Century Marks

Century Marks

Earthen treasure

A copy of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book published in America, will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s and is expected to bring between $15 and $30 million, making it the most expensive book ever sold. One of two copies owned by Old South Church in Boston, it is one of only 11 remaining copies published. The proceeds will be used to help replenish Old South’s endowment once $7 million of it is used for deferred maintenance. The church historian resigned over the congregation’s decision to sell one of its treasures, but the rest of the congregation overwhelmingly supported the decision (New York Times, November 15).

Enemies and friends

Saudi Arabia and Israel have never had diplomatic relations, and Saudi Arabia has been known to fund terrorism against Israel. Yet the Sunday Times of London has reported that the two countries are planning a joint military attack on Iran if a nuclear agreement is reached between Iran and the United States and other countries. Both countries are convinced that Iran intends to develop nuclear bombs, hence both countries are adamantly opposed to any deal with the Iranians (Tablet, November 18).

Hunger pains

Many people who back cuts to food stamps argue that the program encourages dependency. However, 47 percent of those who benefit from food stamps are children and another 26 percent are adults who live with children. A very rigorous study in 2011 concluded that getting food stamps has a statistically insignificant effect on whether recipients seek jobs. William A. Galston says the fight over government food assistance is motivated by ideology rather than defects in the system and is ultimately a disagreement over “our collective obligation to the least fortunate Americans” (Wall Street Journal, November 6).

Violent divide

The United States is deeply divided regionally when it comes to violence, gun possession and the death penalty. Dividing the country into 11 different “nations” based on the predominant origins of its inhabitants and the resulting culture, Colin Woodard says Yankeedom (his label for the Northeast) and the Left Coast are most open to gun control and abolition of the death penalty. The Deep South, Appala­chia, Tidewater and Far West regions contain the most adamant supporters of the Second Amendment and capital punishment, and they also have the highest rate of murders. If the deadlock between these two extremes is ever to be broken, it will come about through swing voters in the middle states (Tufts magazine, Fall).

Immigrant religion

Public discussion in the United States and Europe about immigration usually focuses upon illegal immigration or Muslim immigrants. In both places, however, the largest proportion of immigrants is Christian. In the United States about 75 percent of new immigrants are Christian. In the European Union, 43 percent of immigrants are Christian, 30 percent are Muslim (Mission Studies, 2013).