Century Marks

Century Marks

English only

A school district 65 miles northwest of New York City arranged to have the Pledge of Allegiance recited in five different languages during National Foreign Language Week. When an Arabic-speaking student recited the pledge in Arabic, some students responded with angry catcalls, and the Pine Bush High School superintendent received complaints from Jews and from residents who had lost loved ones in the war in Afghan­istan. The school district said the intent was to show that people who speak other languages could pledge allegiance to the United States in their native language. It promised that only English would be used in the future (Independent, March 29).

Alcohol free

Recently three fraternities have been either closed or suspended by their national organization. Caitlin Flanagan made a yearlong study of the Greek fraternity system and concluded that alcohol is the root of fraternity problems. When Phi Delta Theta de­cided 12 years ago to make its houses alcohol free, people predicted its demise. “It’s more popular than ever, and its amount of sexual assault, hazing, assault and battery . . . have [sic] dropped by 85 percent,” Flanagan says. “If you get alcohol out, you’ll reform the system” (NPR, March 21).

Dialing up doubt

A hotline was launched by Recovering from Religion to respond to questions from people wrestling with religion, suffering from loss of faith, or concerned about a relative embracing atheism. The hotline aims to help them find their own answers. Those running the hotline are not therapists, but volunteers who have been given training. “If churches suddenly started welcoming doubters to their potlucks, the hotline project wouldn’t be necessary,” said Sarah Morehead, executive director of Recovering from Religion (CNN.com, February 28).

What Jesus said

Randy Beckum, chaplain and vice-president of community formation at MidAmerica Nazarene University, was relieved of some of his duties for a “controversial sermon” he preached in chapel at the Olathe, Kansas, school. His audience was riled by the suggestion that Christians should take seriously Jesus’ injunction to love one’s enemies and by his questioning of Christians’ use of violence. MNU’s president issued a statement intended to protect academic freedom, but which had the effect of distancing the college from the teachings of Jesus: “At MidAmerica Nazarene University we encourage the exchange of ideas and individuals are free to express their individual perspective and opinions, even when those opinions may not reflect the official policy or practices of our university, our core values or our affiliations” (Patheos, March 6).

Cut up

Under the sway of the multimillionaire religious guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, 400 men in India cut off their own testicles to “bring them closer to God.” Although this happened in 2000 at a hospital run by Ram Rahim, the facts are just now coming to light. Only one castration victim has come forward so far. His lawyer says he thought he’d become a social outcast if he didn’t follow the guru’s teaching. Ram Rahim, who has also been accused of assault by some female followers, is under investigation by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation. He has an estimated following of 50 million people worldwide (International Business Times, March 1).