Century Marks

Century Marks

Pastor and spirits

Christopher Thoma is an Evangelical Lutheran pastor in Michigan who blogs about his love of Scotch whisky at www.angelsportion.com. A collection of these blogs has been published in a book, The Angels’ Portion: A Clergyman’s Whisky Narrative. He bought his first whisky at a shop in London. The owner let him taste samples of whisky, and he walked out with a $500 bottle of William Grant & Sons, a special 25-year release. Thoma’s reviews have a narrative shape to them, including family stories, experiences as a pastor, and references to history and literature (Livingston Daily Press & Argus, May 18).

End of the church?

A statistical projection is not a prediction, but if the number of Christians in Britain continues to decline at the current rate, there will be no more British Christians by 2067. Between 2001 and 2011 the church lost 5.3 million members—about 10,000 each week. The rate of decline in the Church of England is higher than that of other denominations. In one survey the numbers dropped from 40 percent of the population in 1983 to 29 percent in 2004 and just 17 percent last year. The decline in the Catholic Church is not as precipitous because of the influx of Catholic immigrants. Sometime in this century Muslims will outnumber Christians in Britain (Spectator, June 13).

Reading Rx

The entrance to the library at Thebes bore the inscription, “Healing place for the soul.” Freud suggested books to his patients, and the contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton was encouraged to start a bibliotherapy clinic that would suggest readings to people to make them better persons or help them cope with crises. While there is ongoing debate on whether fiction makes readers more empathetic, there is evidence that “regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers” (New Yorker, June 9).

Curious child

As a child Richard Feynman once asked his father why a ball went to the back of a wagon when he pulled the wagon forward. His father said it was inertia. When Feynman asked what inertia was, his father said it is the name scientists give to the movement of a ball to the back of a wagon, but in truth no one really knows what it is. Feynman went on to get degrees at MIT and Princeton, and he won a Nobel Prize in physics. He attributed his success in science to the curiosity engendered by that conversation with his father. The simplest questions can carry us to the edge of knowledge, and that’s where he wanted to play (TED Radio Hour, June 12).

Poverty myths

The number of households with children living on less than $2 a day per person has increased 160 percent since 1996. Single moms, absentee dads, and black dads are not the problem. Only 9 percent of low-income urban mothers have been single through the first five years of their child’s life. Sixty percent of low-income dads see at least one of their children once a day. Black men who don’t live in the same household as their children are more likely than Hispanic or white fathers to have a daily presence in the children’s lives (Mother Jones, March/April).