Century Marks

Century Marks

Agreeable paradox

Although wine has been produced in the Champagne region of France since Roman times, it wasn't until the end of the 17th century that the drink known as champagne was created. It was the brainchild of Dom Pierre Pérignon, a teetotaling Benedictine monk. Although he didn't imbibe himself, he was fanatical about producing the best wine, seeing his work as an expression of his devotion to God. By severely pruning and sparingly fertilizing the vines, he developed a grape that yielded less juice but produced a highly concentrated wine. One wine expert, reflecting on the irony of a teetotaler producing champagne, refers to it as "an agreeable paradox" (David Robinson, Ancient Paths: Discover Christian Formation the Benedictine Way, Paraclete).

Faux news

 Fox News watchers are more likely than other Americans to believe dubious claims about the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero, according to a study done at Ohio State University. "The more people use Fox News, the more rumors they have heard and believe," researchers said. People who follow CNN or NPR believed fewer of the rumors. Newspapers were the source of the most accurate information (RNS).

Composed thoughts

When Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt and his family emigrated to the West from the Soviet Union in 1980, they were detained by border police. Their baggage—seven suitcases—was filled with his compositions and recordings. The police wanted to hear his music, so he played several of his religious works on a record player. The police responded positively. Pärt, half jokingly, said it was "the first time in the history of the Soviet Union that the police are friendly." His wife Nora added, "I saw the power of music to transform people." Pärt, whose compositions are sometimes compared to Gregorian chant, has a rule of thumb for countries like Estonia that endured Soviet occupation: they need as many years to heal as they were occupied— 50 years in the case of Estonia (New York Times, October 15).

Sound familiar?

More than 30 percent of Germans believe their country is being overrun by foreigners, according to a survey conducted by a German think tank associated with the center-left Social Democratic Party. Thirteen percent of the population would welcome a "Führer"—a title associated with Hitler—meaning someone who would run the country with a firm hand. About 60 percent of Germans would "restrict the practice of Islam," and 17 percent believe that Jews have "too much influence" in the country. The anti-immigrant sentiment is shared by other European countries, some of which have attempted to pay Africans to move back home (CSMonitor.com, October 17).

Anonymous Christians

The late Catholic theologian Karl Rahner argued that the kingdom of God does not necessarily coincide with denominational lines. Not all who say "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom, and orthodoxy does not necessarily yield a faith that justifies. An exponent of the concept of "anonymous Christians," Rahner said we ought "to look for the 'Christian nonbeliever,' that is, for the person who is near God without knowing it and whose view is obstructed by the shadow we ourselves cast." There are people "entering the kingdom of God by way of roads that are not officially marked on the map" (The Mystical Way in Everyday Life, a new collection of Rahner's writings on spirituality published by Orbis).