Century Marks

Century Marks

Great expectations

When Thom Ranier pastored a church in St. Petersburg, Florida, he gave his deacons a list of 20 pastoral functions. He asked each deacon to put the minimum number of hours they expected him to devote to each function. When he averaged and tallied the results, it came out to a 114-hour workweek. Either he could put in 16 hours per day, seven days a week, or he could take one day off and put in 19 hours the other days—just to meet the minimal expectations (thomrainer.com, July 24).


The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Half of the people in federal prisons were convicted on nonviolent drug charges. The number of nonviolent drug offenders in jails in the U.S. has increased 1,100 percent since 1980. Even though only 14 to 15 percent of drug users in the U.S. are African Americans, they account for 59 percent of those convicted for drug offenses and 74 percent of those sentenced to prison for drug convictions. The U.S. incarcerates African Americans at a rate six times that of South Africa during apartheid (Guardian, July 23).

Giving it away

Sam Simon, co-creator of the TV show The Simpsons, was diagnosed with colon cancer and given three to six months. He’s decided to give his assets away, especially to organizations that work on animal rights and on hunger. “The truth is, I have more money than I’m interested in spending,” Simon said. “Everyone in my family is taken care of. And I enjoy this” (New York Daily News, July 27).

Without a ladder

“Where you grow up matters,” says Harvard economist Nathaniel Hendren, author of a new study on economic mobility and geography. Location doesn’t matter much for the children of the well-to-do, who tend to do well regardless. But if you’re poor and from the Southeast or the industrial Midwest, your chances of climbing the economic ladder are poor, and especially low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indiana­polis, Cinncinnati and Columbus. Chances of climbing the economic ladder are best in the Northwest, Great Plains and the West, especially in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and much of California and Minnesota (BillMoyers.com, July 23).

Religious diplomacy

The State Department has just created an office to reach out to faith communities and religious leaders around the world. It will be headed by Shaun Casey, a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theo­logical Seminary in Washington, D.C. Casey expects to focus on three areas: religion and development, international religious freedom, and conflict prevention and resolution. “I think we ignore the political impact of religion at our peril,” Casey said about the new State Department office. He was ap­pointed by Secretary of State John F. Kerry, for whom Casey worked when Kerry was a U.S. senator (Washington Post, July 26).