Century Marks

Century Marks

Religious hate

The recent celebration of Ramadan sparked one of the largest increases of anti-Muslim incidents in more than a decade. In Joplin, Missouri, the Islamic Society’s building was destroyed by fire under suspicious conditions. A bottle of acid was thrown at a Muslim school in Lombard, Illinois, while worshipers were saying evening prayers. A mosque in Harrisonburg, Virginia, was desecrated with anti-Muslim graffiti. The number of anti-Muslim hate groups tripled from 2010 to 2011. Forty-three percent of Muslims experienced some kind of harassment during 2010–11 (Center for American Progress, September 26).

Loving the environment

In addition to being an award-winning author of 14 books, a Sunday school teacher and a Century editor at large, Bill McKibben is one of the best-known environmental activists in the United States and a leading voice in the campaign to address climate change. But when it came to raising his daughter Sophie (now 18), McKibben said that he didn’t think it was appropriate “for little kids to be freaking out about climate change.” He remarked: “It always struck me as a parent that my first job in this context was to help her fall in love with the natural world. If you do, then I’m absolutely confident that you’ll do what’s necessary to defend it” (Outside, October).

License to preach

Would you like to be a minister but you just don’t have the time or money to attend seminary? Well, now there’s an app for that, available for the iPhone and Android phones. The app won’t actually ordain you, but it will show you what you’d look like in the garb and what you’d believe if ordained in one of 12 different religions. A sample prayer is provided for each religion (ordainthyself.com).

Two strands of Islam

Islam from the beginning has urged moderation in religious practice, according to Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan. “God desires ease for you, and desires not hardship,” the Qur’an says. Muhammad said, “Make things easy, do not make them difficult.” Two different streams of interpretations emerged in early Islam: one urged a literal application of the teachings of the Qur’an without regard to context or circumstances; the other urged flexibility of interpretation based on the social context of the day. The extreme literalists call into question the authenticity of moderate Muslims (Islam and the Arab Awakening, Oxford University Press).

Fourth strike

Pope Gregory the Great (ca. 540–604), known for his generosity, approved the sale of church treasures to provide for poor people. He distributed food weekly, sent cooked rations daily to the sick and even had dishes from his own table given to the poor. Sabinian, Gregory’s successor, was much more miserly. Three times the deceased Gregory appeared to him in a vision, calling him to repentance. Getting no response, Gregory appeared a fourth time, striking Sabinian on the head with a staff. Sabinian died soon thereafter (R. A. Herrera, Mystics in Spite of Themselves, Eerdmans).