Century Marks

Century Marks

Rite of passage

After World War II some Japanese communities created a ritual to help their returning soldiers reenter society. The soldiers would be thanked and profusely praised for their service, and then an elder would make an authoritative proclamation: "The war is now over! The community needs you to let go of what served you and served us well up to now. The community needs you to return as a man, a citizen, and something beyond a soldier" (Richard Rohr, Falling Upward, Jossey-Bass).

Bell’s hell

Chad Holtz, a United Methodist pastor in North Carolina, says he has long had doubts about the traditional Christian view of hell. When he made a favorable Facebook comment about Love Wins, a book by popular evangelical pastor Rob Bell that questions that view, Holtz was relieved of his pastorate. Bell challenges the notion that hell is a place of eternal torment for people who aren't Christians and argues that an emphasis on hell is misplaced, although he denies that he is a universalist. Says Holtz: "So long as we believe there's a dividing point in eternity, we're going to think in terms of us and them. But when you believe God has saved everyone, the point is, you're saved. Live like it" (Associated Press).

Atheists united

The Secular Student Alliance, a growing network of agnostics and atheists on college campuses, now has chapters on some religious campuses, including California Lutheran University. The members of the Cal Lutheran chapter have deliberately avoided being confrontational with the religious ethos of the campus. They've studied other religions and visited worship services. On the whole, the secular group has been well received. The chapter president is also the student body president. The presence of this group on campus has spawned another group—a club for Christian students with a conservative bent (Chronicle of Higher Education, February 27).

Forgotten peacemakers

It is largely forgotten that more than 20,000 British men of military age refused the draft during World War I. Harassed by the government and their fellow citizens, some were forced to go to the front, others were imprisoned. Among the imprisoned: a future winner of the Nobel Prize, more than a dozen future members of Parliament and a future cabinet minister. Bertrand Russell, Britain's most highly regarded philosopher at the time, was one of the most outspoken supporters of the resisters and served a short prison sentence for his writings defending them (American Scholar, Spring).

Good motives

In a conversation with the Dali Lama, an Indian politician suggested that politicians don't need religion. The Dalai Lama responded: "Politicians need religion even more than a hermit in retreat. If the hermit acts inspired by bad motivation, he'll harm only himself. But if a politician, who can directly influence an entire society, acts with bad motivation, a large number of people will experience the negative consequences." The Dalai Lama regards "every action carried out with good motivation as religious" (My Spiritual Journey, HarperOne).