A new missionary on an Indian reservation saw an elder standing in his yard with a goat in his arms. Occasionally the goat would stretch its neck and take a bite of the bushes in the yard. When the missionary asked what the man was doing, he replied, “I’m trimming the hedges.” Incredulously, the missionary said, “Don’t you know that could take all day?” The man said, “What’s time to the goat?” (Randy S. Woodley, Shalom and the Community of Creation, Eerdmans).
Jul 19, 2012
Philanthropist Melinda Gates has declared that she wants to devote the rest of her life to making contraception more accessible globally. Her efforts put her in direct opposition to the Vatican. Gates, a Catholic, says that since her declaration she’s gotten a multitude of supportive responses from Catholic women, including nuns. She argues that women in Africa and Asia need to make decisions on their own about contraception. She points out that 82 percent of American Catholics believe that contraception is acceptable—and that African and Asian women will likely follow them (Sydney Morning Herald, July 13).
Accommodating the faithful
Jul 19, 2012
Summer tends to thin out pews on Sunday mornings, as churchgoers take off for vacations. Some churches are rediscovering Wednesday p.m.—a traditional midweek church night—as a prime time to gather the flock for casual worship in the summer. Early adopters report improved attendance, slightly fatter coffers and invigorated spirituality as curious newcomers drop by and join in. For some, the shift to Wednesdays brings variety to a familiar weekly rhythm, but it’s not an easy sell for all church folk (RNS).
Hindus & Christians together?
Jul 19, 2012
A Christian human rights group in Pakistan has called for an exclusive region for religious minorities whose numbers have been on a steady decline in the Muslim majority nation. The group has demanded abolition of constitutional provisions that declare Islam to be the state religion. Pakistani laws also say that only a Muslim can head the government. The law forbidding blasphemy against Islam is often used to harass religious minorities. Since the formation of Pakistan in 1947, the percentage of minorities has shrunk from 40 to about 4 percent, Hindus and Christians being the largest minorities (ENI).
Jul 19, 2012
A nuclear-armed Iran would not necessarily be the worst thing that could happen to the Middle East, argues Kenneth N. Waltz of Columbia University. Ever since Israel got nuclear weapons, there has been an imbalance of power in the Middle East. Armed with nuclear weapons, Iran would provide balance and bring stability to the region, he argues. Western responses to Iran’s desire for nuclear weapons is founded on the notion that Iran’s policies are devised by “mad mullahs.” In reality, Iran is guided by “perfectly sane ayatollahs” who wish to survive just like the leaders of other nations, despite their incendiary rhetoric (Foreign Affairs, July/August).
And a side order of peace: Conflict Kitchen is a takeout restaurant in Pittsburgh that sells food from countries with which the U.S. is in conflict. Every four months a different country—and menu—is highlighted, along with the culture and politics of the country and the reasons for the conflict. It is now serving Iranian food, with assistance from Pittsburgh’s Iranian community (kubidehkitchen.com).
Parenting myth: Studies show that parents today spend more time with their kids, yet kids don't seem happier, more independent or more successful. They seem more troubled and needy. To raise healthy kids, put your marriage first and your children second, argues David Code (To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First, Crossroad). Code says current priorities set a poor example of marriage for children and create anxious households—and kids soak up that anxiety.
The flesh is weak: Mark Souder, the Republican congressman from Indiana who recently resigned over an extramarital affair, made this confession to World magazine: "I prayed multiple times a day, sang hymns with emotion and tears, felt each time that it wouldn't happen again, read the Bible every morning. . . . So how in the world did I have a 'torrid' (which is an accurate word) many-year affair?" (RNS).
As Arizona goes? While Arizona’s new immigration law may be controversial, demographically the state may be a precursor of things to come in the U.S. It has both a large Hispanic population (30 percent) and a significant generation gap: of those over 65 years of age, 83 percent are white; of those under 18, only 43 percent are white. An estimated 400,000 undocumented residents live in Arizona (Christian Science Monitor, May 24).
Value of words: President Obama reported that royalties from his two books—Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope—netted between $2 million and $10 million in 2009. Vice President Joseph Biden’s 2007 memoir, Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics, brought in somewhere between nothing and $200 in 2009 (Christian Science Monitor, May 18).
A room for grandma? Kenneth Dupin, a Methodist pastor in Salem, Virginia, thinks he has a way to address the needs of an aging population: MEDcottage, a portable dwelling that can be placed in a backyard and equipped with technology to monitor a person’s vital signs, filter air and communicate with the outside world. Critics call them “granny pods” and warn that they will create a “not in my backyard” movement (Washington Post, May 6).
Boundary crossing:Century senior editor Richard Kauffman traveled to Iran in 2008 and talked to a range of Iranians—from government officials to university professors to Muslim seminarians to people in the street. Moved by their stories, he felt compelled to tell them for a wider audience. His just-released book, An American in Persia (Cascadia), is about people moving across cultural and religious barriers to enter each other’s worlds.
Wheeze control: Children with severe asthma who are enrolled in a preventive-care program at Children's Hospital Boston receive free inhalers from insurance companies. The hospital sends nurses to visit families after discharge to make sure children have medicine and know how to use it; it provides home inspections to root out mold; and it offers vacuum cleaners to families who don’t have them. After one year of the program, the hospital readmission rate for young asthma patients dropped by over 80 percent and costs plunged as well. But empty beds meant lost revenue for the hospital (New Yorker, April 5).
State of poverty: Bread for the World has an online resource providing state-by-state information on hunger and poverty (see “State Hunger Facts” in the resources section at offeringofletters.org)—a great comparative tool. In Illinois, 11.1 percent of households struggle to put food on their table, compared to 17.4 in Mississippi and 14.6 nationally; 12.2 percent of households in Illinois live below the poverty line compared to 21.2 in Mississippi and 13.2 nationally.
Beck's world: Fox News TV host Glenn Beck urged his audience to leave congregations that refer to social justice or economic justice. “Look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site,” he said. “If you find it, run as fast as you can.” Bread for the World has invited people to sign an online petition to Beck that reads: “Economic and social justice are central to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Quit using your bully pulpit to spread misinformation and fear by comparing faithful Christians who care ‘for the least of these’ to Nazis and communists” (Bread for the World).
Just in case: Virginia state legislators passed a bill preventing employers or insurance companies from placing microchips in humans against their will. Mark L. Cole, sponsor of the bill, was concerned that the devices could someday be the “mark of the beast” mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Says Cole: “My understanding—I’m not a theologian—but there’s a prophecy in the Bible that says you’ll have to receive a mark, or you can neither buy nor sell things in end times. Some people think these computer chips might be that mark” (Examiner, February 14).
Only a moment: When New York–based writer Edwidge Danticat was able to contact relatives in Haiti after the earthquake, she learned that one cousin had been killed in the collapse of a four-story building, another had an open gash on her head that was still bleeding, and a third had a broken back and could find no place to have it X-rayed. Crying over the phone, Danticat apologized to a cousin for not being with the family. “Don’t cry,” she said. “That’s life. . . . And life, like death, lasts only yon ti moman” (a little while) (New Yorker, February 1).
Handel this: Handel’s Messiah is most often sung during the Christmas season, but Handel intended it to be performed during Holy Week. In his lifetime the work was seldom sung in churches but was sung in playhouses, where opera was performed. When the influence of Puritans in 18th-century England led to the banning of operas during Lent, oratorios like the Messiah became a popular alternative form of entertainment (Frank Burch Brown in Interpretation, January).