Century Marks

Century Marks

Normal folk

Since 2010 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been running a public relations campaign featuring diverse Americans with the tagline, “I am Mormon.” The aim is to show that “Mormons are not that strange,” said one spokesperson. The More Good Foundation is also backing the church’s efforts to present a good image on the Internet. One of its objectives is to help people searching for information get to Mormon-friendly sites rather than hostile sites run by evangelical Chris­tians and ex-Mormons (Wilson Quarter­ly, Spring).

Sharing stories

Members of the Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Des Moines, Iowa, wanted to throw the book at two teens, a boy and his girlfriend, who had scribbled neo-Nazi graffiti on their synagogue. Instead, Rabbi Steven Fink met with the youths as part of a restorative justice process. At the meeting, several Holocaust survivors told their stories. The male perpetrator told about his childhood of abuse and of running away from home and linking up with the Aryan Nation. The youths were told that in the Jewish tradition they had to earn forgiveness. Each performed 200 hours of service for the synagogue, at the end of which the charges were dropped (Des Moines Register, April 22).

Aftershocks

When police tried to get help for a military veteran found wandering naked on a California street, the Veterans Administration hospital said it couldn’t take him until morning. Later, the man was killed when he stepped in front of a train, an apparent suicide. About 25 American soldiers will take their own lives for every one killed on the battlefield this year, says columnist Nicholas D. Kristof. More than 6,500 veteran suicides take place every year, more than the total killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The V. A., which has established a suicide hotline and appointed suicide-prevention coordinators, is trying to overcome the warrior mentality that views mental health concerns as a sign of weakness (New York Times, April 14).

Joshua fought the battle

A Google search for “Joshua sermon” brought up 5,990,000 hits, many of them sermons from fundamentalist or evangelical preachers. Not many sermons on the book of Joshua are preached in mainline Protestant congregations. The story of the conquest and the apparent genocide of the natives of the land of Israel is too problematic for modern readers. Only three Joshua texts are used in the Revised Common Lectionary. Homiletics professor Stephen Farris tells his students, “Hard texts make good sermons.” Wherever the mighty misuse power, Farris says, preaching from Joshua is difficult but necessary (Interpretation, April).

Preemptive strike

When 60 Minutes was working on a story about the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren called Jeff Fager, head of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes. The ambassador said he had heard that the program would be a hatchet job. Later, Bob Simon, the reporter on this story, told Oren that he has gotten all kinds of reactions to stories he’s done, but never before has he gotten a reaction to a story before it was broadcast. “Well, there’s a first time for everything, Bob,” the ambassador responded. The ambassador was concerned that the story about Christians leaving the Holy Land would have a negative effect on tourism, a multibillion-dollar business in Israel and the West Bank. He wanted the Christian exodus blamed on Muslim extremists rather than Israeli policies (60 Minutes, April 22).