Century Marks

Century Marks

Gone to the dogs

When Arise Church, a United Methodist congregation in Pinckney, Michigan, built a new church on 20 acres of land, the pastor suggested using part of the space for a dog park. He got the idea when he noticed how his normally shy spouse opened up to strangers when they were at a dog park. Some church members were skeptical about the need and concerned about liability issues. But funds for the dog park were raised in the community, and the church's insurance company agreed to insure the park at no additional cost. About 150 people visit the dog park each week. After a year, about ten of the 110 regular attendees at the church said they found out about the church by way of the dog park (UM Portal, June 20).

The good and the bad

Amish have done much better during this recession than most other Americans because they live simply and frugally. Unemployment is nowhere near 9 percent in the Amish community. Lorilee Craker, author of Money Secrets of the Amish, discovered one Amish man with 14 children who over 20 years of working on a rented farm accumulated $400,000, which he used as a down payment to buy a $1.3 million farm of his own. "Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without" is a favorite Amish slogan. Most Amish don't use credit cards, and when they do it is only for business transactions, with balances paid off each month (Chicago Tribune, June 24).

A 21-year-old Amish man was arrested in Indiana for sexting a 12-year-old girl and trying to solicit her outside a restaurant. The young man had told the girl that he would be meeting her in a horse and buggy. The police set up a sting operation and arrested him. While many Amish don't have phones in their homes, cell phones have been accepted by some, especially for business purposes (CNN.com, June 21).

Twice closeted

Jose Antonio Vargas, a reporter who has worked for the Washington Post and the Huffington Post, came out as a gay youth during a high school class. He has lived with another secret even harder to disclose: Vargas is an undocumented alien. When he was 12 his mother put him on a plane from the Philippines to the U.S., where he lived with his grandparents. He pursued citizenship at one point, but it would have required going back to the Philippines to live for ten years, a place he hardly knew. Vargas founded Define America, an organization that tries to reframe the immigration debate (New York Times, June 22).

Teed off

NBC's decision to delete the word God from the Pledge of Allegiance during its coverage of the U.S. Open golf tournament teed off Rep. Jim Renacci (R., Ohio). He wrote a letter to the U.S. Golf Association asking it to reconsider its relationship with NBC. The words under God were edited out of a patriotic montage that featured children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. NBC announcer Dan Hicks later apologized to viewers. Golf Digest magazine recently ranked Renacci as one of the best golfers among Washington political operatives (RNS).

Best of the decade

Literature professor Everett Hamner has selected the following works appearing from 2000 to 2010 as the best fiction reflecting religious themes: 1. E. L. Doctorow, City of God (2000); 2. Yann Martel, Life of Pi (2001); 3. Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra and José Marzán Jr., Y: The Last Man comic series (2003–2008); 4. Joe Sacco, Palestine (2002); 5. Richard Powers, The Time of Our Singing (2003); 6. Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (2004) and Home (2008); 7. Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2006); 8. Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl (2009); 9. Ralph Ellison, Three Days Before the Shooting . . . (2010); 10. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God (2010). Hamner, who teaches at Western Illinois University, predicts that Robinson's books will show up in future American literature courses (Religion in American History blog, June 29).