Century Marks

Century Marks

Happy readers

There’s an adage in journalism that for every angry letter received there are ten happy readers who don’t bother to express their satisfaction. That formula was turned on its head when Susan Reimer wrote a piece critical of the Vatican, saying that it’s hard to be a Catholic woman these days when church leaders are putting pressure on American nuns. Her editor warned her that the long knives would come out; a friend predicted a cross burning in her yard. Instead, among some 60 letters she’s received, only two—both from men—were negative. “I am convinced that the church is not Rome,” one woman responded. “I am convinced that the church is the folks I worship with every Sunday, the volunteers that I work with every Saturday . . . the nuns who work in the nursing homes where my mother was a patient until she died, the volunteers who work with immigrants, both documented and undocumented”
(Baltimore Sun, May 23).

State of preaching

In Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Ross Douthat laments the poor state of preaching, complaining about preachers who dispense a gospel of narcissism or who promise people material prosperity. But complaints about preaching are hardly new, says John Wilson in the Wall Street Journal (May 31). “Preaching—and worship—is in need of renewal because it is always in need of renewal. No pastor, congregation or denomination will ever get it right once and for all.” Wilson doubts there is any new method that can guarantee successful preaching.

Mosque on hold

A judge in Tennessee issued a ruling that halted the construction of a nearly completed mosque about 34 miles south of Nashville. He claimed that the planning commission had not given enough public notice prior to a 2010 meeting when the mosque plans were approved. An antimosque group has been battling the mosque construction for the last two years, arguing that Islam is not a real religion and is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. “If you read the judge’s ruling, it is clear he sought a heightened standard of public notice for an issue that involves Muslims,” said Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. A civil rights group has asked the U.S. Justice Department to intervene if the planning commission doesn’t immediately reissue building permits for the 52,000-square-foot mosque (Orlando Sentinel, May 29).

Peace train

Korean churches are developing plans for a “peace train” that would travel from Berlin through Mos­cow and Beijing and on to Busan, South Korea, in time for the World Council of Churches global assembly in October 2013. The plan is to draw attention to the need for peace and reunification in the Korean peninsula. The train, which would carry representatives of churches and of civil society, would pass through North Korea. The National Council of Churches of Korea is also meeting with the governments of North and South Korea in hopes that a peace treaty can be signed in 2013 that marks the 60th anniversary of the cease-fire that ended the Korean War (ENI).

Quest for historical Qur’an

The academic study of Islamic origins is one of the most contested fields in the history profession. “Those of us who study Islam’s origins have to admit collectively that we simply do not know some very basic things about the Qur’an—things so basic that the knowledge of them is usually taken for granted by scholars dealing with other texts,” says Fred Donner, an expert in early Islamic studies at the University of Chicago. Among the issues in question are the book’s place of origin, its original form and its initial audience. What is known is that the Qur’an came to be viewed as divine, and it empowered previously despised and marginalized Arabs to challenge two great empires, the Roman and Persian (History Today, May).