Century Marks

Century Marks

Proper punishment?

Gay advocates across the country argued that Dharun Ravi should not be scapegoated for the death of his roommate, Tyler Clementi. Clementi took his life after Ravi secretly videotaped him kissing an older man in their Rutgers University dorm room and posted the video on social media. Ravi, a student from India, could have been sentenced up to ten years for his conviction on hate crime laws. Instead, he was sentenced to 30 days in prison, three years probation, mandatory counseling and a $10,000 fine, an amount that will go to victims of hate-based crimes. Aaron Hicklin, editor of Out magazine, E. J. Graff, lesbian columnist for the American Prospect, Jim McGreevey, the gay former governor of New Jersey, and sex columnist Dan Savage were among those who said that while Ravi’s behavior was wrong, he didn’t deserve a lengthy prison term (Reuters and AP).

Change or else

Due to declining enrollments and budget crunches, many seminaries are rethinking their future. Katherine M. Douglass and Jason Bruner, doctoral students at Princeton Theological Seminary, think there are other reasons why seminaries need to think fresh thoughts about their role in the churches. One has to do with a changing demographic, which includes more minority and immigrant congregations. Another has to do with the increasing challenge of interfaith relationships and dialogue. Established seminaries could learn from the model of some immigrant churches whose leaders are trained to work in other fields. Seminaries should recruit local immigrant pastors to provide on-the-job training. The old model of apprenticeships is worth another look, too (Chronicle of Higher Education, May 13).

United front

After years of preparation, a new Christian denomination was formed last month in France when two synods met in the eastern town of Belfort, a location historically important in the growth of Protestantism. Called the United Protestant Church of France, the merger is not for economies of scale but to make a more united witness to the gospel. The merger of the Reformed Church of France (ERF) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France (EELF) was first proposed in the 1960s but was resisted by Lutherans who feared they might be absorbed. A new proposal was launched in 2001, and the nearly unanimous decision to merge was taken in 2007 (ENInews).

Hot air

Baseball commentator Tim McCarver has been ridiculed for suggesting that global warming is to blame for an increase in the number of home runs hit in the major leagues. To a point he’s correct. Balls carry better in warm, humid air. The increase in global temperature does track with an increase in home runs. However, other factors are involved, including changes in athletic ability, batting and ball technology and pitching styles. One physicist argued that a two-degree rise in temperature could lead to a 1.75 percent increase in home-run odds. A climatologist argued that an increase in carbon emissions makes the atmosphere heavier, which should result in fewer home runs (Washington Post blog, April 30).

Real spirituality

The Vietnam War underscored for Ismael García the colonial status of Puerto Rico. An inordinate number of Puerto Ricans were drafted to fight that war, even though they couldn’t engage in electing the people who were responsible for it. García was also disappointed in the church at the time, because he thought it ignored social and political realities on the island and focused instead on whether it was appropriate for women to wear slacks and how long men’s hair should be. In time García, who became a Christian ethicist, discovered Christians who modeled a life of social activism and inner spiritual devotion. He identified three traits of these Christians: they view God as sovereign in all spheres of life; they are committed to projects and concerns larger than their own personal interests; and they know that faithful living entails social analysis and cultural interpretation (“On Spirituality,” in A Spiritual Life, edited by Allan Hugh Cole Jr., West­min­ster John Knox).