Century Marks

Century Marks

Church too big to fail?

Megachurches in South Korea have become big business. The Yoido Full Gospel Church is the largest congregation in the world with over a million members. Cho Yong-gi, its founder and leader since 1958, has family enterprises that include newspapers and private universities. In late September an investigation was launched into Cho's finances on the basis of allegations from 29 church elders that he embezzled $20 million of church funds. A TV documentary claims that the money was used to buy real estate in the U.S. Cho also made a controversial statement following the recent Japan earthquake and tsunami, saying it was God's warning to a country known for "idol worship, atheism and materialism" (Economist, October 15).

Jews and OWS

An ad running on cable TV shows Occupy Wall Street protesters making anti-Semitic statements and holding up signs offensive to Jews. Kevin Healey points out that the ad is produced by the Emergency Committee for Israel, hardly an unbiased group. It was founded by neoconservative leader William Kristol and evangelical leader Gary Bauer. Other observers point out that the Occupy movement has involved many Jews. Columnists from the Jewish news source JTA said that the Occupy Wall Street protests have a Jewish flavor and are "becoming a fulcrum of Jewish ferment" (Scoop, November 3).

Back of the bus

When Melissa Franchy sat at the front of bus B110 in Brooklyn, she was told by a Hasidic Jewish man that she needed to move to the back. When she asked why, he said that this was a private Jewish bus and that it was decreed by God that men and women should be separate. The bus, which runs between Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, is operated for the city by a private company. The city has said that the practice of gender segregation is against New York civil rights laws and has asked the private bus company for an explanation (NPR.org).

The Wounded Right

Jon Meacham says the religious right has attacked Mitt Romney's Mormonism because it has already lost some culture war arguments, such as prayer in school and abortion, and is likely to lose the battle over gay marriage. "A wounded foe is always more dangerous than a healthy one," he says. Meacham believes that "American believers may have to step up" to oppose religious tests for office in order "to save religion from the religious." The separation of church and state protects the church from the corruption of the state as much or more than it protects the state from the church's influence (Time, October 24).

Beyond the three Rs

In his composition class for college freshmen, teacher-writer Erik Reece asks students to evaluate their high school education. Students report that their high school teachers lacked passion and didn't know their subject matter very well. Teachers seemed to have low expectations of students, the students say, and were afraid to engage students in critical thinking. What was taught seemed irrelevant to the lives of the students, and the teachers mostly taught to the tests. School reform, Reece concludes, will have to address three major areas: quality of teaching, what is expected of students and the relevance of subject matter to "real life" (Orion, September-October).