Century Marks

Century Marks

Sex and marriage

 It is hard to imagine there was a time when contraception was illegal in the U.S. Some religious leaders helped legalize it. In 1932 Rein­hold Niebuhr chaired a study committee of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ, which issued a report endorsing the use of contraception. The statement argued that separating sex from reproduction contributes positively to marital love (New Yorker, November 14).

Different Gods

Neda Agha Soltan became the symbol of the Green Revo­lution in Iran in 2009 after she was shot and killed while running away from anti­riot police. The grainy cell phone photo of her lying on the ground, with blood streaming from her nose and mouth, went viral. Her older sister later recalled that Neda had spoken about a university professor who was teaching about a vengeful God. Neda had said, "This is not my God. The God I worship is a compassionate and loving God" (Robin Wright, Rock the Casbah, Simon and Schuster).

Transgender reality

Chaz Bono's appearance on ABC's Dancing with the Stars has made transgender issues more public—and it appears that the public is fine with that. In an August survey, 89 percent of Americans agree that transgender persons deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans. Three quarters of those polled think that Congress should pass laws to protect them from job discrimination (65 percent of white evangelicals agreed). In a follow-up survey, those polled were given a chance to define transgender and more than two thirds gave correct replies (Public Religion Research Institute).

Wheel of misfortune

Buy Here Pay Here companies sell used cars to people with poor credit at higher-than-book values and at interest rates much higher than conventional auto loans. The average profit per sale—38 percent—has attracted the attention of Wall Street. Some financial firms are bundling loans from these dealerships they way they bundled subprime mortgages before the 2008 financial crash.  In the past two years, investors have bought more than $15 billion in subprime auto securities. "We think that investing in such companies is a ticking time bomb," says Joe Keefe from the socially responsible Pax World Management fund company. "It has ethical as well as systemic risk implications" (Los Angeles Times, October 30).

Looking back

Columnist David Brooks stumbled onto a collection of autobiographies written by the Yale class of 1942 for its 50th class reunion. He says that the most common lament in the stories comes from those who worked for the same company all their lives and they now realize that their lives were boring.  Another lament came from those who wish they had been willing to take more risks. None of those who did make life-changing choices regretted the decisions, even if the choices ended in failure. The essays of those who sensed a particular calling in life are filled with passion and conviction. Said one, "I have been put on earth to be a painter" (New York Times, October 27).