Century Marks

Century Marks

Tracking Jesus

Some churches with public nativity displays have had problems with vandalism. Stealing baby Jesus is a common prank. A security company has come to the rescue. It plants a GPS device in the nativity items so that the stolen objects can be tracked. One church reported that by publicizing its use of the tracking devices it had stopped the vandalism and stealing. The company, BrickHouse Security, is also donating its services to churches, synagogues and schools for displays other than nativity scenes (SFGate.com, December 2).

Service begins at home

Some people wonder why Michael J. Brown would want to remain in Rochester, New York, a city marked by such poverty and joblessness that bright young people are fleeing it. Brown says he remains because Rochester has given him economic independence and he's surrounded there by familiar people who have helped to orient his life. The U.S. doesn't need a national youth service that sends young people away from home, Brown says. It needs what he calls a CIVIC (Citizens Involved in Community) program that gives young people a "chance to shape the future of their own communities." He envisions youth at work developing urban gardens, transporting people who can't drive, tutoring students and serving as election inspectors (Dissent, Fall).

Practical Christianity

When Dietrich Bonhoeffer came to study at Union Theological Seminary in New York in 1931, he was looking for "authentic Christianity," says Bon­hoeffer scholar Clifford Green. Union disappointed Bonhoeffer. After a vigorous class discussion, he reportedly asked Reinhold Niebuhr, "Is this a theological school or a school for politicians?" Bonhoeffer found the "cloud of witnesses" he was looking for in the black church, especially at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. A circle of friendships he formed with other students left an indelible mark. Jean Lasserre, a French pacifist, convinced Bonhoeffer to revise his Lutheran theology and put the Sermon on the Mount at the center. Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship was inspired by his discussions with Lasserre (Union Seminary Quarterly Review, 62:3–4).

Incredible evil

A member of the Polish underground came to the U.S. in the summer of 1943 to tell American Jewish leaders what he knew about the Holocaust in progress. After his report, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter said, "I am unable to believe you." A Polish diplomat asked whether Frankfurter was calling the informant a liar. "I did not say this young man is lying," said Frankfurter. "I said I am unable to believe him. There is a difference" (Roger Moorhouse, Berlin at War, 2010).