Century Marks

Century Marks

Mystery book

During the Vietnam War David Rensberger decided that God was calling him to resist the draft. That decision earned him a prison sentence. While incarcerated he worked in the prison library, where he discovered a scholarly edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. "What was that book doing in that library?" he wondered. He concluded that it was put there for him to find. He began learning Hebrew using that book, which turned out to be the start of a 35-year career in biblical studies (Weavings, 25:4).

Maybe Moses had some help

A team at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, thinks it has an explanation for the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus. Using a computer model of a section of the Nile Delta, the team determined that a wind of 63 miles per hour, lasting 12 hours, could have opened the waters for a passage some 2.5 miles long and 3 miles wide and providing a four-hour window for the crossing. This phenomenon is known as a wind setdown. Other researchers suspect that the NCAR team's findings are tainted by a desire to prove the biblical story (CSMonitor.com, September 21).

By the numbers

The close 2008 senatorial race in Minnesota won by Democrat Al Franken might as well have been decided by the flip of a coin, says Charles Seife. The observable errors in the vote recount process exceeded the number of votes separating the two candidates, which was somewhere between 200 and 300. That fact should unnerve Democrats. Here's a data check to unnerve Republicans: in 2004 the Bush administration claimed that its tax cuts saved the average American $1,586. While that figure is technically accurate, most families received less than $650. The average was inflated by the much larger amount received by the very wealthy (review of Seife's Proofiness in the New York Times Book Review, September 19).

Hold tight

For over 20 years Kyle Childress's Baptist congregation in Texas has ended worship with a ritual he learned from an African-American pastor: "Let's take each other's hands," it begins. "Now look who you're holding hands with, and hold on tight! Because we're going to need each other this week." Over the years several members have told Childress that at first they ­didn't know how to respond when encountering a crisis, until it hit them: they could call the person whose hand they had held the previous Sunday (Christian Reflection, vol. 36).

Religious defense

A 14-year-old North Carolina girl was suspended by her high school because she refused to remove a stud from her nose. She and her mother contested the judgment, saying it was an infringement on her freedom of religion since they are part of the Church of Body Modification. Formed ten years ago in Arizona and incorporated in Pennsylvania in 2008, the church claims to promote growth in mind, body and soul through body modification. It has a national membership of about 3,500 (News Observer, September 11).