Century Marks

Century Marks

Liberation

Jason Collins, a journeyman player in the National Basketball League, has gotten much press attention for coming out as a gay man—the first active player in a major American sport to do so. Not as much has been said about his faith which apparently helped him come to an acceptance of himself as a homosexual. He found vindication for coming out in this quote from a prayer book his grandmother had given him: “The clarion call of freedom sounds within my soul, trumpeting the truth that the love of God liberates me from unhappiness, hurt, or fear. I bid farewell to any emptiness from the past, and open myself to realizing my heart’s deepest longing and aspiration” (T. F. Charlton, Religion Dispatches, May 2).

Church family?

The family is a good model for thinking about the church, says Moravian pastor Jennifer Benson Moran. It’s biblical, everyone in a family matters and belongs, and our own images of broken family can be redeemed in the church. Not so fast, says Lutheran pastor Cheryl M. Fleckenstein. A family suggests a closed and exclusive identity. There is the temptation for the pastor to fall into the role of parent and be expected to meet everyone’s needs. When the church functions as family it gives invitation to people to live out their own family dysfunctions in the church. It raises unrealistic expectations about the church being a community of intimates. The church is better understood as a company of strangers who are engaged together on behalf of God’s world, says Fleckenstein (Word & World, Spring).

Make way for arts

Orchard Gardens, a K-8 pilot school started in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 2003 did not live up to expectations. It was racked by violence, and its 2010 test scores placed it among the bottom five public schools in the state. Andrew Bott, the school’s sixth principal in seven years, fired all the security guards and devoted the money to teaching the arts. It was a risky move that’s paid off. Tests scores have improved, even though they’re still below average, and student behavior has improved. “I’ve been more open, and I’ve expressed myself more than I would have before the arts came,” said one student who has been accepted into a public high school specializing in visual and performing arts (NBC News, May 1).

Free at last

Erskine Johnson, an African American who changed his name to Ndume Olatushani, spent 28 years in maximum-security prisons for a murder he didn’t commit. He never even set foot in Tennessee, where the murder took place. His life in prison hit rock bottom after learning that his mother and a niece were killed in an automobile accident. He then taught himself to paint and he painted images and scenes he imagined outside his prison walls—mostly of women and children, often with gentle faces. Asked if he’s bitter about the years spent in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, he says: “I let go of anger a long time ago. In letting go of anger, I freed myself” (Nashville Arts Magazine, May).

Christian science?

A group of paleontologists capped off a conference by visiting the Creation Museum in Kentucky. The museum’s mission is to “bring the pages of the Bible to life.” Some of the paleontologists present were Christians who were more saddened by what they saw than humored. “I think it’s very bad science and even worse theology—and the theology is far more offensive to me,” said Lisa Park, a Presbyterian who teaches at the University of Akron. She was particularly saddened by one exhibit that blamed wars, famine and natural disasters on belief in evolution. Daryl Domning, professor at Howard University said: “This bothers me as a scientist and as a Christian, because it’s just as much a distortion and misrepresentation of Christianity as it is of science” (AFP).