Century Marks

Century Marks

Forgiving debts

Monroe Beachy has been labeled the Bernie Madoff of the Amish community in eastern Ohio. Beachy has been accused by federal prosecutors of running a Ponzi scheme that betrayed the trust of many Amish and Mennonite individuals, charities and congregations. His bankruptcy has wiped out about $16 million in savings. Many investors in Beachy's firm have said it is more important to forgive him than to recover their money, and some have said that other investors with greater needs should be given priority in recovering losses. Federal officials rejected an Amish plea to work on a settlement of the case within their own community. Beachy goes on trial this month for mail fraud charges that could earn him a prison sentence of up to 20 years (New York Times, February 25).

Pulpit and politics

In a 2006 survey, 32 percent of Americans who be­longed to a congregation reported hearing sermons with political content as often as once every month or two. By 2011 that number had dropped off to 19 percent. Perhaps preachers have gotten the message: while people on the right typically like the fusing of religion and politics, moderates and progressives have an aversion to politics being imposed through religion. This aversion is true across the ages, but especially for millennials who are leaving the church in greater numbers than their parents' and grandparents' generations did, in part because of the intrusion of politics (For­eign Affairs, March/April; adapted from American Grace, by David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam).


Last month London police evicted scores of demonstrators from a makeshift tent city erected outside historic St. Paul's Cathedral more than four months ago as part of the global Occupy movement. Police dumped an estimated 150 tents and equipment into waiting garbage trucks. The City of London Corporation, which owns much of the land around the 17th-century cathedral, took legal action to have the protesters removed. St. Paul's authorities said, "We regret the camp had to be removed . . . but we are fully committed to continuing to promote" the issues of social and economic justice raised by the occupiers. The Rev. Giles Fraser, who backed the protesters and resigned as the cathedral's canon chancellor early in the dispute, described the eviction as "a sad day for the church" (ENInews).

Follow me

A new 40-mile path makes it possible figuratively, if not literally, to hike the trail that Jesus took from his hometown of Nazareth to Capernaum. Laid out in 2007 by cofounders David Landis and Maoz Inon, it stitches together roads, dirt trails and tracks that take hikers through beautiful parts of Galilee as well as some less than savory sights. The trail connects Israeli and Arab towns, biblical sites, kibbutz fields, national parks, a Bedouin village and Roman, Crusader and Byzantine ruins. Side benefits of the trail: it breaks down barriers between Jews and Arabs, and it makes accessible some sites that the tour buses do not visit (Backpacker, March).

Tapped out

Bottled water uses nonrenewable resources--in the oil that goes into making the bottles themselves. The bottles fill up landfills and add to what is called the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," one of the huge masses of garbage and other waste floating in the Pacific and other oceans. The use of bottled water also creates what is called an "inverted quarantine." Bottled water sends the message that tap water isn't really safe to use. People who can afford bottled water quarantine themselves from public water. Their time and money would be better spent, and justice served, by advocating for safe water to drink for everyone (Word & World, Winter).