Century Marks

Century Marks

Interfaith support

Bernie Farber, a longtime social justice advocate, is a volunteer at a L’Arche community. Farber, a Jew, learned of this network of Christian communities for the developmentally disabled through his friend Bob and Bob’s son Mark. Mark was born disabled and with sight impairment. After his mother died and Bob became too old to care for him, Mark moved into the L’Arche community. Mark had never had his bar mitzvah, which he still longed for. Aided by the L’Arche community and a local rabbi, Bernie helped Mark celebrate his bar mitzvah at age 60. Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities, has been nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. Farber is pulling for him to win it (Huffington Post, June 29).

Copy cats?

The affluent Chicago suburb of Lake Forest was stunned by the apparent suicides of three youths in succession in the first three months of this year. Each teen walked in front of a speeding commuter train near the same spot. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of ten and 24. About 5 percent of these deaths are cluster suicides. Experts disagree on whether media coverage of teen suicides can lead to copy-cat suicides. One study suggested that media coverage can deter such behavior, especially if there is a focus on the harsh realities of the incidents (Chicago, July).

Strangers’ eyes

Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread and Jesus Freak, said she has never visited a church that was unfriendly or hostile to her, but she’s visited many churches at which she didn’t know what to do in the liturgy. When that happens, she said, you feel like you don’t belong. She challenges worship planners and congregations to consider: “If someone walked into your church for the first time, what would she or he think you think you’re doing?” (Washington Island Forum, June 25–29).

Heavy church

When megachurch pastor Rick Warren baptized by immersion some 800 congregants in under four hours, it occurred to him that his members were overweight. He himself was 90 pounds over a healthy weight at the time. Warren instituted the Daniel Plan, a diet based on the book of Daniel, in which four Jewish boys refuse to eat the king’s meat and wine in order to remain fit. The Warren diet prescribes eating 70 percent unprocessed fruits and vegetables and 30 percent lean protein, whole grains and starchy vegetables. It recommends exercising and joining a support group. About 15,000 people have joined the program, some online. Warren’s church lost a collective 260,000 pounds in the past year (Time, June 11).

Right on Israel

A segment of the American and Israeli Jewish community lives by the slogan, “Right on Israel, left on everything else.” Shaul Magid, who teaches Jewish studies at Indiana University, asked one of his Jewish students about this bifurcation. She said her loyalty to Israel had to do with a divine connection to the land. In other words, “right on Israel” isn’t about politics; it is about spirituality. The problem with this, says Magid, is that the universal commitment to justice gets lost in the particularist devotion to a piece of land. How do you square a “commitment to freedom, justice, civil rights, pacifism, and equality with Israel’s continued occupation that includes systematic discrimination against the Palestinian population?” he asks (Times of Israel, July 1).