Century Marks

Century Marks

Trim beards

Five Amish men from a renegade group in eastern Ohio have been charged with burglary and the kidnapping of Raymond Hershberger, a 74-year-old Amish bishop. The group entered Hershberger's house by saying they wanted to discuss religious matters. They held the bishop down in a chair and used scissors and battery-operated clippers to shear off his beard. The men were ac­cused of another beard cutting the same night. In an Associated Press interview, Sam Mullet, bishop of the breakaway group to which these men belong, said the beard cuttings were to send a message to Amish people that they should be ashamed of themselves for calling the community he leads a cult (RNS).

Liberal document

It's often assumed that Bible reading is linked to conservative political and moral attitudes. But a Baylor Religion Survey indicates that frequent Bible reading, especially when people do it on their own, leads to a liberal attitude on some issues. While reading the Bible increases opposition to abortion and homosexual marriage, frequent Bible readers are more likely to agree that it is important "to actively seek social and economic justice in order to be a good person" and are more inclined to agree that we should consume or use fewer goods. Frequent Bible reading, according to this research, also erodes support for the death penalty and the Patriot Act and leads readers to believe that science and religion are compatible (Christianity Today, October).

De facto abolition

Approval of the death penalty in the U.S. has dropped from 80 percent in 1994 to 61 percent. A year ago, when a Gallup poll asked people's preference between sentencing a murderer to death or to life without parole, only 49 percent chose the death penalty. Another revealing fact: only one-seventh of the 3,147 counties in the U.S. have had an execution since 1976; counties that comprise one-eighth of the population have produced two-thirds of the sentences. Texas has executed five times as many as Virginia, which ranks second in executions. In Texas the death penalty is used heavily in only four of its 254 counties (New York Times, October 14).

New world order

A major document released last month by the Vatican calls for a major overhaul of the world's financial system. The current financial system promotes national self-interest, rewards rich countries over the poor and is anachronistic in a globalized world, the document claims. A universal public authority that transcends national interest is needed, such as the creation of a central world bank that would regulate the flow of monetary exchanges. Taxes should be imposed on financial transactions in order to build a reserve that could support countries hit by crisis (America magazine blog, October 24).

Champion the vote

A group of venture capitalists is backing United in Purpose, a nonprofit organization that is trying to influence the outcome of the 2012 election by registering 5 million conservative Christians. Using a sophisticated data mining procedure, it is compiling a database of every unregistered evangelical, conservative Christian in the country. The organization's Champion the Vote campaign has a website that lists right to life, religious freedom and traditional marriage as its top priorities. Technology entrepreneur Ken Eldred, one of its financial backers, says that one day God will ask people how they voted (Chicago Tribune, September 18).