Century Marks

Century Marks

Sing out

People still sing together in churches and ballparks, but what is absent in America, say Karen Loew, is “community-oriented, community-building, sometimes spontaneous” singing. One obstacle is the lack of a common repertoire of songs. “Since we’re out of practice as a society, the person who dares to begin a song risks having no one join her.” Protest movements have long been known by their music. While the Occupy movement has incorporated some music, it has not generated original music (Atlantic, March).

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).

Faith in practice

According to a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey, 73 percent of Mormons believe that “working to help the poor” is “essential to being a good Mormon.” That compares to 49 percent who say that not drinking coffee and tea is essential to faithful Mormon practice. Mormons seem to practice what they preach: most go to church regularly, devote nine times more hours a month to volunteerism than other Americans, tithe regularly, and on average give $1,200 annually to causes beyond the church. Mormons “are the most pro-social members of American society,” according to Ram A. Cnaan, social-work scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, who conducted the research (America, April 9).

Space for God

When Anglican theologian Herbert Kelly was asked how we can know the will of God, he responded: “We do not. That is the joke.” Agreeing with Kelly, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says we are left with our free will and our power of discernment to decide what in our life comports with the will of God, and then we trust that God will pick us up and restore us if we make a mistake. Key questions to ask in the discernment process: “What course of action might be (even a little) more in tune with the life of Christ? And what opens, rather than closes, doors for God’s healing, reconciling, forgiving and creating work to go on?” (Rowan Williams, Where God Happens).