Silent retreat: Brian Doyle, sometime contributor to the Christian Century, reports that his sister, who lives in a monastery, once went on a summer-long silent retreat. He asked her what her first words were when she broke her silence. She grinned and said “Pass the butter,” and when he complied, she laughed: those actually were her first words after the retreat. He also asked her if it had been hard to remain silent. At first it was, she said, but then it had become a prayer (U.S. Catholic, June).
Holy hilarity: The Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church in Wichita, Kansas, celebrates Holy Humor Sunday the week after Easter because “God played the best practical joke of all on death, on Satan, in raising Jesus.” This year one skit involved a taste test to find the best grape juice for communion. The panelists in the skit were embarrassed to learn they had chosen “Real-Value Artificial Grape Drink from Wal-Mart” (Mennonite Weekly Review, April 23).
Spin zone: The Iraq war was not the first one to be encouraged by sectors of the media. The Spanish-American War was set off when an explosion destroyed a U.S. warship while it was docked in Havana. Publisher William Randolph Hearst was itching for a fight with Spain. He sent hordes of reporters to Cuba to cover the explosion and within days was spinning the news to blame Spain. War against Spain was soon declared (Columbia Journalism Review, March/April).
Make videos, not war: Ava Lowery, 16, is a Methodist peace activist in Alexander City, Alabama. Rolling Stone magazine called her one of the great mavericks of 2006. Lowery makes homemade videos that juxtapose images from the Iraq war with popular music and provocative quotes (her Web site is www.peacetakescourage.com). One of her best-known videos is “WWJD?” which pairs the song “Jesus Loves Me” with images of grieving and wounded Iraqi children. (Chicago Tribune, April 4).
Party politics and piety: Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report is skeptical that Democrats can win over evangelical voters by using the right language. The Democrats had minimal impact on white evangelical voters in 2006, Rothenberg says. White evangelicals are more likely to change the Republican Party than to change parties (Roll Call, March 22).