Century Marks

Century Marks

Latest hoax?

In the new book The Lost Gospel, Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici and York University professor Barrie Wilson claim that Jesus was secretly married to Mary Magdalene and had sexual relations as well as a family. The book is purportedly based on the decoding of a 1,450-year-old manuscript that’s been in the British Library since 1847. Nineteenth-century scholars had decided the document was insignificant. The text features a figure named Joseph who has characteristics similar to Jesus. “It sounds like the deepest bilge,” says Oxford historian Diar­maid MacCulloch (Washington Post, November 10).

Growing edge

Nearly one in five Latin Americans are now Protestant, and a majority of those Protestants are Pentecostals. In less than a century Pentecostalism has done more to become an indigenous religion in Latin America than Roman Catholicism did over a four-century period, says Andrew Chesnut from Virginia Commonwealth University. Pentecostal worship music has the same Latin rhythms, the pastors live lives more like the people in their congregations, and the ministry of healing appeals to many with physical maladies and addictions. A prosperity gospel appeals to poor people, but other Latin American Pentecostals are from the middle class (Pew Research Center, November 14).

Ecclesial credit

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is helping to reform the payday lending enterprise in the United Kingdom by advocating new caps on interest. At the same time, Welby is urging the church to support credit unions that charge reasonable interest rates and don’t threaten delinquent borrowers with menacing letters from bogus lawyers. Welby has a business background, and his mother was an assistant to Winston Churchill (Spectator, November 15).

Grooming exemptions

The American Civil Liberties Union and the United Sikhs are suing the U.S. Army for rejecting efforts by a Sikh student at Hofstra University to enlist. Iknoor Singh’s religion requires that he have a beard and wear a turban, both forbidden in military grooming and dress codes. The Department of Defense sometimes grants religious exemptions, but not for Singh’s beard and headdress. Over 105 members of Congress sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in March urging the Defense Department to give Sikhs opportunities to serve (Time, November 12).

Backing Obama

The American Catholic bishops support President Obama’s intention to take executive action on immigration. “It would be derelict not to support the administrative actions . . . which would provide immigrants and their families legal protection,” said Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. Catholic Committee on Migration. In the past the bishops have been critical of the president on gay marriage and the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Now they are under pressure to follow Pope Francis’s lead in making social justice issues a priority (RNS).