Century Marks

Century Marks

Plagued

The massive infestation of locusts in Egypt right before the Jewish Passover struck many Israelis as downright biblical. Millions of grasshopper-like insects swarmed over Israel’s neighbor, and some made their way to southern Israel. Israeli agricultural experts are on high alert, fearing that the locusts could devastate crops. Some Israelis have noted that varieties of the leggy pests are kosher. Locusts were the eighth plague visited upon the Egyptians, according to the Exodus story (RNS).

Stressed

Rising levels of stress are causing more depression among pastors. Stressors include declines in membership and contributions, personal financial worries (often due to educational debt), and discord in congregations. One of the top predictors of depression is social isolation. Pastors moving from hospital visits to funerals to weddings experience a range of unpredictable emotions—another indicator of depression. On the positive side, some pastoral counselors see an increase in the number of pastors who are willing to seek professional help and are open with their congregations about their emotional difficulties (ABP).

Anxious existence

At about 10 percent of the population, Christians make up one of the largest religious minorities in Syria. The people of the village of Yacoubiyeh in northern Syria are getting a glimpse of what life in their country might be like if the rebels take over. It is one of the few minority-dominated villages controlled by the rebels, who have mostly taken over Sunni-dominated areas. The rebels are trying to as­sure the Christians that they’ll continue to have relative freedoms. They may drink alcohol in their homes but not in public. Christians in Syria are concerned, though, about the increasingly extremist Islamic rhetoric coming from some of the rebels (AP).

Living wage

Debates about the minimum wage usually overlook the religious roots of the concept. John A. Ryan, an Irish Catholic priest from Minnesota, coined the term “living wage” and based it on Catholic social teaching. In 1894 he wrote in his diary: “We must have a more just distribution of wealth.” In 1906 he published a book called A Living Wage. In 1937 he became the first Catholic to give an invocation at a presidential inauguration (Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second). A year later FDR signed the first national law requiring a minimum wage law—25 cents an hour (Tikkun, February 26).

Yeast of the Christians

Some churches are using the popularity of craft beer and home brewing to reach out to young adults. Valley Church (Methodist) in Allendale, Michigan, holds semiregular meetings of beer enthusiasts and home brewers. The events go by the moniker “What would Jesus brew?” St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, sponsored a home brewing contest with other churches in the city as a fund-raiser. At least two church brewing groups have turned into commercial operations—Hess Brewing Company in San Diego and Monday Night Brewing in Atlanta. They claim they are part of an old church tradition: some monasteries have long brewed beer to serve their guests (Wall Street Journal, March 8).