring similar ventures in the next few years in Boston, New York, Hartford and Charleston (American Scholar, Spring).