Century Marks

Century Marks

Caste in or out

The Hindu priesthood has been traditionally limited to upper-caste Brahmins. A few years ago the government in a southern India state, which owns most of the temples, began training priests regardless of their caste, including the lowest caste, the Dalits. In reaction, Brahmin groups filed  suit, claiming that the government has no right to impose itself on priest selection or training. There is a shortage of Hindu priests. Critics of the Brahmin suit believe it’s intended to maintain Brahmin privilege and keep in place a 4,000-year-old caste system (Los Angeles Times, October 1).

Anti-Jewish record

Perry Brickman was mystified in 1952 when he was told he had flunked out of Emory University’s dental school after his first year. He had been a B-plus biology student at Emory and received early admission to its dental school. Now the university is acknowledging for the first time that between 1948 and 1961 the school’s dean was engaged in systematic discrimination against Jewish students. During those years, 65 percent of Jewish students were told they had flunked out or were forced to retake a whole year of classes. Brickman has tracked down and interviewed many of these students who, many years later, feel a sense of shame and anger. A documentary film, From Silence to Recognition, is being made based on Brickman’s interviews (New York Times, October 6).

Religious hate

The recent celebration of Ramadan sparked one of the largest increases of anti-Muslim incidents in more than a decade. In Joplin, Missouri, the Islamic Society’s building was destroyed by fire under suspicious conditions. A bottle of acid was thrown at a Muslim school in Lombard, Illinois, while worshipers were saying evening prayers. A mosque in Harrisonburg, Virginia, was desecrated with anti-Muslim graffiti. The number of anti-Muslim hate groups tripled from 2010 to 2011. Forty-three percent of Muslims experienced some kind of harassment during 2010–11 (Center for American Progress, September 26).

Loving the environment

In addition to being an award-winning author of 14 books, a Sunday school teacher and a Century editor at large, Bill McKibben is one of the best-known environmental activists in the United States and a leading voice in the campaign to address climate change. But when it came to raising his daughter Sophie (now 18), McKibben said that he didn’t think it was appropriate “for little kids to be freaking out about climate change.” He remarked: “It always struck me as a parent that my first job in this context was to help her fall in love with the natural world. If you do, then I’m absolutely confident that you’ll do what’s necessary to defend it” (Outside, October).

License to preach

Would you like to be a minister but you just don’t have the time or money to attend seminary? Well, now there’s an app for that, available for the iPhone and Android phones. The app won’t actually ordain you, but it will show you what you’d look like in the garb and what you’d believe if ordained in one of 12 different religions. A sample prayer is provided for each religion (ordainthyself.com).