Century Marks

Century Marks

Morality play

Despite its reputation as a pornographic film, 50 Shades of Grey is a smash hit in the religiously conservative south. Mississippi and Arkansas, two of the most religious states in the country, led the nation in preopening ticket sales. Edward L. Rubin, who teaches law at Vanderbilt, thinks the movie is particularly popular in southern states because it gives people there a chance to talk about a changing morality. “It gives the audience a chance to think about their own ideas of right and wrong” (Salon, February 20).

Good sports?

Children who sing in a choir, play in an orchestra, or perform in a play are more likely to make good moral choices compared to their peers. This finding was the result of a study at the Univer­sity of Birmingham involving 10,000 British children and 250 teachers. The study also concluded that participation in sports doesn’t necessarily lead to better moral choices. The findings suggest that sports build character only when parents and coaches work to ensure that outcome. Children who go to church, get good grades, and have parents with a higher level of education also did better in the moral choices measure (Telegraph, February 27).

Coming out Christian

When the liberal political pundit Ana Marie Cox decided to come out as a Christian, she was worried less about the response from her secular colleagues than about that of Christians. She worried that they wouldn’t approve of a “progressive, feminist, tattooed, pro-choice, graduate-educated believer.” When people ask her why she now seems happier and freer, she’s tempted to say it’s because she moved out of Washington, D.C. But the honest answer is: “I try, every day, to give my will and my life over to God. I try to be like Christ. I get down on my knees and pray.” Cox said, “I am saved not because of who I am or what I have done (or didn’t do), but simply because I have accepted the infinite grace that was always offered to me” (Daily Beast, February 28).

Dialing up doubt

A hotline was launched by Recovering from Religion to respond to questions from people wrestling with religion, suffering from loss of faith, or concerned about a relative embracing atheism. The hotline aims to help them find their own answers. Those running the hotline are not therapists, but volunteers who have been given training. “If churches suddenly started welcoming doubters to their potlucks, the hotline project wouldn’t be necessary,” said Sarah Morehead, executive director of Recovering from Religion (CNN.com, February 28).

What Jesus said

Randy Beckum, chaplain and vice-president of community formation at MidAmerica Nazarene University, was relieved of some of his duties for a “controversial sermon” he preached in chapel at the Olathe, Kansas, school. His audience was riled by the suggestion that Christians should take seriously Jesus’ injunction to love one’s enemies and by his questioning of Christians’ use of violence. MNU’s president issued a statement intended to protect academic freedom, but which had the effect of distancing the college from the teachings of Jesus: “At MidAmerica Nazarene University we encourage the exchange of ideas and individuals are free to express their individual perspective and opinions, even when those opinions may not reflect the official policy or practices of our university, our core values or our affiliations” (Patheos, March 6).