Century Marks

Century Marks

Takeover

As late as the mid-1970s the National Rifle Association (founded in 1871) focused on hunting, conservation and marksmanship. But at its annual meeting in 1977 it was taken over by radical gun rights activists, who reshaped the group’s orientation. The old guard had plans to move headquarters to Colorado, but the new leaders decided that the real action was in Washington. Today the NRA is arguably the most powerful lobbying organization in the country. William J. Vizzard, a retired Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms official, says the NRA has no interest in compromise. “They’re not interested in fixing things. They want to stir things up, and the more they stir things up, the more members they get and the more money they make” (Washington Post, January 12).

Heart and head

Canadian re­searchers compared Anglican and Pente­costal responses to sermons and found, unsurprisingly, that Anglicans prefer more significant intellectual content than do Pentecostals. Yet participants from both groups responded to sermons predominantly on the basis of their emotional appeal. Both Anglicans and Pentecostals favored sermons dealing with grace and forgiveness (Anglican Journal, January 10).

Virtue, not vice

Justin Welby, the recently named archbishop of Canter­bury and a former oil executive, sits on a commission in the United Kingdom reviewing the culture and standards of banking. He does not think that adding regulations is the way to address the crisis in the banking industry. He noted that the head of a major bank told him that it has 3,500 compliance officers and 900 lawyers on staff. What banking needs is virtue, according to the archbishop. “Financial services must serve society, not rule it. They must be integrated into the economy, not semidetached,” he said (Bloomberg, January 10).

Enlightenment

A student asked the Zen master Gasan if he had ever read the Bible. Gasan replied that he hadn’t and asked the student to read it to him. He started with Matthew, and words from chapter 6 caught Gasan’s attention: “And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed liked one of these. . . . So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.” After he heard these words, Gasan said, “I would say that the man who spoke these words is enlightened” (Notto R. Thelle, Who Can Stop the Wind? Liturgical Press).

Precarious state

Most Christians in Syria back the Alawite-dominated regime led by Bashar al-Assad. They prefer a flawed secular government to one run by Islamic hardliners. Syrian Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, are a significant portion of the business and professional classes. They do not fear bloodshed were there to be a regime change. What they fear is being treated like second-class citizens. A victory by the opposition forces could lead to the emigration of hundreds of thousands of Syrian Chris­tians (Current History, December).