Century Marks

Century Marks

Brazil’s religious right

More than 20 percent of Brazilians are evangelicals, and while they don’t yet have a unified agenda the way many evangelicals in the U.S. do, they are making a political mark. They hold only about 10 percent of the seats in the legislative assembly, but they had enough power to kill a measure that would have supplied Brazil’s schools with antihomophobia materials (Los Angeles Times, October 21).

Insubordination

Two years ago Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, prime minister and defense minister of Israel, directed the Israel Defense Forces and Mossad (the country’s intelligence and special operations agency) to prepare for a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. But the heads of both the IDF and Mossad were opposed to a strike and never fully prepared for it. The former heads of these agencies, now retired, have spoken against an Israeli attack. Gabi Ashkenazi, former head of the IDF, has said that Israel should continue to carry out covert actions against Iran but not start a war. Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has said it would be stupid to attack Iran. Dagan has worried that Netanyahu and Barak would go to war illegally, bypassing the cabinet (Haaretz, November 4).

Chosen by lot

The Coptic Church of Egypt recently chose a new pope through a blind process. After the number of candidates was whittled down to three, their names were placed on pieces of paper in crystal balls sealed with wax and put in a glass bowl. A blindfolded boy picked one name out of the bowl. Bishop Tawadros’s name was chosen. The new pope will have the challenge of guiding the church in the face of a government led by the Muslim Brother­hood (BBC News, November 4).

Abortion numbers

Research at Washington University’s School of Med­icine indicates that unwanted pregnancies and abortions drop dramatically when free contraception is available. In this study, 9,000 St. Louis women re­ceived free contraception. Teen pregnancy in this group numbered 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers, compared to 34 births per 1,000 teens nationally. Abor­tions among the women in the study numbered 4.4 to 7.5 per 1,000 women, compared to national figures of 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000. The Affordable Care Act pays for contraception for woman. More than 30 federal lawsuits have been filed challenging the contraception mandate, mostly by anti­abortion groups (Religion Dispatches, October 22).

Real presence

Tarn Wilson, a high school English teacher, sat with a student after school to talk with her about a memoir the student had written concerning her depression and attempt at suicide. Wilson asked the student, “What helped?” The student responded that she had been helped by friends who encouraged her, who argued for life, even at times when she was too sullen to respond. Then she said: “Just being there. Physically. Being there. You don’t have to say anything at all” (Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Summer/Autumn).