Century Marks

Century Marks

Change agents

Dissidents and authoritarian regimes both believe in the power of social media. Authoritarian governments like China's are becoming more effective in blocking access to sites such as Facebook and YouTube. Clay Shirky argues that American efforts to promote global access to Internet information focus too much on public media and not enough on the tools that permit private conversations. "Access to information is far less important, politically, than access to conversation," he says. Cell phones have proved very effective in mobilizing popular protest movements in the Philippines, Iran and China. Equip­ped with cameras, they are a deterrent to governments tempted to crack down violently on public actions by dissidents (Foreign Affairs, January/February).

Beyond red and blue

Non-Catholic Tom Krattenmaker is not among those who delight in the troubles facing the Catholic Church. He gives it credit for its ability to take stances in the public arena that are not popular. The Catholic Church infuriates people on the left for its opposition to abortion and contraception, and it infuriates people on the right because it stands up for the poor and opposes the death penalty. Unlike politically active evangelicals, who have been largely in allegiance with the Republican Party, the Catholic Church maintains its political independence (USA Today, January 3).

Why wait?

A new study shows that couples who refrain from intercourse before marriage are happier with the quality of their sex life than those who don't. Those who don't engage in premarital sex also have more stable and happier marriages, according to the study, which appeared in the Journal of Family Psychology. One possible explanation is that couples who wait to have sex were more focused on getting to know each other and developing the relational skills that make for more satisfactory sex. The researchers discovered that waiting to have sex contributed to more stable and satisfactory relationships regardless of religious beliefs (WebMD Health News, December 28).

Karl Marx’s church

When Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, recently visited the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C., he was disturbed to see a promotional banner for the DREAM Act. The act, which was defeated by the Senate, would have provided a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children. "The Methodist Church is pro illegal immigration," Phillips said. "They have been in the bag for socialist health care, going as far as sending out e-mails to their membership 'debunking' the myths of Obamacare." Phillips, who was once a UMC member, now calls it "the first Church of Karl Marx" (Huffington Post, December 20).

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).