Century Marks

Century Marks

Aftershocks

When police tried to get help for a military veteran found wandering naked on a California street, the Veterans Administration hospital said it couldn’t take him until morning. Later, the man was killed when he stepped in front of a train, an apparent suicide. About 25 American soldiers will take their own lives for every one killed on the battlefield this year, says columnist Nicholas D. Kristof. More than 6,500 veteran suicides take place every year, more than the total killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The V. A., which has established a suicide hotline and appointed suicide-prevention coordinators, is trying to overcome the warrior mentality that views mental health concerns as a sign of weakness (New York Times, April 14).

Joshua fought the battle

A Google search for “Joshua sermon” brought up 5,990,000 hits, many of them sermons from fundamentalist or evangelical preachers. Not many sermons on the book of Joshua are preached in mainline Protestant congregations. The story of the conquest and the apparent genocide of the natives of the land of Israel is too problematic for modern readers. Only three Joshua texts are used in the Revised Common Lectionary. Homiletics professor Stephen Farris tells his students, “Hard texts make good sermons.” Wherever the mighty misuse power, Farris says, preaching from Joshua is difficult but necessary (Interpretation, April).

Preemptive strike

When 60 Minutes was working on a story about the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren called Jeff Fager, head of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes. The ambassador said he had heard that the program would be a hatchet job. Later, Bob Simon, the reporter on this story, told Oren that he has gotten all kinds of reactions to stories he’s done, but never before has he gotten a reaction to a story before it was broadcast. “Well, there’s a first time for everything, Bob,” the ambassador responded. The ambassador was concerned that the story about Christians leaving the Holy Land would have a negative effect on tourism, a multibillion-dollar business in Israel and the West Bank. He wanted the Christian exodus blamed on Muslim extremists rather than Israeli policies (60 Minutes, April 22).

Modest proposal

Stanley Hauerwas says he wasn’t interested in the ecumenical movement when he graduated from seminary because it seemed to be about “denominational executives . . . trying to see how they could join their denominational headquarters under diminishing resources to discover how unity could occur without anyone losing a job.” But he cared about the unity of the church. The kind of Christian unity he advocates is found on a poster on his office door: “A modest proposal for peace: let the Christians of the world resolve not to kill each other” (Postliberal Theology and the Catholic Church, edited by John Wright).

Baptized fraternity

Dick Allison, retired pastor of the University Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is developing spiritual friendships with men who are in prison. Some of these men have become members of his church. He baptized three of them in horse troughs in the prison. An inmate at an out-of-state prison declared: “I want to become a member of the Horse Trough Fraternity of Baptized Believers.” These prisoners find it meaningful to belong to a church, even if they can’t attend it. One confessed that the only group he had previously belonged to was a gang of skinheads (Christian Reflections, 2012).