Century Marks

Century Marks

Great expectations

When Thom Ranier pastored a church in St. Petersburg, Florida, he gave his deacons a list of 20 pastoral functions. He asked each deacon to put the minimum number of hours they expected him to devote to each function. When he averaged and tallied the results, it came out to a 114-hour workweek. Either he could put in 16 hours per day, seven days a week, or he could take one day off and put in 19 hours the other days—just to meet the minimal expectations (thomrainer.com, July 24).

Down and out

People tend to think of poverty in America as an urban or rural reality. Increasingly it has become a suburban one. From 2000 to 2010 the number of poor in suburbs increased by 53 percent. Many of these people were firmly middle class at the beginning of the new century. Because of wage stagnation, declining real estate values and the Great Recession, they have fallen below the poverty line. People who once donated to social service organizations in their communities are now themselves becoming dependent on them (from The End of the Sub­urbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving, excerpted in Salon, August 3).


Andrew Hill, who teaches at the U.S. Army War College, compiled a list of the “The Best Books You Will Never Read,” based on reader votes at Goodreads. Of his list of 30 titles, the top ten are: James Joyce, Ulysses; Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past; David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest; Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace; Thomas Pyn­chon, Gravity’s Rainbow; Jacques Der­rida, Of Grammatology; Jack Kerouac, On the Road; Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; Martin Heidegger, Being and Time; and William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (Chicago Tribune, August 3).

Copts on the defensive

Since the military coup that deposed President Mohammed Morsi, Egyptian Christians have been on the defensive, particularly in the far south, where they are accused by Islamists of engineering the coup. In the city of Assiut, Christians have had their apartments marked with a red cross.  Christian entrepreneurs have shuttered their businesses. Forty percent of Assiut people are Christians (AP).

Workers unite

Henry Blodget, former equity research analyst, has had an antipathy toward unions. He has thought that unions led to a sense of entitlement, decreased corporate competitiveness and ultimately led to the transfer of jobs overseas. We now have a larger problem, Blodget says: while corporate profits are at an all-time high, wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low. Companies are so obsessed by short-term profits that they’re paying employees less and not investing in future growth, keeping the economy from recovery. Robust labor unions are needed again to increase workers’ compensation. Corporations won’t voluntarily do it (BusinessInsider.com, August 2).