Century Marks

Century Marks

Dating the shroud

New scientific tests on the Shroud of Turin date the cloth to ancient times, challenging earlier experiments that dated it only to the Middle Ages. The burial shroud purports to show the imprint of the face and body of a bearded man, with nail wounds at the man’s wrist and pinpricks around his brow, consistent with the crown of thorns pressed onto Christ before his crucifixion. Many experts have stood by a 1988 carbon-14 dating of scraps of the cloth that dated it to the years 1260 to 1390. In a statement, Pope Francis was careful to refer to the cloth image as an “icon,” not a relic, reflecting the Vatican’s policy of not claiming the cloth was used to cover Christ after the crucifixion (RNS).

Pastoral care

Megachurch pastor and popular Christian author Rick Warren said he was “overwhelmed” by the love and support offered after the apparent suicide of the youngest of his three children. The Warrens said in an e-mail to church staff Saturday that Matthew Warren had taken his own life in a “momentary wave of despair.” It said he had long struggled to control his emotional pain despite years of prayers and the best available treatment (AP).

First unions

Cohabitation is preferred over marriage among nearly half of women age 15 to 44, according to a study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. Marriage is part of a first union for less than one-quarter of women in this age bracket. Un­married couples are staying together longer and more are having children. Within three years of cohabitation, 40 percent of the women had gotten married, 32 percent still lived with their partner and 27 percent had left the relationship. Those with a college education are less likely to choose cohabitation and more likely to move quickly to marriage (USA Today, April 4).

Evangelical politics

At least since the 1980s American evangelicalism has increasingly associated itself with conservative, often Republican, politics. Comparing evangelicals in the U.S. with those in Brazil, Erin McAdams and Justin Earl Lance found that evangelicals in Brazil are not as conservative. In response to the statement, “The government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep,” 96 percent of Brazilian evangelicals agreed but only 67 percent of Americans did. Brazilian evangelicals are no less theologically orthodox than their American counterparts. One reason for the difference is that no political party in Brazil endorses abortion, which takes that issue off the table. Brazil has a multiparty system and only in 2002 did one party target evangelicals (Boston Globe, April 1).

Best sellers

Fiction was not highly regarded by Americans in the 19th century. The country, says Randall Fuller, was focused on industry, success and salvation, not artistic achievement. Many were taken by surprise, then, by how Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin drew people into its antislavery narrative and moved them emotionally—sometimes to the point of embarrassment. Her novel, which she claimed she didn’t write (“God wrote it. I merely did His dictation”), was outsold in the 19th century only by the Bible (Humanities, March/April).