Century Marks

Century Marks

Forgiving debts

Monroe Beachy has been labeled the Bernie Madoff of the Amish community in eastern Ohio. Beachy has been accused by federal prosecutors of running a Ponzi scheme that betrayed the trust of many Amish and Mennonite individuals, charities and congregations. His bankruptcy has wiped out about $16 million in savings. Many investors in Beachy's firm have said it is more important to forgive him than to recover their money, and some have said that other investors with greater needs should be given priority in recovering losses. Federal officials rejected an Amish plea to work on a settlement of the case within their own community. Beachy goes on trial this month for mail fraud charges that could earn him a prison sentence of up to 20 years (New York Times, February 25).

Pulpit and politics

In a 2006 survey, 32 percent of Americans who be­longed to a congregation reported hearing sermons with political content as often as once every month or two. By 2011 that number had dropped off to 19 percent. Perhaps preachers have gotten the message: while people on the right typically like the fusing of religion and politics, moderates and progressives have an aversion to politics being imposed through religion. This aversion is true across the ages, but especially for millennials who are leaving the church in greater numbers than their parents' and grandparents' generations did, in part because of the intrusion of politics (For­eign Affairs, March/April; adapted from American Grace, by David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam).

Evicted

Last month London police evicted scores of demonstrators from a makeshift tent city erected outside historic St. Paul's Cathedral more than four months ago as part of the global Occupy movement. Police dumped an estimated 150 tents and equipment into waiting garbage trucks. The City of London Corporation, which owns much of the land around the 17th-century cathedral, took legal action to have the protesters removed. St. Paul's authorities said, "We regret the camp had to be removed . . . but we are fully committed to continuing to promote" the issues of social and economic justice raised by the occupiers. The Rev. Giles Fraser, who backed the protesters and resigned as the cathedral's canon chancellor early in the dispute, described the eviction as "a sad day for the church" (ENInews).

Misquoted

In his stump speeches Mitt Romney has been using a line that is wildly popular with his audiences: "In another era of American crisis, Thomas Paine is reported to have said, 'Lead, follow, or get out of the way.' Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it's time for you to get out of the way!" But Paine never said those words, according to a representative of the Yale Book of Quotations. The line was likely uttered by George Patton. The Romney campaign may know the attribution is in­correct, hence the use of the word reported (John Fea, Patheos, February 8).

Violence against Christians

Anti-Christian violence is a greatly underreported problem, argues Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim from Somalia. Attacks against Christians increased 309 percent between 2003 and 2010 in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This violence for the most part isn't centrally planned and is the spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animosity. One of the most serious problems is in Nigeria, where an organization called Boko Haram wants to establish Islamic shari'a law. In 2011 its members killed more than 500 Chris­tians and destroyed or burned over 350 churches in ten of the northern states of Nigeria (Newsweek, February 13).