Century Marks

Century Marks

Target audience

Joseph S. Khalil says we miss the meaning of the book of Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth or preacher) unless we understand its central intention, which is to challenge overconfident preachers who claim to know the ways and will of God. “God’s inscrutability is evident in the illogicality of life,” says Khalil. Qoheleth is particularly critical of those who think they know God’s will with respect to reward and punishment. “Who is like the wise man?” Qoheleth asked. The question is a challenge to all human wisdom and understanding; it points to human limitations about knowing the ways of God in the world (Word & World, Summer).

Prayers of two cities

Clergy in Tampa, Florida, and Charlotte, North Carolina, sites of the Republican and Democratic conventions, issued a statement called “A Common Witness.” The statement notes the wide political divisions in the country, encourages those involved in the political process to argue respectfully and not use religion to garner votes, and invites prayers for peace (hydeparkumc.org)

True joy

According to a fable, St. Francis of Assisi told Brother Leo that true joy comes not from success but in rejection and suffering, which cause us to reflect on Jesus’ pain and rejection. St. Francis compared it to coming back to the friary on a cold winter night and being told by the person who came to the door that he was a simpleton, that he couldn’t come in and should go away. It’s not that suffering is good for us. The point is that pain is a reality of life and that God is present in all reality, including pain and suffering (Weavings, August/September/October).

Feathers flying

When Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurants, made a statement that supported the traditional view of family, progressives took it as an attack on gay marriage. Their outrage led to a counterattack from the right. Mike Hucka­bee called on Americans to patronize Chick-fil-A on August 1 in support of traditional values. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank pointed out that a deluxe chicken sandwich and a brownie sundae at Chick-fil-A would total 1,670 calories, meaning that those who heed Huckabee’s call for a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day could put on weight. Hucka­bee, who ran for president in 2008, is also known for his motivational diet book, Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork (Washington Post, July 24).

Olympic gods

A 600-foot footrace was the only athletic event at the first Olympics, a festival held in 776 BC and dedicated to Zeus, the chief Greek god. For the next millennium Greeks gathered every four years in Olympia to honor Zeus through sports, sacrifices and hymns. The combination of Greek sport and worship led the Roman emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, to ban the Olympics in 393 AD. The London Olympics this year tried to accommodate religious athletes with 193 chaplains, a prayer room in every venue and a
multifaith center in the Olympic Village. Muslim athletes faced a particularly difficult choice, since the Olympics fell during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during the day (ENI).