Century Marks

Century Marks

Strangers’ eyes

Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread and Jesus Freak, said she has never visited a church that was unfriendly or hostile to her, but she’s visited many churches at which she didn’t know what to do in the liturgy. When that happens, she said, you feel like you don’t belong. She challenges worship planners and congregations to consider: “If someone walked into your church for the first time, what would she or he think you think you’re doing?” (Washington Island Forum, June 25–29).

Heavy church

When megachurch pastor Rick Warren baptized by immersion some 800 congregants in under four hours, it occurred to him that his members were overweight. He himself was 90 pounds over a healthy weight at the time. Warren instituted the Daniel Plan, a diet based on the book of Daniel, in which four Jewish boys refuse to eat the king’s meat and wine in order to remain fit. The Warren diet prescribes eating 70 percent unprocessed fruits and vegetables and 30 percent lean protein, whole grains and starchy vegetables. It recommends exercising and joining a support group. About 15,000 people have joined the program, some online. Warren’s church lost a collective 260,000 pounds in the past year (Time, June 11).

Right on Israel

A segment of the American and Israeli Jewish community lives by the slogan, “Right on Israel, left on everything else.” Shaul Magid, who teaches Jewish studies at Indiana University, asked one of his Jewish students about this bifurcation. She said her loyalty to Israel had to do with a divine connection to the land. In other words, “right on Israel” isn’t about politics; it is about spirituality. The problem with this, says Magid, is that the universal commitment to justice gets lost in the particularist devotion to a piece of land. How do you square a “commitment to freedom, justice, civil rights, pacifism, and equality with Israel’s continued occupation that includes systematic discrimination against the Palestinian population?” he asks (Times of Israel, July 1).

Busy bodies

When you ask people how they’re doing these days, a stock response is “crazy busy.” That’s “a boast disguised as a complaint,” says blogger Tim Kreider. It is not the complaint of a person who has to work three jobs to make ends meet. Their response would likely be, “I’m tired.” Busyness for professional people is often self-imposed to inflate a sense of self-worth. Kreider wonders whether keeping busy is a cover-up for the fact that much of what we do doesn’t matter. “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets,” Kreider says (Opinion­ator, New York Times, June 30).

Prison theology

When theologian Karl Barth visited the United States for the first time in 1962, he asked to visit a prison. Afterward he referred to the prisoners’ cells as “the sight of Dante’s Inferno on Earth.” He thought the inhumane prison he visited contradicted the “wonderful message on your Statue of Liberty.” Barth himself preached regularly at a prison in Basel, Switzerland (Theology Today, July).