When Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt and his family emigrated to the West from the Soviet Union in 1980, they were detained by border police. Their baggage—seven suitcases—was filled with his compositions and recordings. The police wanted to hear his music, so he played several of his religious works on a record player. The police responded positively. Pärt, half jokingly, said it was "the first time in the history of the Soviet Union that the police are friendly." His wife Nora added, "I saw the power of music to transform people." Pärt, whose compositions are sometimes compared to Gregorian chant, has a rule of thumb for countries like Estonia that endured Soviet occupation: they need as many years to heal as they were occupied— 50 years in the case of Estonia (New York Times, October 15).
Nov 05, 2010
More than 30 percent of Germans believe their country is being overrun by foreigners, according to a survey conducted by a German think tank associated with the center-left Social Democratic Party. Thirteen percent of the population would welcome a "Führer"—a title associated with Hitler—meaning someone who would run the country with a firm hand. About 60 percent of Germans would "restrict the practice of Islam," and 17 percent believe that Jews have "too much influence" in the country. The anti-immigrant sentiment is shared by other European countries, some of which have attempted to pay Africans to move back home (CSMonitor.com, October 17).
Nov 04, 2010
The late Catholic theologian Karl Rahner argued that the kingdom of God does not necessarily coincide with denominational lines. Not all who say "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom, and orthodoxy does not necessarily yield a faith that justifies. An exponent of the concept of "anonymous Christians," Rahner said we ought "to look for the 'Christian nonbeliever,' that is, for the person who is near God without knowing it and whose view is obstructed by the shadow we ourselves cast." There are people "entering the kingdom of God by way of roads that are not officially marked on the map" (The Mystical Way in Everyday Life, a new collection of Rahner's writings on spirituality published by Orbis).
Nov 03, 2010
In the 1980s a recent Princeton Ph.D. graduate in aeronautical engineering asked Paul Volcker, head of the Federal Reserve Bank, which Wall Street firm he should work for. Volcker asked why he didn't go work for Boeing. The man said he could start at Boeing for a salary of $50,000 and work up to a high of $90,000. "I can make that overnight on Wall Street," he said. A generation of the best and the brightest young Americans made similar decisions, according to Joe Klein. They were diverted "from making new products to making new deals" (Time, October 18).
Nov 02, 2010
Online churches like LifeChurch.tv are just a recent example of American religion using technology in an inventive way. Now almost forgotten are 19th-century chapel train cars that took religion to where the people were—on the frontier. Clergy rode in these cars, holding services between stops, using what in that day was a state-of-the-art means of making religion accessible (Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, Simon & Schuster).