Century Marks

Century Marks

Role reversal

Churches and clergy are usually at the center of disaster relief efforts, but many churches and synagogues were devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and they have needed help themselves. Houses of worship in numerous areas were destroyed. The clergy have had disasters at home to deal with, and many have endured long periods without electricity. Jewish synagogues have had the additional challenge of rescuing and salvaging waterlogged sacred texts (New York Times, November 12).

Lifeline

George S. Hendry was a Scottish Presbyterian who taught theology at Princeton Seminary from 1949 to 1973. He considered his 20 years in pastoral ministry and an active life of prayer essential to his teaching profession. Seminary professors should have firsthand knowledge of the world into which many of their students are headed, he believed, and theology should be integrally connected with the life of the church. To take the measure of other theologians, he would read what they had to say about prayer. If a theologian took prayer seriously, Hendry took that theologian seriously, even if he had theological objections. “Prayer is the life line of theology,” Hendry said (Theology Today, October).

The teaching life

The American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature report that teaching positions in religion experienced a modest yet steady growth from 2000 until 2008 but declined from 2008 to 2010. The number of tenure-track positions has declined. The fields of Islam, New Testament and early Christianity, and theology have the most openings (InsideHigherEd.com, November 13).

Brazil’s religious right

More than 20 percent of Brazilians are evangelicals, and while they don’t yet have a unified agenda the way many evangelicals in the U.S. do, they are making a political mark. They hold only about 10 percent of the seats in the legislative assembly, but they had enough power to kill a measure that would have supplied Brazil’s schools with antihomophobia materials (Los Angeles Times, October 21).

Insubordination

Two years ago Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, prime minister and defense minister of Israel, directed the Israel Defense Forces and Mossad (the country’s intelligence and special operations agency) to prepare for a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. But the heads of both the IDF and Mossad were opposed to a strike and never fully prepared for it. The former heads of these agencies, now retired, have spoken against an Israeli attack. Gabi Ashkenazi, former head of the IDF, has said that Israel should continue to carry out covert actions against Iran but not start a war. Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has said it would be stupid to attack Iran. Dagan has worried that Netanyahu and Barak would go to war illegally, bypassing the cabinet (Haaretz, November 4).