Century Marks

Century Marks

Dubious winners

Leading up to the World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil, the charitable organization Oxfam conducted its own world cup. Using the Palma ratio, a technique to determine which countries have the greatest gap between the rich and the poor, it noted that countries in Central and South America show the greatest income gaps between the richest 10 percent and the poorest 40 percent. Eight Latin Americans appear on the Forbes list of the 100 wealthiest people in the world (Guardian, June 10).

Fast lane

In Voorhees, Pennsylvania, Hope United Methodist Church is offering drive-through prayer one evening a week. Using the drive-through lanes in a former bank building—which houses recovery and support groups during the week—people may either talk directly with a trained volunteer about their prayer concern or drop off a prayer using the bank’s old deposit tubes. The prayer exchange takes only a minute or two, and the identity of those requesting prayer is kept confidential (Philadelphia Inquirer, May 28).

Critical thinking

“Our best college students are very good at being critical. In fact being smart, for many, means being critical,” says Wesleyan University president Michael S. Roth. In the last half century an emphasis in education on inquiry has been reduced to exposing error and undermining belief. Not only does this stance not get college graduates very far later in life, “fetishizing disbelief as a sign of intelligence” has diminished our culture. Liberal learning, argues Roth, should have an equal commitment to finding meaning in culture and becoming absorbed in creative and compelling work (New York Times, May 10).

Shepherd leaves flock

It’s not often a pastor announces to his Protestant congregation that he and his wife are leaving the church to join the Catholics. That’s what happened recently at the World of Life megachurch in Uppsala, Sweden, founded by Ulf Ekman. “Shock, anger, sadness, despair, and confusion” were among the responses to Ekman’s announcement, according to one analyst, though some said they could see this move coming. Word of Life has about 3,000 members, 12 pastors on the staff, and 1,000 students in its school (Patheos, March 10).

Mostly good news

Teens are behaving better than at any time since the federal government began collecting data, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control on the health of the nation. The teen birth rate, at an all-time low, has plummeted in recent decades. One reason may be that fewer teens are having unprotected sex. High school seniors are consuming less alcohol and smoking less, and hardly any of them use cocaine. While young adults are also exercising more than in previous decades, less than half of youth ages 12–15 are physically fit (Vox.com, May 25, and NPR, May 28).