Century Marks

Century Marks

Joshua fought the battle

A Google search for “Joshua sermon” brought up 5,990,000 hits, many of them sermons from fundamentalist or evangelical preachers. Not many sermons on the book of Joshua are preached in mainline Protestant congregations. The story of the conquest and the apparent genocide of the natives of the land of Israel is too problematic for modern readers. Only three Joshua texts are used in the Revised Common Lectionary. Homiletics professor Stephen Farris tells his students, “Hard texts make good sermons.” Wherever the mighty misuse power, Farris says, preaching from Joshua is difficult but necessary (Interpretation, April).

Preemptive strike

When 60 Minutes was working on a story about the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren called Jeff Fager, head of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes. The ambassador said he had heard that the program would be a hatchet job. Later, Bob Simon, the reporter on this story, told Oren that he has gotten all kinds of reactions to stories he’s done, but never before has he gotten a reaction to a story before it was broadcast. “Well, there’s a first time for everything, Bob,” the ambassador responded. The ambassador was concerned that the story about Christians leaving the Holy Land would have a negative effect on tourism, a multibillion-dollar business in Israel and the West Bank. He wanted the Christian exodus blamed on Muslim extremists rather than Israeli policies (60 Minutes, April 22).

State of religion

Mississippi is the most religious state in the country, according to a Gallup Poll. Eight of the ten most religious states are in the South. Vermont and New Hampshire are the least religious states, and six of the 11 least religious states are in New England. Religiosity in this poll was based on whether respondents say religion is important in their lives and their frequency of church attendance. The most religious states tend to be Republican, the least religious tend to be Democratic (Huffington Post, March 27).

Time management

Researchers have documented that people who take time out to help others are more inclined to think they can get everything done than those who don’t. In one experiment, students were told they were going to be asked to help at-risk kids write essays. Some of the students were then told that there weren’t enough participants, so they could take the time off instead. The students who actually assisted on the essay writing turned out to have more confidence that they could get all their work done than those who were given unexpected leisure time. “It is not so much how much time you have,’’ says Harvard Business School’s Michael Norton, “as how you feel about what you can get done in the time that you do have’’ (Boston Globe, April 1).

Dog heaven

Megachurch pastor Rick Warren was asked in an ABC News interview whether dogs and cats go to heaven. “Absolutely yes,” Warren said. “I can’t imagine God not allowing my dog into heaven.” Cathy Lynn Grossman, religion editor for USA Today, sent a follow-up question to Warren, asking if rebellious pets are denied heaven. Grossman as­sumed that her dog would be disqualified. As a puppy he chewed up a copy of War­ren’s popular book, The Purpose-Driven Life, for which he’s never repented—as far as she knows. Warren’s response: “Dogs, which have no ability to sin nor moral conscience, do not have an ability to reject Jesus,” therefore they get a free pass to heaven (USA Today, April 9).