Century Marks

Century Marks

Judgment postponed

The medieval concept of irja could be an antidote to Islamic extremism. The word literally means “postponing” and was used by some Muslim thinkers during the first century of Islam. Known as Murjiha—the postponers—these scholars argued that the issue of who is a true Muslim should be postponed until the afterlife. Faith is a matter of the heart, something God alone can judge. This notion died out and is now considered a heresy among orthodox Sunnis. Muslims who are not willing to kill apostates are viewed by ISIS leaders as guilty of this heresy (New York Times, December 21).

Bombs away

In a recent poll, 30 percent of Republican primary voters said they would support bombing Agrabah. Agrabah, however, is a fictional country with a Middle Eastern–sounding name (Guardian, December 18).

Welcome mat

The presidents of three seminaries near the Missouri-Kansas border wrote a letter to governors Sam Brownback of Kansas and Jay Nixon of Missouri asking them to reconsider their restrictive stances on resettling Syrian refugees. Brownback is one of 30 governors who called for a blockade on Syrian immigrants. Nixon said he wouldn’t block the Obama administration from resettling Syrian refugees but asked that they be vetted adequately. Representing Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Nazarene Theological Seminary, and St. Paul’s School of Theology, the three presidents pointed out that churches in the area have a history of resettling refugees and said that they were certain churches would rise to meet the challenge again (Baptist News Global).

Secure sanctuaries

Houses of worship are thinking about security in new ways in response to mass shootings and extremism. St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, which draws about 30,000 to weekend masses, warned parishioners last month about the presence of uniformed and plainclothes police, and it announced a ban on backpacks, baby strollers, and diaper bags in worship. The Council on American-Islamic Relations reported that 2015 was the worst year for threats to mosques. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been holding specialized security training for congregations (AP).

Ashes to ashes

According to estimates by the funeral industry, 2015 may be the year that the number of cremations surpasses the number of burials in the United States. Lower cost is the reason most often given by people who choose cremation. Flexibility is another: memorial services can be planned for a later time. While most Christian denominations no longer discourage cremation, it is nonreligious people who are most inclined to choose cremation. In the less religious Oregon, 73 percent choose cremation; in more religious Mississippi, 18 percent do (RNS).