Century Marks

Century Marks

Cardinal virtues

Chinese Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi passed away last month after a six-year battle with lung cancer. He considered cancer a blessing, as it gave him a chance to explain his faith to many people. In his final years he gave priority to ministering to three groups: intellectuals, condemned prisoners and people of other religions. When asked if he was afraid to die, he responded: “No! Dying is falling into the loving arms of God” (Vatican Insider, August 23).

Broadside

The American Atheists organization bought billboard space near the site for the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, and put up a sign claiming that Christianity promotes hate and exalts a useless savior. The group wanted to buy billboard space near the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, for a sign deriding Mormonism, but no one would sell them the space. The billboard in Charlotte was taken down after American Atheists received vehement opposition (Economist, August 25, and USAToday.com, August 28).

Shades of sex

A hotel in the United Kingdom has placed a copy of E. L. James’s erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey in each room instead of the Bible. Defending the switch, the hotel manager said: “The Gideon Bible is full of references to sex and violence, although it’s written using more formal language. So James’s book is easier to read.” Guests who would like a Bible can ask for one (Christian Science Monitor, July 25).

overcoming complexity

Steve Jobs’s success at Apple may have sent the wrong message to some entrepreneurs: to be successful, you have to ignore your family and be ruthless with your employees. Walter Isaacson, Jobs’s biographer, says we should learn lessons from Jobs’s accomplishments, but not from his personality. Stay focused and keep things simple were two principles, among others, that guided Jobs. At an annual retreat with people he considered the leaders at Apple, the group would come to consensus on the top ten things the company should focus on next. Jobs would cross off the bottom seven and say, “We can only do three.” Simplicity of design for Jobs was a way of overcoming complexity, not of ignoring it (Harvard Business Review, April, and Wired, August).

Target audience

Joseph S. Khalil says we miss the meaning of the book of Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth or preacher) unless we understand its central intention, which is to challenge overconfident preachers who claim to know the ways and will of God. “God’s inscrutability is evident in the illogicality of life,” says Khalil. Qoheleth is particularly critical of those who think they know God’s will with respect to reward and punishment. “Who is like the wise man?” Qoheleth asked. The question is a challenge to all human wisdom and understanding; it points to human limitations about knowing the ways of God in the world (Word & World, Summer).