Century Marks

Century Marks

Rain down

From the heart of New Mexico to West Texas and Oklahoma, the pressures of drought have led Christian preachers and Catholic priests to encourage prayer processions and American Indian tribes to use their closely guarded traditions to coax Mother Nature to deliver some much needed rain. An interfaith service in Oklahoma City was held where Christian, Muslim and Jewish prayers were used for rain. The Catholic bishop in Lubbock is planning a special mass at which farmers can have their seeds and soil blessed. The archbishop of New Mexico’s largest diocese has turned to social media to urge parishioners to pray: “Look to our dry hills and fields, dear God, and bless them with the living blessing of soft rain. Then the land will rejoice and rivers will sing your praises, and the hearts of all will be made glad” (AP).

Food first

Nearly 260,000 people died during the Somalian food crisis of 2010–12. Over half of them were children under five. The deaths are attributed to an Islamist militia group that kept aid from getting to the area, warlords who stole food aid, and officials in the capital who diverted food aid. The U.S. war on terror is also to blame, because it and the World Food Program ceased giving aid to the region after the Islamist militia group was named a terrorist organization. A spokesperson for the aid group Oxfam said, “When . . . people are dying of hunger, politics should not play a part” (Chicago Tribune, May 3).

Guns galore

The growth in the number of civilians owning military-style guns can be traced back to a deal made in the mid-1980s between Rene Carlos Vos, a gun dealer, and Wayne LaPierre, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. They formed a company called Blue Sky to import from South Korea M-1 rifles that had been used in the Korean War. The legislation that made the project possible was an amendment to a Senate bill offered by Bob Dole, Republican senator from Kansas, which for the first time allowed the importation of U.S. military weapons as long as they were “curios and relics.” LaPierre soon pulled out of Blue Sky when it faced criminal charges, and Vos was killed in a plane crash in 1987, but the company opened a floodgate of guns. By 2012, one million of what gun advocates call “modern sporting rifles” were flooding the U.S. market each year, from both foreign and domestic sources (Washington Post, May 3).

Liberation

Jason Collins, a journeyman player in the National Basketball League, has gotten much press attention for coming out as a gay man—the first active player in a major American sport to do so. Not as much has been said about his faith which apparently helped him come to an acceptance of himself as a homosexual. He found vindication for coming out in this quote from a prayer book his grandmother had given him: “The clarion call of freedom sounds within my soul, trumpeting the truth that the love of God liberates me from unhappiness, hurt, or fear. I bid farewell to any emptiness from the past, and open myself to realizing my heart’s deepest longing and aspiration” (T. F. Charlton, Religion Dispatches, May 2).

Church family?

The family is a good model for thinking about the church, says Moravian pastor Jennifer Benson Moran. It’s biblical, everyone in a family matters and belongs, and our own images of broken family can be redeemed in the church. Not so fast, says Lutheran pastor Cheryl M. Fleckenstein. A family suggests a closed and exclusive identity. There is the temptation for the pastor to fall into the role of parent and be expected to meet everyone’s needs. When the church functions as family it gives invitation to people to live out their own family dysfunctions in the church. It raises unrealistic expectations about the church being a community of intimates. The church is better understood as a company of strangers who are engaged together on behalf of God’s world, says Fleckenstein (Word & World, Spring).