Century Marks

Century Marks

Laws for the journey

If the Ten Commandments were written today they would probably be different, argues Old Testament scholar Terence Fretheim. He points out that Deuteron­omy revises the Ten Commandments recorded in Exo­dus: a wife is no longer listed as property and the neighbor is not necessarily male. The law was first given when the people of Israel were on a journey, and it became a compass for their wilderness wanderings. Over time their circumstances changed, and therefore the law had to change too. "Just because laws are from God does not make them un­change­able; the texts witness to a God who makes changes in the law," so that God can be true to God's own character and to the relational commitments made to Israel through changing times and places (Word & World, Summer).

More to the story

A few years ago writer Alex Kotlowitz encountered a neatly dressed young woman named Dede. She remembered him well, but he couldn't place her. She had met him some 15 years earlier when he was writing There Are No Children Here, about the challenges of growing up in public housing projects. Dede had lived in public housing controlled by gangs; both her parents had trouble with alcohol; and she had been addicted to crack cocaine. Since that time, she had had a baby, started going to church and gotten married. Dede's turnabout reminded Kotlowitz of the words of Nigerian-born novelist Chimamanda Adichie about "the danger of a single story." We should not assume that we know the shape of another's life just because she is poor and grows up in a ghetto (chicagomag.com).

Morality matters

Derek Parfit is the most original moral philosopher in the English-speaking world, some claim, and his two-volume On What Matters has been touted as the most important philosophy work in more than a century. Parfit's parents met in the Oxford Group in the 1920s and became medical doctors serving as missionaries in China. They both shed their faith on the mission field and returned home to England. Briefly a believer during his childhood, Parfit too became an atheist. Parfit views moral truth, however, like Dostoevsky's Ivan Karamazov viewed God: without moral truth everything would be permitted (New Yorker, September 5).

Don’t bet on it

Proponents of the gaming industry like to point out its benefits—tax revenues and new jobs—but fail to address the hidden costs of gambling to individuals, families, employers and society as a whole, including crime, lost productivity on the job, bankruptcy, suicide, illness, and marriage and family breakups. Besides the human cost, mathematician Earl L. Grinols argues that the actual cost in dollars and cents can be established. Using a complex mathematical formula, he concludes that each pathological gambler costs society $9,393 each year (Christian Reflection, No. 40).

Schooled in love

E. Glenn Hinson was asked to serve as interim pastor of a congregation that had forced out its previous pastor and experienced deep divisions. The members had heard that Hinson taught seminary courses on prayer, and they thought prayer was needed in their circumstances. In an early sermon he preached that there was hope for the church through agape—love. After the sermon a woman said to him, "Dr. Hin­son, in this church we love one another; we just don't know how to show it." This convinced him that a congregation of flawed and fractious people should be­come what Bernard of Clairvaux desired a monastery to be, a schola caritatis—a school of love (Weavings, 26:4).