Century Marks

Century Marks

Unwanted message

President Obama continued the tradition of inviting Muslims to the White House for an iftar dinner, the meal with which Muslims break the Ramadan fast. Unlike in previous years, when the president made comments in solidarity with America Muslims, this year he turned to the conflict in the Middle East and underscored U.S. support of Israel’s right to defend itself—offending some in the room mindful of Palestinians, including many civilians, being killed in the war in Gaza (Al Jazeera, July 26).

Learning to care

A study conducted by Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd found that 80 percent of youths said their parents were more concerned about their achievements than whether they care for others. Weissbourd says children can and must be taught to be caring. He’s developed a five-point process for parents to teach and model caring for their children. Learning to care for others is like learning a sport: repetition helps. He recommends a daily ritual at bedtime, dinner, or while driving that expresses thanks for people who contribute positively in our lives. It’s also important to find ways of widening the circle of care to include people of other cultures and communities (Washington Post, July 18).

Public grief

The Internet seems to be making a difference in the way Americans think and talk about death, says Laura Arnold Leibman, who recently taught a college course on American Dead and Undead. Social media provide an outlet for people to mourn publicly and to receive sympathy and support. Leibman’s students admitted that they’re not entirely comfortable with such public expressions of grief, but they think the culture is in a time of transition in this area (Religion in American History, July 15).

Source criticism

Some of the most controversial and heavily edited articles on Wikipedia involve religious topics. Former president George W. Bush tops the list of the 100 most-altered articles on the open-source encyclopedia, but not far behind are the articles on Jesus (5) and the Catholic Church (7), with the Prophet Muhammad (35) and Pope John Paul II (82) farther down the list. The list also includes specific religions: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam, Christianity, and Scientology. In 2009 Wikipedia banned people using Church of Scientology computers from altering articles because it claimed the church’s members engaged in editing wars (RNS).

Right move

Billionaire Ted Stanley is donating $650 million to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard for researching and treating the genetic roots of mental illness. His son Jonathan was diagnosed as a young adult with bipolar disorder with psychosis. Although Jonathan’s illness is very treatable, Ted has met the parents of many other children with mental illness for whom no treatment works. Jonathan says he’s fine with the fact that his father is giving away most of what could be his inheritance. “All I can say is my family got it right” (NPR.org, July 22).