Century Marks

Century Marks

Ending slavery

Historian Michael T. Bernath argues that the formation of the Confederacy allowed Southern reformers to raise questions about slavery and it provided an opportunity for Southerners to discuss slavery in ways that they couldn’t while being pressured by Northern abolitionists. While part of the Union, white Southerners felt their way of life was under attack and so they put up a united front to protect it. After secession, Southern reformers more freely argued for at least the reform of slavery—the right of slaves to learn to read and to marry and an end to the mistreatment of slaves. Their opponents, with good reason, thought even small reform measures would lead to the demise of slavery (Journal of Southern History, May).

Muslim converts

About 5,200 Brits convert to Islam each year, bringing the total number of converts to about 100,000, according to research at the University of Wales. Women make up about two-thirds of the converts, many of whom convert in order to marry a Mus­lim. Other reasons for conversions are a sense of community and a reaction to the bawdiness of British culture. Prisons are a fertile ground for male conversions. Converts say that the discipline of Islam helps them cope better with the conditions of prison life. Once released, prison converts often find it difficult to integrate into mosques, which are typically ethnic enclaves (Economist, May 18).

Pay priorities

In half of the states, the highest-paid state employee is the football coach, usually at the largest state school. The next highest paid is likely to be a basketball coach (true in 12 states; there’s a tie between the football and basketball coaches in Minne­sota). The heads of medical schools garner the highest state salaries in four states—a distant third highest-paid employee. A medical school plastic surgeon gets the highest state salary in Nevada, and in New Hampshire it’s a hockey coach (deadspin.com).

Book sales

Pastors buy 3.8 books on average per month, according to a recent Barna Group survey. In contrast, only 29 percent of the general American population buys more than ten books a year. Pastors usually choose books based on someone else’s recommendation of a book or topic, with spirituality, theology and leadership being the most frequent topics selected. Although almost half of the pastors surveyed use a digital device, pastors of all generations prefer hard copies to digital versions. More than nine in ten pastors also recommend a book during their sermons at least once a year (barna.org).

Whither the C of E?

A new analysis of a 2011 census shows a drop in ten years of 4.1 million (10 percent) in the number of people in England and Wales who call themselves Christian. These numbers were bolstered by the influx of foreign-born Christians, including Polish Catholics and evangelicals from Nigeria and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the number of Muslims in England and Wales surged by 75 percent, to a total of 600,000 more foreign-born Muslims. Almost half of British Muslims are under 25; almost a fourth of the Christians are over 65. Projections indicate that in 20 years there will be more active Muslims than churchgoers, causing some to call for an end of the established Church of England (Telegraph, May 16).