Century Marks

Century Marks

Family man

President Obama has been accused of being aloof and not schmoozing enough with members of Congress and other movers and shakers in Washington. The president defended himself recently in a Time magazine interview: "I've got a 13-year-old and 10-year-old daughter and so, no, Michelle and I don't do the social scene, because as busy as we are, we have a limited amount of time, and we want to be good parents at a time that's vitally important for our kids" (Time, January 30).

Nietzsche in America

In the years surrounding the turn of the 20th century, some American intellectuals were infatuated with philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. People as different as William James, H. L. Mencken, Margaret Sanger and Ayn Rand were attracted to his ideas and the tortured personality that produced them. How could this son of a Lutheran minister declare that God is dead and rail against the idea of universal truth? Some Christian leaders pushed back at Nietzsche, notably theologian Walter Rauschenbusch. As a social gospel proponent, Rauschenbusch saw in Nietzsche's philosophy an expression of the brutal nature of laissez-faire capitalism (Wilson Quarterly, Winter).

Shari‘a law

Churches in India have decried the verdict of an Islamic court in Kashmir that ordered the expulsion of a Protestant pastor and a Dutch Catholic missionary. Muslim groups pressed charges against the pastor for baptizing five Muslims and a Hindu. While the pastor was released on bail, the Shari'a court went ahead with its own trial. Muslims are the majority in this part of India, and they make up a majority of students and teachers even in Christian schools (ENI).

Mormons on Mormons

Though Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Harry Reid all belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, their coreligionists view them very differently. According to Pew research, 86 percent of Mormons see Romney in a favorable light, 50 percent view Huntsman positively and only 22 percent give Reid a thumbs-up. About three-fourths of Mormons are Republican or lean in that direction, which may explain the low ranking given to Democratic Reid. Romney is an active lay leader in his Mormon congregation and refuses to distance himself from the LDS Church (Christian Science Monitor, January 12).

Strike a chord

Choral singing is the most popular and durable arts-related participatory activity in the United States. Nationally 28.5 million people sing in one or more of about 250,000 chorus groups. There may be mental and physiological reasons for this: singing, particularly in groups, makes people happy. While singing releases endorphins, the feel-good chemical of the brain, choral singing has the greatest effect on people's happiness. In an Australian study in 2008 choral singers on average expressed greater happiness than the general public, even when those singers were carrying greater burdens than the average person not singing in choirs. The benefits of choral singing in particular come from the fact that it is a social activity, which gives people a sense of belonging and combats loneliness (TLC.com).