Century Marks

Century Marks

State of preaching

In Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Ross Douthat laments the poor state of preaching, complaining about preachers who dispense a gospel of narcissism or who promise people material prosperity. But complaints about preaching are hardly new, says John Wilson in the Wall Street Journal (May 31). “Preaching—and worship—is in need of renewal because it is always in need of renewal. No pastor, congregation or denomination will ever get it right once and for all.” Wilson doubts there is any new method that can guarantee successful preaching.

Mosque on hold

A judge in Tennessee issued a ruling that halted the construction of a nearly completed mosque about 34 miles south of Nashville. He claimed that the planning commission had not given enough public notice prior to a 2010 meeting when the mosque plans were approved. An antimosque group has been battling the mosque construction for the last two years, arguing that Islam is not a real religion and is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. “If you read the judge’s ruling, it is clear he sought a heightened standard of public notice for an issue that involves Muslims,” said Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. A civil rights group has asked the U.S. Justice Department to intervene if the planning commission doesn’t immediately reissue building permits for the 52,000-square-foot mosque (Orlando Sentinel, May 29).

Peace train

Korean churches are developing plans for a “peace train” that would travel from Berlin through Mos­cow and Beijing and on to Busan, South Korea, in time for the World Council of Churches global assembly in October 2013. The plan is to draw attention to the need for peace and reunification in the Korean peninsula. The train, which would carry representatives of churches and of civil society, would pass through North Korea. The National Council of Churches of Korea is also meeting with the governments of North and South Korea in hopes that a peace treaty can be signed in 2013 that marks the 60th anniversary of the cease-fire that ended the Korean War (ENI).

Covering religion

Jon Stewart, host of the humorous Daily Show, appears to be a nonpracticing Jew, but his show covers religion better than any other TV program except for Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, claims Mark Oppenheimer. Writers for the Daily Show find humor in the finer points of religion rather than in caricatures of it. Sometimes the beliefs or practices of religion are shown as bizarre, but often it’s the antagonists of religion who are made to look silly. In one sketch, a Muslim woman’s application to become a foster mother is rejected because she won’t allow pork products in her house. The episode helped to explain Muslim dietary practices while making the foster agency’s objections look ignorant and bigoted (Religion & Politics, May 1).

Taking the stand

Blake Allison’s wife, Anna, a software consultant, was on her way to visit a client in Los Angeles when the plane she was in crashed into World Trade Center Tower 1 on Sep­tember 11, 2001. Allison has met clandestinely with the lawyers for Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the confessed mastermind of 9/11, to tell them he is willing to argue in the military tribunal against the use of the death penalty. Allison knows that his wife’s family doesn’t agree with him, nor do other families who lost loved ones on 9/11. He also knows that Mohammed would do it all over again if given the chance. “First and foremost, I don’t think it’s right to take a life,” Allison said. “It’s grounded in my faith. The New Testa­ment is very clear about this” (New York Post, May 14).