Century Marks

Century Marks

Reality religion?

Jim Henderson, a 63-year-old self-proclaimed failed Chris­tian pastor and "spiritual anthropologist" living in Seattle, believes he may have found his spiritual calling in reality TV. Hender­son has developed a potential TV show called "Save Me!" that would put passionate believers of different faiths under one roof. "Every day they go out individually and independent of each other to try and save people, and then they come home and try to save each other," Henderson said in a casting call on YouTube. While Henderson is a Christian, he doesn't want "Save Me" to be a Christian show; he said casting would be open to Buddhists, Jews, Scientologists and atheists. Henderson spoke about the show six months ago with a Hollywood producer, who was intrigued by the idea (RNS).

Back to the future

Local government officials in Hungary are handing state-owned schools over to churches because they are unable to afford their upkeep during the economic recession. A Hungarian weekly newspaper reported this summer that local councils had been forced to abandon schools in the face of shrinking state subsidies, heavy municipal debts and a decreasing number of children. "Churches are entitled to run schools in Hungary as public service providers, receiving the same taxpayers' money as public sponsors," said the ecumenical officer of Hungary's Reformed Church. The Reformed, Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches ran most schools in Hungary before the imposition of communist rule after World War II (ENInews).

Laws for the journey

If the Ten Commandments were written today they would probably be different, argues Old Testament scholar Terence Fretheim. He points out that Deuteron­omy revises the Ten Commandments recorded in Exo­dus: a wife is no longer listed as property and the neighbor is not necessarily male. The law was first given when the people of Israel were on a journey, and it became a compass for their wilderness wanderings. Over time their circumstances changed, and therefore the law had to change too. "Just because laws are from God does not make them un­change­able; the texts witness to a God who makes changes in the law," so that God can be true to God's own character and to the relational commitments made to Israel through changing times and places (Word & World, Summer).

More to the story

A few years ago writer Alex Kotlowitz encountered a neatly dressed young woman named Dede. She remembered him well, but he couldn't place her. She had met him some 15 years earlier when he was writing There Are No Children Here, about the challenges of growing up in public housing projects. Dede had lived in public housing controlled by gangs; both her parents had trouble with alcohol; and she had been addicted to crack cocaine. Since that time, she had had a baby, started going to church and gotten married. Dede's turnabout reminded Kotlowitz of the words of Nigerian-born novelist Chimamanda Adichie about "the danger of a single story." We should not assume that we know the shape of another's life just because she is poor and grows up in a ghetto (chicagomag.com).

Morality matters

Derek Parfit is the most original moral philosopher in the English-speaking world, some claim, and his two-volume On What Matters has been touted as the most important philosophy work in more than a century. Parfit's parents met in the Oxford Group in the 1920s and became medical doctors serving as missionaries in China. They both shed their faith on the mission field and returned home to England. Briefly a believer during his childhood, Parfit too became an atheist. Parfit views moral truth, however, like Dostoevsky's Ivan Karamazov viewed God: without moral truth everything would be permitted (New Yorker, September 5).