Century Marks

Century Marks

Stand corrected

When it comes to political campaigns, candidates are inclined to invoke voices from the grave to support their own election. Presiden­tial candidates especially like to quote previous presidents. A new online feature by the New York Times is going to try to keep candidates honest. A range of expert opinions will be sought when candidates draw on history. Called “Historically Corrected,” the first installment challenged President Obama’s upbeat rhetoric about American achievements in the past in building the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway system. “We built this country together,” Obama likes to say. In fact, many of the grand achievements in the past were products of political conflict and bickering, just like Obama’s own health-care law (New York Times, Campaign Stops, July 7).

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).

Copy cats?

The affluent Chicago suburb of Lake Forest was stunned by the apparent suicides of three youths in succession in the first three months of this year. Each teen walked in front of a speeding commuter train near the same spot. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of ten and 24. About 5 percent of these deaths are cluster suicides. Experts disagree on whether media coverage of teen suicides can lead to copy-cat suicides. One study suggested that media coverage can deter such behavior, especially if there is a focus on the harsh realities of the incidents (Chicago, July).