Century Marks

Century Marks

Good pay for historian

Jonathan Zimmerman says the first thing he learned in graduate school about being a historian is that the field demands both rigor and humility: you must know what you're talking about—and when you don't, you need to admit it. These are not qualities that characterize Newt Gingrich, who has been leading in the polls as candidate for the Republican presidential campaign. Gingrich has a doctorate in history, but he never did the academic work necessary for gaining tenure at West Georgia College, where he taught before launching a political career. Gingrich has written over 20 books that use history, but most historians regard them as simplistic and partisan. He defends the work he did for Freddie Mac by saying that he was a historical consultant, for which some sources say he earned as much as $1.8 million. "Who knew my profession could be so lucrative?" asks Zimmerman (Chicago Tribune, December 1).

Aid for the rich

More than 20 percent of U.S. financial aid for college goes to students who don't need it, according to the College Board, the association of colleges that administers the SAT test. Colleges and universities are using this money to compete for students with high grade point averages and SAT scores. Elite schools like Harvard, Yale and Stanford give aid to students from families with incomes as high as $200,000. The consequence is that fewer dollars are available for students with actual financial need, whose share of financial aid has steadily declined over the past decade (USA Today, November 25–27).

Host city

The tenth assembly of the World Council of Churches in 2013 will take place in the city of Busan at the southeast end of the Korean Peninsula. Known as a center for Buddhism, the city offered shelter for those resisting communists during the Korean War. It is a place marked by schism among Presbyterians. One split resulted from the Korean Presbyterian church's allowing Shinto shrine worship during the Japanese occupation. A second schism resulted from disagreement over participation in the WCC. While less than 10 percent of Busan is Christian, it holds special meaning for Korean Christians: Christian missionaries to Korea first arrived there, and a great awakening in Korea started there. Ji-il Tark, professor at Busan Presbyterian University, notes that, ironically, hosting this worldwide ecumenical assembly is creating ecumenical tensions in Busan (Theology Today, October).

Skeptics in the pew

Nearly one out of five scientists who claim to be atheists or agnostics go to church at least some of the time, according to a study done at Rice University. The scientists don't do it for themselves but rather for their children. They want them to be exposed to the morality taught by churches, and they want their children to decide matters of faith for themselves. Most of these nonbelieving scientists come from families who were not deeply involved in religion, and they became involved only when they had children of their own (ABC News,  December 7).

From the ground up

Christians typically think of humans as stewards of creation, says Theodore Hiebert, an Old Testament professor. That view, based on the Genesis 1 account of creation, needs to be counterbalanced by the Genesis 2 account of creation. In the latter account, humans aren't portrayed as  stewards over creation, but as an integral part of and servants of nature. In the second account, humans aren't created in the image of God as the crowning achievement of creation; rather, they are formed out of the fertile earth just like other forms of life. This vision of creation emphasizes human interrelatedness with nature and the need to serve it, rather than using it to serve human needs (Interpretation, October).