Century Marks

Century Marks

Busy bodies

When you ask people how they’re doing these days, a stock response is “crazy busy.” That’s “a boast disguised as a complaint,” says blogger Tim Kreider. It is not the complaint of a person who has to work three jobs to make ends meet. Their response would likely be, “I’m tired.” Busyness for professional people is often self-imposed to inflate a sense of self-worth. Kreider wonders whether keeping busy is a cover-up for the fact that much of what we do doesn’t matter. “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets,” Kreider says (Opinion­ator, New York Times, June 30).

Prison theology

When theologian Karl Barth visited the United States for the first time in 1962, he asked to visit a prison. Afterward he referred to the prisoners’ cells as “the sight of Dante’s Inferno on Earth.” He thought the inhumane prison he visited contradicted the “wonderful message on your Statue of Liberty.” Barth himself preached regularly at a prison in Basel, Switzerland (Theology Today, July).

Spiritual warfare

Islamist fighters, claiming control over the northern half of the African country of Mali, are destroying historic Muslim sites in Timbuktu as part of their effort to establish Shari’a law. They disapprove of what they claim is worship of the tombs of Muslim saints. A representative of a local group of moderate Muslims said they look to the Muslim saints only for guidance; they don’t worship them, as the Islamists charge. The Mali government has condemned the destruction, likening it to a war crime. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee placed the mausoleums of Muslim saints on its list of endangered sites at the request of Mali’s government (AP).

Pulpit exodus

It is estimated by Pastoral Care Inc. that over 1,700 pastors leave the ministry each month. The reasons for this exodus are discouragement, failure, loneliness, moral failure, financial pressures, anger, burnout, health, marriage or family difficulties, and busyness or sense of being driven. Tim Peters says that pastors need to ask themselves in what areas they’re struggling. They should ask for help, find a group or person who can hold them accountable, and take ownership of their choices (churchleaders.com).

Interfaith support

Bernie Farber, a longtime social justice advocate, is a volunteer at a L’Arche community. Farber, a Jew, learned of this network of Christian communities for the developmentally disabled through his friend Bob and Bob’s son Mark. Mark was born disabled and with sight impairment. After his mother died and Bob became too old to care for him, Mark moved into the L’Arche community. Mark had never had his bar mitzvah, which he still longed for. Aided by the L’Arche community and a local rabbi, Bernie helped Mark celebrate his bar mitzvah at age 60. Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities, has been nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. Farber is pulling for him to win it (Huffington Post, June 29).