Century Marks

Century Marks

Guns galore

The growth in the number of civilians owning military-style guns can be traced back to a deal made in the mid-1980s between Rene Carlos Vos, a gun dealer, and Wayne LaPierre, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. They formed a company called Blue Sky to import from South Korea M-1 rifles that had been used in the Korean War. The legislation that made the project possible was an amendment to a Senate bill offered by Bob Dole, Republican senator from Kansas, which for the first time allowed the importation of U.S. military weapons as long as they were “curios and relics.” LaPierre soon pulled out of Blue Sky when it faced criminal charges, and Vos was killed in a plane crash in 1987, but the company opened a floodgate of guns. By 2012, one million of what gun advocates call “modern sporting rifles” were flooding the U.S. market each year, from both foreign and domestic sources (Washington Post, May 3).

On the move again

After Palestinians were pushed out of their homes in 1948, many fled to Syria. With the civil war raging in Syria, many are again on the move, especially to Lebanon. Over 90 percent of these Palestinian refugees have no income and are dependent on the help of other poor refugees. They live in very crowded and often dilapidated housing. Health-care providers are overwhelmed by this influx. Many of the children aren’t able to go to school, since schools in Lebanon use French and English instead of Arabic (ANERA Reports, April).

Highest bidder

Boston’s Old South Church is planning to auction one of its two copies of The Bay Psalm Book, the first book published in America, in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Eleven copies survive. It’s estimated that the book will bring between $15 and $30 million when sold next November at Sotheby’s in New York. Old South plans to use the proceeds to pay for building repairs and to sustain its ministry (Reuters).

Silent God

In the book of Lamentations, God is largely silent in the face of laments about Israel’s suffering under the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. Beau Harris and Carleen Mandolfo suggest a number of reasons for the divine silence. First, God is a good listener, showing deep respect for Israel’s pain. Second, God may be demonstrating a baffled silence at the extent of the destruction Israel experienced. Finally, God may use silence to teach Israel that God wasn’t going to immediately resolve their situation—and that Israel would need a tough skin for living among their enemies. God’s silence in Lamentations is instructive for pastoral counseling and Christian compassion. People sometimes need a place to spill out their rage, and they don’t need instant responses (Interpretation, April).

Polite company

Death cafés started in England and are catching on in the United States. Usually held in coffee shops and led by social workers or chaplains, death cafés allow people to talk about death and address such issues as advance medical directives, physician-assisted dying, funeral arrangements, and the hereafter. There is a website: deathcafe.com (USA Today, April 7).