Century Marks

Century Marks

Preferential treatment

Troy University, a public institution in Alabama, is opening a new dormitory this fall for students seeking a faith-based college experience. To live in this new $11.8 million facility, students must be committed to a spiritual lifestyle, be active in a campus-based religious orga­nization and maintain a 2.5 grade point average. Troy has a high percentage of international students, many of whom follow non-Christian religions. The university claims it won’t discriminate against them, although the new facility will give preference to Christians. The Freedom from Religion Foundation is challenging the rule (AL.com, August 2).

Real-world prayer

About one in five Americans play video games at least once a day. Some do it for relaxation; others are possessed by the games and become addicted. The difference between the two groups seems to be that one group finds identity in the world and the other group finds identity in the games. Anthropologist T. M. Luhrmann, who has studied prayer among evangelicals, says prayer can similarly become an addiction. “When people use prayer to enhance their real-world selves, they feel good,” says Luhrmann. “When it disconnects them from the everyday . . . they feel bad” (New York Times, August 3).


Two-thirds of Americans surveyed believe news reports are often inaccurate; three-fourths believe news organizations tend to favor one side. Despite this negative perception of the news, 68 percent of Americans continue to believe in the news media’s watchdog role, saying it keeps government from doing things it shouldn’t. Republicans, Democrats and independents differ very little on this point. Public support for the watchdog role has risen 10 percent since 2011, perhaps the result of revelations about the IRS targeting Tea Party groups and the NSA surveillance program (Pew Research, August 8).

Just say no

Two Roman Catholic communities in central Kentucky have refused to participate in a plan to use their properties for an underground pipeline transporting pressurized natural gas. The Sisters of Loretto and the Abbey of Gethsemani, Thomas Merton’s monastery, have refused permission to let developers survey their property. A sister from Loretto said: “We’ve been on this property since 1824. We feel entrusted with this. It’s a gift. It’s not a commodity.” The developers maintain that through eminent domain law they could obtain easements through these properties (Courier-Journal, August 1).

Great expectations

When Thom Ranier pastored a church in St. Petersburg, Florida, he gave his deacons a list of 20 pastoral functions. He asked each deacon to put the minimum number of hours they expected him to devote to each function. When he averaged and tallied the results, it came out to a 114-hour workweek. Either he could put in 16 hours per day, seven days a week, or he could take one day off and put in 19 hours the other days—just to meet the minimal expectations (thomrainer.com, July 24).