Century Marks

Century Marks

For better or for worse

More national atheist and humanist agencies such as the Humanist Society and the Center for Inquiry are developing ordination programs to establish nontheist ministers in most states to perform weddings and funerals. CFI began its certification program in 2009. With the rise of the “nones”—the 20 percent of Americans without a religious affiliation—more couples are looking for wedding celebrants who don’t mind skipping God’s blessing of the ceremony. There are currently 138 celebrants ordained through the Humanist Society, and some perform weddings in multiple states. The Center for Inquiry has 23 celebrants (RNS).

Lovely burden

Many people express the desire not to be a burden on their family when they are dying. Church of England priest Giles Fraser has another view: “I do want to be a burden on my loved ones just as I want them to be a burden on me—it’s called looking after each other . . . My existence is fundamentally bound up with yours. . . . Of course, I will hold your hand in the long hours of the night. Shut up about being a burden. I love you. This is what it means to love you. Surely, there is something extraordinarily beautiful about all of this” (Guardian, May 3).

Rain down

From the heart of New Mexico to West Texas and Oklahoma, the pressures of drought have led Christian preachers and Catholic priests to encourage prayer processions and American Indian tribes to use their closely guarded traditions to coax Mother Nature to deliver some much needed rain. An interfaith service in Oklahoma City was held where Christian, Muslim and Jewish prayers were used for rain. The Catholic bishop in Lubbock is planning a special mass at which farmers can have their seeds and soil blessed. The archbishop of New Mexico’s largest diocese has turned to social media to urge parishioners to pray: “Look to our dry hills and fields, dear God, and bless them with the living blessing of soft rain. Then the land will rejoice and rivers will sing your praises, and the hearts of all will be made glad” (AP).

Food first

Nearly 260,000 people died during the Somalian food crisis of 2010–12. Over half of them were children under five. The deaths are attributed to an Islamist militia group that kept aid from getting to the area, warlords who stole food aid, and officials in the capital who diverted food aid. The U.S. war on terror is also to blame, because it and the World Food Program ceased giving aid to the region after the Islamist militia group was named a terrorist organization. A spokesperson for the aid group Oxfam said, “When . . . people are dying of hunger, politics should not play a part” (Chicago Tribune, May 3).

Guns galore

The growth in the number of civilians owning military-style guns can be traced back to a deal made in the mid-1980s between Rene Carlos Vos, a gun dealer, and Wayne LaPierre, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. They formed a company called Blue Sky to import from South Korea M-1 rifles that had been used in the Korean War. The legislation that made the project possible was an amendment to a Senate bill offered by Bob Dole, Republican senator from Kansas, which for the first time allowed the importation of U.S. military weapons as long as they were “curios and relics.” LaPierre soon pulled out of Blue Sky when it faced criminal charges, and Vos was killed in a plane crash in 1987, but the company opened a floodgate of guns. By 2012, one million of what gun advocates call “modern sporting rifles” were flooding the U.S. market each year, from both foreign and domestic sources (Washington Post, May 3).