Century Marks

Century Marks

Welcome here

A year ago, Mus­lims in Cordova, Tennessee, just outside Memphis, were building an Islamic Center. When it wasn't ready in time for Ramadan, they asked Steve Stone, pastor of nearby Heartsong Church, if they could use a small section of the church for prayers. Stone said they were welcome, but he wanted them to use the main worship space instead. As a result, the church lost about 20 members (out of 550), who were fearful about the blending of two religions. Stone said he tried to work with the dissenters, but in the end he was "kind of glad they left," as he didn't want members with hateful feelings toward the Muslims. The two worshiping communities have worked together on a homeless ministry and have made plans for a shared park (NPR, August 21).

Where help is sought

A News­week poll confirms that Americans are in a gloomy mood. Seventy-six percent think the country is on the wrong track, and 70 percent believe Americans were much better at solving problems 25 years ago. When asked who can best solve problems, people display an on­going suspicion of big government, especially the federal government in Washington. Small business owners, state governments and governors, CEOs and local mayors are most capable of solving problems, according to the poll (thedailybeast.com, September 11).

Breaking bread

Research indicates that students who sometimes eat with other ethnic minorities in the dining hall are more likely to report good race relations on campus than those who don't. The gap was similar for both whites and minority groups, although overall whites tended to think race relations on campus are better than do ethnic minorities. The impact of racial mingling in the classroom or in the dormitories is nil by comparison. The research­ers believe that the positive impact of racial intermingling in the dining hall has to do with the fact that it is voluntary and the interaction there doesn't have the same kind of scrutiny as in the classroom (InsideHigherEd.com, August 23).

Faith matters how?

Recently Bill Keller argued in the New York Times that journalists need to ask tougher questions of politicians about their faith. In her Time blog, Amy Sullivan writes a rejoinder: they don't necessarily need to ask tougher questions but more relevant ones. Politicians, especially Republican ones, tend to use religion to connect with a certain audience, but they resist getting into specifics. The two main questions they need to be asked are: "1) Would your religious beliefs have any bearing on the actions you would take in office? and 2) If so, how?" Which decisions would be particularly shaped by their faith? On abortion and birth control? Economic policy and immigration? (swampland.time.com, September 2).

Climate-change conversion

Michael Stafford, a conservative and former Republican Party officer, has had a Damascus Road experience on the issue of anthropogenic (human-made) global warming (AGW). He said he could no longer ignore the facts. There is virtually no debate in the scientific community about the Earth warming and a near consensus that human activity is responsible for it. As a Catholic, he says that the leading role played by his church and the pope on this issue has convinced him it is a moral imperative to address AGW. Opinion in the U.S. seems to be moving in the opposite direction due to the tactics of the climate denial industry and the increasing radicalization of the political right and the rise of an extreme form of libertarianism within it (caglecartoons.com, August 11).