Century Marks

Century Marks

Price to pay

Last month the doors to a Trappist monastery near Jerusalem were set ablaze and inflammatory phrases—including “Jesus is a monkey”—were painted on the monastery walls. A Jewish extremist group, unhappy because two Jewish settlements had been dismantled by the Israeli government, was blamed for the vandalism. It’s seen as part of the settlers’ “price tag” retaliation campaign—making others pay for the loss of settlements. Rabbi Dov Lipman led a group of Jews to the monastery, bearing flowers and a message of peace. The group stayed long enough to help remove the graffiti (ncronline.org and Haaretz, September 5).

Call and response

Tim Lucas, pastor of the Liquid Church, a large congregation in New Jersey, is planning a sermon series on politics in which he will try to elevate the level of political conversation beyond the current polarities. He will ask people to respond, via their cell phones, to such questions as: Can a Christian vote for a Mormon? How would Jesus address gay marriage and immigration? He also plans to ask which candidates people are going to vote for and display the results on screen. “Jesus pretty much transcends liberals and conservatives,” Lucas said. “There’s something about Jesus that defies red-state blue-state, black and white thinking” (christianpost.com, September 5).

On the other hand

In the first quarter of this year, U.S. carbon dioxide  (CO2) emissions reached a 20-year low, down 8 percent from the previous year, in part because of the increased use of natural gas instead of coal. Coal emissions alone fell 18 percent, the lowest level since 1986. Many power producers are shifting to natural gas, which is cheaper and more available. Natural gas emits about half the amount of CO2 that coal does. The Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute warns against an energy strategy that relies on natural gas, however, saying that renewable forms of energy are critical solutions in addressing climate change (Worldwatch Institute, September 5).

Taxing situation

The more a corporation pays its CEO the more it saves in corporate taxes, according to a study by the Institute for Policy Studies. The tax code for corporations permits them to take unlimited deductions for performance pay to CEOs. IPS studied 26 CEOs who averaged $20.4 million in total compensation last year. Each one of the corporations surveyed paid their CEO more than they paid in federal taxes. The CEOs themselves benefit from a favorable tax code, which saves them millions in federal income taxes (Star Tribune, August 19).

Peace wanted

Gershon Baskin says that the common view among Israelis is that Palestinians don’t want peace with Israel and that Palestinians want to kill Israelis and take their land—and so there is no hope for peace. Baskin, who spends a great deal of time in the West Bank, including the volatile city of Hebron, sees a different reality. He is treated with respect as an Israeli Jew. “I cross borders, go beyond walls, break down barriers and refuse to allow fear of ‘the other’ to turn into hatred,” he said. One Palestinian security official told Baskin that the problem is that Palestinians no longer have contact with Israelis, owing to the separation wall. Baskin believes that both Israelis and Palestinians want peace, in spite of the sense of hopelessness (Jerusalem Post, September 11).