Century Marks

Century Marks

Ordered life

When Richard Morgan, a retired pastor, moved into a retirement community with his spouse, it struck him that they were entering something like the monastic life. They surrendered all ownership of private property; they relinquished control over their own lives, giving authority to the retirement corporation; and they now live by a fixed schedule, including chapel services at a specified time. As St. Benedict admonished in his rule for monastic life, they regularly ponder the fact that they will die—for their neighbors die rather frequently (Weavings, August/September/October).

Voice for change

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for advocating the education of girls, made a case for education in a speech on her 16th birthday at the United Nations Youth Assembly. “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world,” she said. “Educa­tion is the only solution.” She called on the UN and world leaders to fund universal education for primary school­children by 2015. The UN estimates that 57 million primary school-age children don’t get an education, half of them from countries in conflict (Aljazeera, July 12).

Triumph of liberalism

Robert Bellah, a sociologist of religion, believes that liberal Protestantism has been eclipsed because it has been so successful. It has infiltrated and transformed secular humanist culture. The teaching in religious studies departments in many American universities has a liberal Protestant bent. The reform of other religions, including Catholicism at Vatican II, and the work of international human rights movements reflects the influence of liberal Protestantism. Even the growing ranks of the so-called “nones” have more in common with unorganized liberal Protestantism than with atheism (First Things, June/July).

Hymn comeback?

“Our God,” a praise hymn by Matt Redman, is the most popular song sung in American churches, according to a chart that tracks such matters. Approaching the top ten list is a retro hymn, “In Christ Alone,” cowritten by Keith Getty. Getty represents a newer group of songwriters who try to get more content into their songs than the usual praise songs. Getty believes hymns should be singable without a band and should say something bold. “I think it’s to the church’s poverty that the average worship song now has so few words. . . . It is so focused on several commercial aspects of God, like the fact that he loves our praises,” Getty says (NPR, July 8).

Going gently

When Charlie, a highly regarded orthopedist, discovered he had pancreatic cancer, he refused all treatment. He ended his practice, never entered a hospital again, and spent time with his family until his death. This is not an unusual approach for doctors, according to Ken Murray, himself a physician. Doctors know what options they have at the end of life and how futile extreme efforts often are. While doctors often must use extreme measures to keep other people alive to meet relatives’ expectations, they refuse these measures themselves. Studies have shown that people in hospice care often live longer than people with the same disease who seek active treatment (Health Care Blog, August 6, 2012).