Century Marks

Century Marks

By the numbers

The close 2008 senatorial race in Minnesota won by Democrat Al Franken might as well have been decided by the flip of a coin, says Charles Seife. The observable errors in the vote recount process exceeded the number of votes separating the two candidates, which was somewhere between 200 and 300. That fact should unnerve Democrats. Here's a data check to unnerve Republicans: in 2004 the Bush administration claimed that its tax cuts saved the average American $1,586. While that figure is technically accurate, most families received less than $650. The average was inflated by the much larger amount received by the very wealthy (review of Seife's Proofiness in the New York Times Book Review, September 19).

Hold tight

For over 20 years Kyle Childress's Baptist congregation in Texas has ended worship with a ritual he learned from an African-American pastor: "Let's take each other's hands," it begins. "Now look who you're holding hands with, and hold on tight! Because we're going to need each other this week." Over the years several members have told Childress that at first they ­didn't know how to respond when encountering a crisis, until it hit them: they could call the person whose hand they had held the previous Sunday (Christian Reflection, vol. 36).

Religious defense

A 14-year-old North Carolina girl was suspended by her high school because she refused to remove a stud from her nose. She and her mother contested the judgment, saying it was an infringement on her freedom of religion since they are part of the Church of Body Modification. Formed ten years ago in Arizona and incorporated in Pennsylvania in 2008, the church claims to promote growth in mind, body and soul through body modification. It has a national membership of about 3,500 (News Observer, September 11).

Did you know?

In the middle of the ninth century, during the reign of Abbasid Caliph Al-Mutawakkil, last ruler of the Umayyad dynasty, Christians were forced to wear distinctive yellow garb. This discriminatory practice oddly anticipated what would happen several centuries later when Christian societies in Europe subjected Jews to the same humiliation (Diarmaid MacCulloch, Christianity, Viking).

Word search

The first known concordance was of the Latin Vulgate Bible. It was compiled in the early 13th century by a Dominican cardinal, Hugh de St. Cher, with the help of 500 monks. The famous Cruden's Concordance of the King James Version was compiled by one man, the bookseller Alexander Cruden. He accomplished the task, but it took him more than a year working from seven in the morning to one in the afternoon. A task that once took years to accomplish can be done now in minutes with computers and a digitalized text (History Today, September).