Century Marks

Century Marks

Remote control

When airman Brandon Bryant first began work as a drone operator, he thought he was part of a force for good. After six years of working from a base in Nevada, sitting at a console with vivid and violent scenes of Afghan and Pakistani villages 7,000 miles away, he changed his mind. His views about the morality of the operation changed when he saw a child vaporized on the screen and saw hundreds of people blown to bits. He walked away from a $109,000 bonus with a severe case of PTSD and a final kill count of 1,626. “The number made me sick to my stomach,” he said (GQ, October 23).

Religious profiling

A diverse group of religious, racial justice, civil rights and community-based organizations sent a letter to the Department of Justice last month, urging it to investigate post-9/11 surveillance practices in New York City that the letter signers say jeopardize the civil rights of Muslims. The appeal follows investigative reports by the Associated Press documenting that New York police have sent hired people to infiltrate mosques, student associations and other places to take photos, write down license plate numbers and keep notes on people because they are Muslim. The group said the surveillance program unfairly stigmatizes Muslims, “who are a law-abiding, diverse, and integral part of our nation and New York City” (ABP).

Sunday assembly

The London-based Sunday Assembly is bringing its efforts to the United States in Novem­ber. The group holds assemblies for unbelievers who still want to be part of a congregation to become better persons and serve others. The London group, which draws about 600 people, recently went from monthly to twice-monthly meetings. Cristina Traina, religion professor at Northwestern University, said, “It’s very interesting that part of what they seem to miss is what Christians call liturgy—gathering to sing, to say something meaningful about the larger universe, to be inspired and made better in a group, not in your room.” She predicts that it will be a “flash in the pan” (Reuters).

True religion

Aaron Graham, pastor of a congregation in the District of Columbia, believes that churches are needed to address foster care needs in D.C. The district has over 1,300 foster children in the system, with 300 waiting for adoption. Through a program called DC127, and in cooperation with D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency, Graham is trying to get at least half of D.C.’s churches involved. In addition to looking for families who will take in foster children, DC127 is recruiting advocates for foster children, respite homes to give breaks to foster families, mentors and other resources for children in the system. DC127 is based on James 1:27, which says true religion entails caring for orphans (Time.com, November 3).


The percentage of a church member’s income given to the church dropped to 2.3 percent in 2011 (the latest year for which numbers are available), down from 2.4 percent in 2010. According to a report by Empty Tomb, a Christian research group, giving has declined for four consecutive years. The only other period of prolonged decline in giving per member was from 1928 through 1934, almost entirely during the Great Depression. Sylvia Ronsvalle of Empty Tomb said part of the reason that giving has declined is because churches still treat people as if they are living in “hard times”—even when they are not. “They’re hard because people want to take better vacations,” Ronsvalle said. “They want to get more cars. They want to have more square footage” (RNS).