Century Marks

Century Marks

Does history have a future?

Historian John Lukacs says that we live in an era "when many people know less history than their forebears may have known but when more people are interested in history than probably ever before." Some very good histories have been written in the past 50 years, some by amateur historians; since 1960, history books of all kinds have sold better than novels. Yet Lukacs frets about the future of his discipline. Fewer history courses are required in high school and college, and fewer people are earning doctorates in history. He also thinks that history depends on publishing and that the decline in book publishing does not bode well for the future of history (The Future of History, Yale University Press).

Time, talent and treasures

The stewardship program of most congregations is built around four practices: weekly offerings, annual pledge drives, the use of the stewardship cycle to support the annual budget and, in some churches, the filling out of "time and talent" forms. The tradition of the fall fund drive grew out of an agricultural context and was tied to harvest, a pattern that may no longer make sense. In a post-Christian context, "perhaps the really big stewardship issue for a congregation is not the budget," says Rolf A. Jacobson, "but the faith-formation issue of how to form whole people of faith who know that they belong to God" (introduction to Rethinking Stewardship, Word and World Supplement Series 6).

Support needed

Research on 32,000 high school students in Oregon indicates that suicide attempts by gay teens, as well as straight ones, are higher in conservative areas where schools don't have support programs for gays. The higher rate of suicide attempts was evident even when the gay students in conservative areas were neither bullied nor depressed. Previous research has shown a higher suicide rate among gay teens (AP).

Holy days

Noting that Sweden is a multicultural society, the Social Democratic Party has called for a review of Sweden's public holidays, saying the nation's Muslim community should also be recognized. A new holiday would probably mean replacing an existing one, officials said. A possible new holiday is Eid-al-Fitr, the feast at the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. But a spokesperson for the Swedish Humanist Association said the idea is absurd. Christmas itself is no longer a Christian celebration in this highly secularized country, he said (UPI).

Like flipping a coin

Students at Hamilton College analyzed prognostications by 26 political and economic pundits during a 16-month period in 2007–2008 to see how accurate they were. They concluded that only nine of the pundits were more accurate than the flip of a coin, two were much less accurate, and the remaining 14 were statistically as reliable as a coin toss. Princeton economist Paul Krugman, columnist for the New York Times, came out on top. The worst prognosticator was conservative columnist Cal Thomas (Poynter.org, May 2).