Century Marks

Century Marks

Politics in the pulpit

Randall Balmer, a historian of American religion, spent his high school years in Des Moines, Iowa. His father was a staunch Republican and pastor of one of the largest evangelical churches in the state—but he was resolutely apolitical in the pulpit. Beginning in the late 1970s, however, the issue of abortion galvanized evangelical political activism in Iowa, and the state became a harbinger of movements on the religious right. Evangelicals formed megachurches and homeschooling became popular. Iowa's long tradition of progressivism has been blunted, as is evident in the 2010 recall of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage (Religion Dispatches, December 31).

What they’re reading

Mitt Romney, when asked what book he's read recently, mentioned George W. Bush's Decision Points. Michelle Bachman touted J. Steven Wilkin's Call of Duty: The Sterling Nobility of Robert E. Lee (Wilkins is a leading proponent of the notion that the South was an orthodox Christian nation attacked unjustly by the godless North). Rick Perry said he likes W. Cleon Skousen's The Five Thousand Year Leap: Twenty-eight Ideas That Changed the World (it's a book promoted by Glenn Beck and written by a figure the conservative National Review called a "nutjob") (The Daily Beast, December 19).

Woman of the year?

In late December, Verizon Wireless announced that it would charge customers a $2 fee for online or telephone payments. Molly Katchpole launched an online petition opposing this move. One day after the petition was launched, Verizon said it was withdrawing the fee. Katchpole started an online petition earlier in the year against Bank of America's $5 debit card fee. Bank of America reversed that action after Katchpole collected more than 300,000 signatures (New Mexico Business Weekly, December 30)

That’s life

John Dear SJ introduced the Gospel of Mark to teens in a confirmation class in a remote parish in New Mexico and asked them what they liked or didn't like about the text, what they thought made sense, what seemed crazy. "What is this 'kingdom of God'?" he asked. One student impatiently responded, "The kingdom of God is life." That seemed to Dear like an insight worthy of a Thomas Merton or a Thich Nhat Hanh. Yes, Dear thought to himself on his way home, God's reign offers fullness of life for everyone, friend and foe alike (Lazarus, Come Forth! Orbis).

Coming out

Some of the children of the wealthiest Americans have been involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement. One held a sign reading, "I have more money than I know what to do with. Tax me more." A sign held by twins read, "You would know our dad, if we told you who he was." Some of children of the 1 percent said it was hard to decide to get involved-it was almost like "coming out" (The Week, December 30–January 6).