Century Marks

Century Marks

Animal rights and wrongs

The food movement has called attention to the abuse of animals that are raised and killed on factory farms. But even farmers who raise animals in humane ways, in small-scale operations, intend for the animals to be slaughtered. Bob Comis, a professional pig farmer, asks how can he ethically raise pigs knowing that his ultimate aim is to kill and market them for consumption. “As a pig farmer, I lead an unethical life,” Comis confesses. “I am a slaveholder and a murderer” (American Scholar, Spring).

One Lord

Pope Francis recently appeared in a video addressing Pentecostal Christians in friendly terms. He suggested that Pentecostals and Catholics are “brothers” in Christ and called for a relationship in which they embrace each other and together worship Jesus Christ as the only Lord of history. There has long been distrust between the two groups, and in some parts of the world Pentecostals are drawing large numbers of former Catholics. The video has gone viral among Pentecostals, and at least one Pentecostal expert has said the pope’s words have reset the relationship. When the pope was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was criticized by some Catholics for being too cozy with Pentecostals (AP).


The focus of geriatric doctors on testing for memory loss, which leads to possible diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, is part of a war against the old, according to Margaret Morganroth Gullette, resident scholar at Brandeis University. She likens it to educators being preoccupied with testing schoolchildren. “‘Dementia’ is a label that dehumanizes,” she says. What aging people need is social support, which itself can enhance a sense of well-being that contributes to better memory. “In thinking about memory loss, we do well to remember two simple precepts,” she says. “Do not panic about your own. Be gentle toward other people’s” (Interpretation, April).

Going home again?

Before he was diagnosed with a terminal illness, essayist Christopher Hitchens was asked by literary critic James Wood what he would do if he had only weeks to live: would he stay in the United States or go home to Britain? “I’d go to Dartmoor, without a doubt,” Hitchens replied, referring to his childhood home. It is not unusual for people to want to go home to die, but they often find that home is no longer the same place and that one has also changed in the meantime. Wood, who lived in the United States for 18 years, compares going home to Durham, England, his birthplace, to a masquerade. “It is possible to miss home terribly, not know what home really is anymore, and refuse to go home, all at once.” Homelooseness is the word he coined to describe the condition of feeling that no place is home anymore (London Review of Books, February 20).

Church guards

Thousands of Christians have been taking turns standing guard at a Christian church in the Chinese city of Wenzhou since the provincial Communist Party in early April condemned it and announced plans to raze it. The church is part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, China’s officially sanctioned and government-controlled Protestant body, which makes the standoff unusual. Government officials claim that the church, which took six years to build, was illegally constructed and is structurally unsound. One 74-year-old congregant begged officials to leave her church alone, offering her life instead. “Even if they take my head, I can still find happiness with God,” she said. Christians in China now outnumber Communist Party members, according to one estimate (Telegraph, April 4).