Century Marks

Century Marks

Churches found

People once found churches by looking for steeples. Now they look online. A study by Faith Communities Today (FACT), authored by Scott Thumma of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, shows that seven in ten churches surveyed had websites. Four in ten had Facebook pages by 2010 (USA Today, April 17).

Lifeline of books

Writer Mari­lynne Robinson says that after she spoke at a women’s prison in Idaho one of the women said to her, “Tell your students to write good books. They’re all we live for.” Robinson, who teaches at the highly regarded Iowa Writer’s Workshop, said in an interview in the May Atlantic that it’s easy to forget how important books are, especially for a person like herself whose house is groaning with books. “But then you realize that they’re really bread to people who absolutely need them,” she said.

Quest for historical Qur’an

The academic study of Islamic origins is one of the most contested fields in the history profession. “Those of us who study Islam’s origins have to admit collectively that we simply do not know some very basic things about the Qur’an—things so basic that the knowledge of them is usually taken for granted by scholars dealing with other texts,” says Fred Donner, an expert in early Islamic studies at the University of Chicago. Among the issues in question are the book’s place of origin, its original form and its initial audience. What is known is that the Qur’an came to be viewed as divine, and it empowered previously despised and marginalized Arabs to challenge two great empires, the Roman and Persian (History Today, May).

Batters out

A church had to leave the church softball league in St. Clair, Missouri, after it became known that its pastor is openly bisexual. The pastors at three Baptist churches said their teams could no longer play against the team from St. John United Church of Christ, whose new pastor, James S. Darnell, is bisexual. Rather than ruin things for the rest of the league, his church dropped out of the league. “It’s frustrating,” said Darnell, “because this is who is representing Christianity in our community, and this is the message youths in our community are getting” (RNS).

Changing orientation

Robert Spitzer, retired psychiatrist at Columbia University, has retracted his controversial 2001 study that claimed gays and lesbians could be cured of their homosexuality through therapy. The so-called “ex-gay” movement used his argument to push what they called “reparative therapy,” which claims that with strong motivation lesbians and gays can become straight via therapy or prayer. Ironically, Spitzer was one of the mental health professionals who urged the American Psychiatric Asso­ciation to stop classifying homosexuality a mental disorder, which it did in 1973 (Southern Poverty Law Center, April 11).