Century Marks

Century Marks

Restorative justice

Although the ghosts of genocide persist in Rwanda, where an estimated 800,000 men, women and children were slaughtered in 1994, there are signs of hope. Rwandans are creating one of the safest, least corrupt and most economically successful countries on the continent. One factor in the healing of the ethnic strife between Hutus and Tutsis was the use of a traditional justice system called gacaca. Gacaca courts are community-based public trials that allowed victims to confront the accused. If convicted, the accused were sentenced to do things that helped rebuild the country: repairing houses, making agricultural terraces or tending the fields of victims’ families (United Church Observer, July/August).

Altar call

The agency that commissions Southern Baptist military chaplains says no Southern Baptist chaplain will be allowed to perform, attend or support a same-sex wedding either on or off base. The guidelines issued by the North American Mission Board were updated in response to the military’s repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and the Supreme Court’s decision this summer to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. Recently, the Pentagon began allowing gay and lesbian service members who plan to wed to take travel leaves for up to ten days as long as those service members live 100 miles or more away from one of the 13 states that allow same-sex marriages (RNS).

Humor as a virtue

Humor is not only a desirable human trait, it is also a spiritual virtue that shows evidence of a genuine conversion, argues moral theologian John J. Slovikovski. Christ had a sense of humor, and “to be humorous . . . is to be Christlike, and to be Christlike is to be converted.” Slovikovski understands humor to be a form of mirth. Its goal is the “generous allocation of overflowing and redeemed goodness that makes right relationship with Christ as a redeemed, fully human person attractive and cheerful.” Humor must be related to the other virtues. Humor devoid of love “is nothing more than callous, egocentric and existentially costly self-amusement,” says Slovikovski (Theology, July/August).

Trying harder

In the West, students who are academically successful are considered intelligent, and it is assumed that students who struggle to learn must not be very smart. In Eastern cultures like Japan and China, such struggle is viewed as the necessary ingredient for academic success. Students who are rewarded for effort and persistence are motivated to work harder at academic achievement, regardless of their intelligence (NPR, September 2).

Serendipity and the news

Cass R. Sunstein, former administrator of the White House Office of Informa­tion and Regulatory Affairs, says that newspapers have what he calls an architecture of serendipity. In newspapers, readers encounter content and become informed about subjects in which they have little interest. Sunstein worries about the future of the Washington Post, now that it has been purchased by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. Bezos is a master at discovering what people want and tailoring the market to their desires. If the same strategy is applied to newspapers, people might read only about subjects they already care about (Chicago Tribune, August 14).