Century Marks

Century Marks

Baptized fraternity

Dick Allison, retired pastor of the University Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is developing spiritual friendships with men who are in prison. Some of these men have become members of his church. He baptized three of them in horse troughs in the prison. An inmate at an out-of-state prison declared: “I want to become a member of the Horse Trough Fraternity of Baptized Believers.” These prisoners find it meaningful to belong to a church, even if they can’t attend it. One confessed that the only group he had previously belonged to was a gang of skinheads (Christian Reflections, 2012).

Arms and the state

Arms manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Gruman, General Motors and Raytheon are the largest, most powerful interest groups in the U.S., claims Andrew Feinstein (The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade). The arms industry is driving foreign and domestic policies and is involved in shady and illegal business deals at home and abroad. The American arms industry lobbied for the war in Iraq. Halliburton, which gave over $1 million to the Republican Party between 1998 and 2003, was a huge beneficiary of that war. Lockheed Martin pushed for the expansion of NATO, because it called for Eastern European countries to upgrade their militaries, often buying from U.S. companies. Congressional members with defense contractors in their districts find it nearly impossible to oppose America’s going to war (review in TLS, March 30).

Whoops, Hoops

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Baylor University are under investigation for rule violations involving impermissible texts and phone calls used in recruiting players over a 29-month period. In anticipation of the NCAA imposing sanctions on the basketball teams, the Baptist university has already self-imposed a number of penalties. The women’s team won the national championship last month and the men’s team played in the regional championship, losing to the University of Kentucky, the eventual national winner. Kenneth Starr is Baylor’s president. Starr’s investigation of the Clinton administration led to President Clinton’s impeachment  (ESPN.com, April 10).

Driving while black

In re­sponse to the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida, the Christian Science Monitor interviewed five young black men around the country to find out their reaction and how the Martin case compares to their own experience. All five of them have had experiences of being racially profiled. Lheadry Powell, 25, a teacher and coach in California, says he gets pulled over by police four to five times a month for no apparent reason. It isn’t just the police who engage in racial profiling. White women in particular cling to their purses in their presence or cross the street and walk on the opposite side. Each of these young men have learned to use survival tactics: be nice, look people in the eye, don’t have an attitude, talk yourself out of a tense situation instead of resorting to violence, and always carry things out of a store in a bag (Christian Science Monitor, April 9).

See no evil

When Joe Nocera of the New York Times had a chance meeting with CEO Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Dimon asked him why the Times hates banks. Nocera responded that the Times doesn’t hate banks, the country does. Nocera pointed to evidence reported in The American Banker that the nefarious, sometimes illegal tactics used by banks in the foreclosure crisis are now being used by the banks to collect credit card debt. Many banks are outsourcing collection to law firms that harass and sue people, sometimes without clear evidence that the debts are owed. The banks wash their hands of any culpability. The Consumer Financial Pro­tection Bureau is starting to explore these collection tactics (The Week, April 13).