Century Marks

Century Marks

Unholy war

When Muslim-Christian conflict broke out recently in the Central African Republic, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga opened the doors of his church to shelter Christians. He also welcomed his friend Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, the most senior imam in the country, whose life was in danger from Christians who were seeking revenge. The archbishop, the imam and a leading Protestant cleric  had been traveling about the country trying to head off conflict with the message, “We are brothers.” Although interreligious tension has been building for years, the recent conflict was precipitated by the overthrow of the government by Muslim forces, which put in place the first Muslim president (New York Times, December 23).

Health industry

In 2011 Catholic hospitals received $27 billion from public sources—almost half of their revenues. Some critics have charged that Catholic hospitals have been on a merger spree in recent years, creating corporate entities that are less sensitive to the needs of the poor. Statistics from an American Civil Liberties Union/Merger Watch report seem to support this criticism. Catholic hospitals are now providing less care for the poor than other religious nonprofit hospitals and not much more than secular nonprofit hospitals. They also receive a lower percentage of revenue from Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income and disabled folk, than any other type of hospital, including for-profit ones (Mother Jones, December 18).

Charismatic renewal?

At the invitation of Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, representatives of Chemin Neuf (“New Way”), a Catholic-based charismatic community, are moving into Lambeth Palace, the archbishop of Canterbury’s residence in London. Welby discovered this group before he became a priest and while working for an oil company in France. Chemin Neuf was founded 40 years ago in France as a Catholic prayer group but has since become ecumenical. The group moving into Lambeth Palace includes a Catholic priest, an Anglican couple and a Lutheran seminarian (American Interest, December 18).

Big government

Benjamin Radcliff, political scientist at the University of Notre Dame, has compared the size of government in different countries to the sense of well-being among its citizens. He concludes that “the smaller the government, the less happy people are.” Key to government providing a greater sense of well-being are measures that keep people in a capitalist economy from feeling as though they are “commodities.” Government programs that care for older people and the unemployed and free people to care for infant or ailing family members contribute to a sense of well-being. People of all income levels benefit, as do both men and women (Washington Post, December 23).

God and world

The universe is both distinct from God and loved by God, according to Christian theology. Such a view of the universe, says theologian John F. Haught, makes room for the concept of evolution. A world that is truly other than God has autonomy and therefore the freedom to develop spontaneously in its own, contingent manner. A God that truly loves the world will not coerce it to change but rather work with it through persuasive love. “If God is love, and not controlling power, the world will be given leeway to experiment with an array of creative possibilities”—what is considered randomness in evolutionary science (Sewanee Theological Review, Michaelmas).