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).

Attic treasures

A treasure trove of artifacts was uncovered at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg when workers broke through the walls and ceilings during the renovation of a 180-year-old dormitory. Found were a nearly century-old wardrobe signed by decades of students, letters to Civil War soldiers, a plaster relief of Martin Luther and four men's shoes, the oldest dating to 1830. The shoes were deliberately damaged before being stored in the walls, apparently a folk custom intended to bring good luck. In one of the letters, a father encouraged his soldier son to kill "Old Jeff," meaning Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. Known as the Old Dorm, the building was converted into a hospital during the Civil War. It is being turned into an interpretive museum showing neglected dimensions of the Civil War (Evening Sun, March 12).

Due diligence

Nigerian-born novelist Teju Cole has issued a series of tweets critiquing what he calls the White Savior Industrial Complex. Among them: "This world exists simply to satisfy the needs—including, importantly, the sentimental needs—of white people and Oprah." "The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege." If you're going to involve yourself in the lives of others, Cole argues, ask them what they think they need. Look at the broader issues in African countries—the need for a more equitable civil society, robust democracy and a fairer system of justice. U.S. policy is determined by its need for Nigerian oil rather than by the plight of ordinary Nigerians, Cole says (Atlantic, March 21).