Century Marks

Century Marks

Real spirituality

The Vietnam War underscored for Ismael García the colonial status of Puerto Rico. An inordinate number of Puerto Ricans were drafted to fight that war, even though they couldn’t engage in electing the people who were responsible for it. García was also disappointed in the church at the time, because he thought it ignored social and political realities on the island and focused instead on whether it was appropriate for women to wear slacks and how long men’s hair should be. In time García, who became a Christian ethicist, discovered Christians who modeled a life of social activism and inner spiritual devotion. He identified three traits of these Christians: they view God as sovereign in all spheres of life; they are committed to projects and concerns larger than their own personal interests; and they know that faithful living entails social analysis and cultural interpretation (“On Spirituality,” in A Spiritual Life, edited by Allan Hugh Cole Jr., West­min­ster John Knox).

Sing out

People still sing together in churches and ballparks, but what is absent in America, say Karen Loew, is “community-oriented, community-building, sometimes spontaneous” singing. One obstacle is the lack of a common repertoire of songs. “Since we’re out of practice as a society, the person who dares to begin a song risks having no one join her.” Protest movements have long been known by their music. While the Occupy movement has incorporated some music, it has not generated original music (Atlantic, March).

Land of unbelief?

The National Opinion Research Center at the Univer­sity of Chicago polled 30 countries to determine the level of belief, unbelief or doubt about God. Japan turned out to be the country with the lowest level of belief; the Philippines had the highest level. The countries with the lowest levels of belief tended to be either former socialist states or situated in northwest Europe. The countries with the highest levels of belief tended to be Catholic ones, especially in the developing world, with the U.S., Israel and Cyprus the exceptions (NORC/University of Chicago, April 18).

No first class

In 1979 the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador visited an urban slum where people lived in shelters made from scrap tin and cardboard. A reporter traveling with Romero asked: “How do you feel when you see a community like this?” Romero responded: “I just think of what I have already preached. There shouldn’t be first-class people and second-class people” (Spiritual Life, Spring).

Faith in practice

According to a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey, 73 percent of Mormons believe that “working to help the poor” is “essential to being a good Mormon.” That compares to 49 percent who say that not drinking coffee and tea is essential to faithful Mormon practice. Mormons seem to practice what they preach: most go to church regularly, devote nine times more hours a month to volunteerism than other Americans, tithe regularly, and on average give $1,200 annually to causes beyond the church. Mormons “are the most pro-social members of American society,” according to Ram A. Cnaan, social-work scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, who conducted the research (America, April 9).