Century Marks

Century Marks

Some bright spots

Humorist Dave Barry thinks 2010 was the worst year ever. However, it had a few bright spots, three to be exact: one, the Yankees didn't get into the World Series; two, there were several days when Lindsay Lohan wasn't going into or getting out of rehab; and three, Apple released its much anticipated iPad, which gave iPhone users "something to fondle in their other hand" (Washington Post, January 2).

Slow learner

Despite his deserved reputation as the "father of the social gospel," Walter Rauschen­busch was not in the vanguard of racial justice. In an anonymous letter he wrote for Rochester Seminary, he played on the racial fears of potential donors and called for an infusion of German immigrants: "Are the whites of this continent so sure of their possession against the blacks of the South and the seething yellow flocks beyond the Pacific that they need no reinforcement of men of their own blood while yet it is time?" But in A Theology for the Social Gospel Rauschenbusch used racial lynching as the ultimate example of evil as a social inheritance (Gary Dorrien, Economy, Difference, Empire, Columbia University Press).

Protesting a mosque

Some Moscovites are upset over the prospect of a new mosque being built in the Russian capital. They claim that the site chosen for construction is not suitable for a large building and want the space turned into a park where "any person, regardless of ethnic, religious, or other background, could relax." The protests about the mosque construction coincided with controversy in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia about the slaughter of lambs as part of the celebration of the Muslim Eid al-Adha feast (ENI).

New readers

India now has the world's largest circulation of daily newspapers. A recent survey determined that the country has 83 million readers between the ages of 13 and 35. The demand for print material has created a burgeoning pulp fiction industry that produces novels that appeal to young adults aspiring to better their economic status. An example: Stilettos in the Newsroom, a semiautobiographical novel written in English by an Indian journalist, in which each chapter ends with a lesson, such as: "Office romance can be fun . . . only if done with the right people!" (Christian Science Monitor, December 13).

Free or determined

John Horgan, a self-confessed lapsed Catholic turned agnostic and scientific materialist, welcomes scientists who question the existence of God. But he's concerned about scientists who deny free will. It doesn't make sense, he claims, "to deny that our conscious, psychological deliberations . . . influence our actions." According to Horgan, we need the concept of free will more than we need God as a basis for ethics and morality. He notes an experiment that showed students were more inclined to cheat on a math test and less likely to let a peer use their cell phone after reading a passage challenging the validity of free will (Religion Dispatches).