Century Marks

Century Marks

Liberating the women

People who favor reducing U.S. forces in Afghanistan and making a deal with the Taliban are sometimes asked, "What about the women?" Columnist Nicholas Kristof went to Afghanistan to explore that issue. He's reached the conclusion that the abusive treatment of women there is not just the fault of the Taliban. It's part of the culture. Some women he talked with said that the war is worse for them and their families than Taliban rule. The road to a better life for Afghan women is through education and economic empowerment. The organization BPeace is helping women like Soora Stoda, who is building a potato chip factory; Shahla Akbari, who is making shoes; and Shahla's mother, Fatima Akbari, who has 3,000 employees, mostly females, making jam, furniture, clothing and jewelry (New York Times, October 23).

Nonmembers

In 2001 about 11 percent of worshipers in the U.S. were active participants in congregations without being members or without actively pursuing membership. By 2010 that number had risen only slightly, to 12 percent. However, the number of young adults who are nonmember participants is nearly double that of worshipers who are 45 and over (The Parish Paper, November).

Which God?

There are two different images of God in the Gospel of Matthew, according to Barbara E. Reid. Particularly in the Sermon on the Mount, God is portrayed as boundlessly forgiving and gracious. But eight parables portray God as vindictive and punitive. So which God is it? While offering a number of explanations for this seeming contradiction, Reid argues that the God image more difficult for us to accept is the one who boundlessly loves and forgives us. "It is so much easier to know how to relate to a God who exacts payment for sin and whose love must be earned" (Interpretation, October).

Fair housing

A Grand Rapids nursing student may be in trouble for posting a note on her church's bulletin board that said "I am looking for a Christian roommate." Someone filed an anonymous complaint to the local Fair Housing Center, which turned the case over to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. The Fair Housing Act does prohibit advertisements for housing that state a preference of religion, race or handicap. If the student is found to have committed a civil rights violation, she could be subject to fines and required to take training to keep it from happening again (Mlive.com, October 22).

Sermon starter

A group of seminarians, a seminary professor and a pastor have issued a call to preachers to address the atrocities that have occurred in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars—especially in light of reports by WikiLeaks about deaths of civilians in Iraq, some through torture. The preaching effort is labeled the Proper 29 Project, which refers to the liturgical designation for the Reign of Christ Sunday, the culmination of the liturgical year (on November 21 this year). The organizers suggest that we are all complicit in the civilian deaths that have occurred in violation of the jus in bello criteria of the just war tradition (proper29.wordpress.com).