Century Marks

Century Marks

Presidential follies, take two

After winning control of the Philippines in the Spanish-American War, President William McKinley paced the floors of the White House, wondering what to do with the Asian archipelago. When he got down on his knees to pray for divine guidance, the answer came to him in four parts: don’t give the islands back to Spain; don’t let France or Germany have them either; don’t leave the Filipinos to themselves, as they’re unfit to govern themselves; take the Philippines, educate and civilize the people, “and by God’s grace do the very best we [can] by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.” The American conquest led to a bloody calamity. McKinley was assassinated long before he was able to see how awful God’s “perfect will” was (Matthew Paul Turner, Our Great Big American God, Jericho Books).

Silent bells

For the first time in centuries, church bells didn’t ring and no mass was celebrated the last Sunday of June in Mosul, the Iraqi city overrun by the radical Islamic group called ISIS. Christians in Mosul have been forced to pay a tax for their non-Muslim status. When one Christian family said it didn’t have the money, the mother and daughter were raped. The husband and father was so traumatized by the event that he committed suicide. By tradition, Mosul is the site of Jonah’s burial. Most Christians have fled from Mosul, some going to Kurdistan (Daily Beast, June 29).


Islamic Sufis are outraged by a sultry ad for the perfume Just Cavalli. The ad features a scantily clothed Georgia May Jagger, daughter of Mick Jagger, and includes a logo that the Sufis claim is based on a centuries-old symbol of the Arabic word for Allah that represents peace and harmony. Sufis have demonstrated in American and European cities against the Italian design house marketing the perfume. The European Union’s trademark authority has refused a request from the Sufis to have the logo removed (Reuters).

Cardinal sin

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is drawing fire from Catholic theologians for an opinion piece he wrote in the May 22 Wall Street Journal. Dolan suggested that Pope Francis’s critique of capitalism does not apply to American capitalism and that the pope’s principle teaching on economics is that it must be based on the virtues of compassion and generosity. Others say it is precisely American-style capitalism that the pope has critiqued, because it is leading to greater disparities between the wealthy and the poor. Dolan’s critics were especially disturbed by his focus on personal virtues as opposed to social structures (National Catholic Reporter, June 6).

Pub evangelism

William Miller, an Episcopal priest in Hawaii with Texas roots, argues for using beer in evangelism. The author of The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God, Miller says, “Beer is the universal beverage. If you want to sit down and have a friendly, personal conversation with about 90 percent of the people in this world, then that is probably going to take place over a beer, that is if you want them to open up and level with you” (Terry Mattingly, “On religion,” Patheos, June 16).