Century Marks

Century Marks


Nearly 200 religious buildings have been foreclosed since 2008, compared to eight in the previous two years and close to none in the previous decade. Most of the financing problems have occurred with independent congregations. Many of the troubled church facilities are in California, Florida, Georgia and Michigan, states with high rates of foreclosures. Banks generally have been reluctant to foreclose on houses of worship, which are traditionally viewed as good risks because of the weekly cash flow from contributions and the moral compulsion many churches feel to pay their debts (Wall Street Journal, January 25).

Course correction

Until she had children of her own, English professor Paula Marantz Cohen prepared rigorous syllabi for her courses and modeled them after courses she had taken. Her children taught her to consider how students would respond to what she was requiring. Would it intrigue, amuse, annoy, anger or bore them? She would have been happy with any of these responses—except the last (American Scholar, Winter).

Selective guest list?

Divine hospitality is one image of salvation in scripture, but some texts suggest that God is selective in showing hospitality. Theo­lo­gian Amy Plantinga Pauw argues that these passages "function less as a reliable guide to future eschatological events than as a warning or encouragement to a particular community in its practices of hospitality." We must say no to evil people, but we should "be very wary of claiming God's blessing on it." Saying no to evil people and those who would do us harm should always be "provisional, always ready to be overturned by the surprising graciousness of God" (Word & World, Winter).

Message finds media

 In response to protests in the streets of Cairo, the Egyptian government shut down social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, the Internet itself, some cell phone service and Al Jazeera television. Protest organizers had to resort to old technology—distributing pamphlets, hanging banners and posters, even using ham radio. The Muslim Brother­hood has its own means of getting out the word—mosques (Guardian, January 27, and FastCompany.com).

Islam and revolution

It's too soon to know what will result from the uprising in Egypt, but Haroon Moghul, a former official of the Islamic Center at New York University, does not think it will be a radical Islamic regime such as emerged in Iran in 1978–79. The Iranian revolution was fueled by grievances against an autocrat who tried to establish a Western-oriented secular society, and it was conducted by people with an authoritarian interpretation of Islam. Though some observers fear that the Muslim Brotherhood will emerge as the chief political power in Egypt, Moghul argues that it doesn't have a specifically political agenda. "Egypt's revolution doesn't have to be Islamic because Islam isn't at the heart of the problem on the ground," said Moghul. Egyptian society and culture are already thoroughly Islamic. The protest is aimed at a brutal dictatorship and economic depravation (ReligionDispatches.org, January 28).