Century Marks

Century Marks

Cash flow

Congregants at the nondenominational LaSalle Street Church in Chicago were each recently given a $500 check and told to do some good with it. The congregation had received a windfall of $1.6 million from the sale of a property. The pastor and elders decided that a tenth of the proceeds should go to the members and regular attenders as “loaves and fishes” checks; the congregation will decide together what to do with the rest. A group of doctors has talked about sending their checks to an Ebola clinic in Sierra Leone. One woman, engaged to be married, admitted that she’s tempted to use her check to pay off personal debts, but instead she’s thinking about using it to aid homeless gay and lesbian youth (Chicago Tribune, September 24).

Lids down

A professor of the theory and practice of social media, Clay Shirky, doesn’t let his students use electronic devices in his classes. It’s not just that he can’t compete with the hardware or the software. Studies show that multitasking is bad for the kind of cognitive work required in a classroom. It has a negative effect on memory and recall. One study showed that students who multitasked in class scored lower than those who didn’t. The presence of electronic devices also distracts those who aren’t using them. “I’m coming to see student focus as a collaborative process,” Shirky said (Washington Post, September 25).

Zealotry?

Dale Martin, professor of religion at Yale, argues that Jesus wasn’t the pacifist he is often made out to be. In fact, he may have been killed because his followers were carrying weapons. Some historical documents show that it was illegal to walk around with weapons in Rome and some other Roman cities, although no known documents proscribe weapons in Jerusalem. Martin thinks Jesus and his disciples may have been expecting an apocalyptic showdown with the Roman Empire and were committed to using weapons to help usher in God’s reign (Newsweek, September 18).

Without a prayer

Nearly half of Americans claim they pray every day and about a third say they pray several times a day, according to research by LifeWay. Of those who pray, 82 percent pray for family and friends. Despite the fact that the New Testament admonishes believers to pray for those in authority, only about 12 percent of Americans who pray say they pray for government leaders. About 40 percent say they pray for their enemies or those who have mis­treated them, as instructed by Jesus (RNS).

Preemptive action

An Alcohol­ics Anonymous group that has been meeting in a Baptist church in Keithville, Louisiana, for more than five years was told that it can no longer meet there. The church is forcing the group out for fear that if it lets nonchurch groups use the building, it could be forced to let it be used for the marriage of gays or lesbians. The pastor said the church was acting on the advice of an article in the Louisiana Baptist Church Message. A spokesperson for People Acting for Change and Equality said the church’s action is misguided. “Even if we have legalized gay marriage throughout the country, no church will be forced to marry gay people if they don’t want to,” she said (KSLA News, September 25).