Century Marks

Century Marks

Morality matters

Derek Parfit is the most original moral philosopher in the English-speaking world, some claim, and his two-volume On What Matters has been touted as the most important philosophy work in more than a century. Parfit's parents met in the Oxford Group in the 1920s and became medical doctors serving as missionaries in China. They both shed their faith on the mission field and returned home to England. Briefly a believer during his childhood, Parfit too became an atheist. Parfit views moral truth, however, like Dostoevsky's Ivan Karamazov viewed God: without moral truth everything would be permitted (New Yorker, September 5).

Don’t bet on it

Proponents of the gaming industry like to point out its benefits—tax revenues and new jobs—but fail to address the hidden costs of gambling to individuals, families, employers and society as a whole, including crime, lost productivity on the job, bankruptcy, suicide, illness, and marriage and family breakups. Besides the human cost, mathematician Earl L. Grinols argues that the actual cost in dollars and cents can be established. Using a complex mathematical formula, he concludes that each pathological gambler costs society $9,393 each year (Christian Reflection, No. 40).

Schooled in love

E. Glenn Hinson was asked to serve as interim pastor of a congregation that had forced out its previous pastor and experienced deep divisions. The members had heard that Hinson taught seminary courses on prayer, and they thought prayer was needed in their circumstances. In an early sermon he preached that there was hope for the church through agape—love. After the sermon a woman said to him, "Dr. Hin­son, in this church we love one another; we just don't know how to show it." This convinced him that a congregation of flawed and fractious people should be­come what Bernard of Clairvaux desired a monastery to be, a schola caritatis—a school of love (Weavings, 26:4).

Welcome here

A year ago, Mus­lims in Cordova, Tennessee, just outside Memphis, were building an Islamic Center. When it wasn't ready in time for Ramadan, they asked Steve Stone, pastor of nearby Heartsong Church, if they could use a small section of the church for prayers. Stone said they were welcome, but he wanted them to use the main worship space instead. As a result, the church lost about 20 members (out of 550), who were fearful about the blending of two religions. Stone said he tried to work with the dissenters, but in the end he was "kind of glad they left," as he didn't want members with hateful feelings toward the Muslims. The two worshiping communities have worked together on a homeless ministry and have made plans for a shared park (NPR, August 21).

Faith matters how?

Recently Bill Keller argued in the New York Times that journalists need to ask tougher questions of politicians about their faith. In her Time blog, Amy Sullivan writes a rejoinder: they don't necessarily need to ask tougher questions but more relevant ones. Politicians, especially Republican ones, tend to use religion to connect with a certain audience, but they resist getting into specifics. The two main questions they need to be asked are: "1) Would your religious beliefs have any bearing on the actions you would take in office? and 2) If so, how?" Which decisions would be particularly shaped by their faith? On abortion and birth control? Economic policy and immigration? (swampland.time.com, September 2).