Century Marks

Century Marks

Faith on the line

The number of Christians killed for their faith around the world doubled in 2013 compared to the year before. Most of those killed were Syrian Christians who have been targeted by radical Islamist groups for their purported support of President Assad. Nine of the ten countries listed as most dangerous for Christians are Muslim-majority states. Christians face restrictions or hostility in 111 countries, while Muslims experience similar kinds of harassment in 90 countries. The information was reported by Open Doors, a nondenominational group supporting persecuted Christians around the world. Open Doors put the number of Christians killed for their faith in 2013 at 2,123; some other Christian organizations report that the number is as high as 8,000 (Reuters).

Bedeviled details

A glimmer of hope remains that some kind of immigration reform bill will get through Congress in 2014. But if it does, it might not be what many have hoped for. The current immigration reform bill in the Senate calls for the United States to pocket all previous contributions made to Social Security by undocumented immigrants. If they do become citizens, these people would lose a benefit for which they worked and would likely experience severe poverty in their senior years (Chicago Tribune, January 3).

Atheism in a new light

Chris Arnade has a Ph.D. in physics. He worked on Wall Street for 20 years. He counted himself among the atheists who enjoy nothing more than poking holes in the Bible and making fun of Christians. Richard Dawkins was his hero. He quit his Wall Street job to photograph homeless people in the Bronx. The homeless people he met, including the addicts and prostitutes, undermined his atheism. For many of them, faith was what got them through life. “I’ve been reminded that life is not as rational as Richard Dawkins sees it. Perhaps atheism is an intellectual luxury for the wealthy,” said Arnade (Guardian, December 24).

Eat your veggies

After decades as a mortician in East Baltimore, Erich March became concerned about the way people in his neighborhood were dying prematurely from obesity, hypertension and diabetes. The deaths were linked to a poor diet. March and his wife opened a grocery store, called Apples & Oranges, that sells healthy food and teaches people how to prepare it. The store doesn’t carry sugary sodas, cigarettes or lottery tickets. March said he was motivated by his Catholic faith and the example of his parents, who often provided funeral services free of charge (U.S. Catholic, December).

Attitude of gratitude

Gratitude is like a muscle. A number of studies confirm that the more we express our gratitude, the more grateful we become and the more we have a bright outlook on life. In one study of high school students, the students who showed the highest levels of gratitude had better GPAs, less depression and envy. A focus on materialism had just the opposite effect on students. An attitude of gratitude is a virtue that is more caught than taught. Parents can instill thankfulness in their children by requiring them to do chores and then thanking them for doing them (Wall Street Journal, December 23).