Century Marks

Century Marks

Tending to the neighbor

Marilyn McEntyre suggests some very practical ways that American Christians can work against a self-centered consumerism and toward concern for the neighbor and community. Begin every day for a month asking the question, “What can I share today? . . . What do I have that might be given away?” See if a room at church can be found to use as a “sharing station” where tools, utensils, clothing or books could be stored for others’ use. Talk on the phone with someone who may be lonely for 15 minutes two or three times a week. Host dinner-and-documentary nights to discuss public problems with a view to finding and working at solutions. Commit to a steady-state household: if something new comes in, then something else goes out. “Who is my neighbor?” is a question we cannot afford to consign to cliché, McEntyre says (Weavings, November–January).

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).

Making the cut

The United States and Germany seem to be going in different directions on the practice of male circumcision. The American Acad­emy of Pediatrics released a statement indicating that for parents who choose it, circumcision is warranted on the basis of a medical risk-benefit analysis. In Germany there has been an effort to criminalize the procedure and to institute a two-year moratorium on the practice. An outcry from religious groups led Chancellor Angela Merkel to ask the Justice Ministry to draft legislation that would protect the right of religious groups like Jews and Muslims to continue the practice if the circumciser is properly trained, parents provide informed consent and effective analgesia is used. A secularized Europe does not seem to understand the religious significance of this ritual (Michelle Harrington, Sightings, October 18).

On a mission

The Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, Illinois, has been asking itself: “Is the church doing and being what it is called to do and be?” As part of that reflection, parish leaders decided to consult with nearby Willow Creek, an evangelical megachurch—a move that made some people in the congregation unhappy. One parishioner said that less damage would have been done if a grenade had been thrown down the church’s center aisle. The leaders persisted in their consultation, however. What they learned is that the spiritual vitality of any congregation flows from the vitality of its members and that leadership is key: leaders must lead by example (Anglican Theological Review, Summer).