Century Marks

Century Marks

Running for God

Ryan Hall is a Pentecostal Christian and a world-class marathon runner. At the Beijing Olym­pics he came in tenth, and he hopes to do better in London. His training routine is unorthodox: he doesn’t have a coach, he doesn’t do training at high altitude as many long-distance runners do and, due to his faith, he takes one day off in seven. Hall has taken criticism for his approach, but Tim Noakes, an exercise physiologist at the Univer­sity of Cape Town, says: “The more stable you are as a human, the better you are as an athlete, and religion is a very stabilizing force” (New York Times, July 14).

Dark Christ

Arthur Shearly Cripps (1869–1952) was a missionary to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) who had poor eyesight all his life and eventually went blind. He was known for his poetry, respect for native Africans and radical politics, which comes through in this short poem, “Seen Darkly in Africa”:

To me—as one born out of his due time—
To me—as one not meet to reckon in—
To me (of all injurious aliens chief)
Christ hath revealed Himself—not as to Paul
Enthroned and crown’d, but marr’d, despised, rejected—
The Divine Outcast of a terrible land,
A Black Christ with parched lips and empty hand.

The reference to a “terrible land” was a critique of the unjust land policies imposed by white settlers. The concept of a Black Christ was very controversial in Cripps’s time (T. Jack Thompson, Light on Darkness? Eerdmans).

Feathers flying

When Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurants, made a statement that supported the traditional view of family, progressives took it as an attack on gay marriage. Their outrage led to a counterattack from the right. Mike Hucka­bee called on Americans to patronize Chick-fil-A on August 1 in support of traditional values. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank pointed out that a deluxe chicken sandwich and a brownie sundae at Chick-fil-A would total 1,670 calories, meaning that those who heed Huckabee’s call for a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day could put on weight. Hucka­bee, who ran for president in 2008, is also known for his motivational diet book, Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork (Washington Post, July 24).

Olympic gods

A 600-foot footrace was the only athletic event at the first Olympics, a festival held in 776 BC and dedicated to Zeus, the chief Greek god. For the next millennium Greeks gathered every four years in Olympia to honor Zeus through sports, sacrifices and hymns. The combination of Greek sport and worship led the Roman emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, to ban the Olympics in 393 AD. The London Olympics this year tried to accommodate religious athletes with 193 chaplains, a prayer room in every venue and a
multifaith center in the Olympic Village. Muslim athletes faced a particularly difficult choice, since the Olympics fell during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during the day (ENI).

Hard place

Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria’s population. Daoud Rajiha, the recently assassinated minister of defense, was a Chris­tian, drawn into the government led by  Bashar el-Assad, which is dominated by Alawites, another minority group in Syria. Many Christians privately express support for the rebel opposition to the Assad regime. However, the growing appearance of Islamists among the rebel ranks and the ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt have given the Syrian Christians pause. “I’d rather have this regime than chaos or Islamists,” said a Christian teacher in Damascus (Economist, July 21).