Century Marks

Century Marks

Debt forgiveness

Comedian John Oliver bought the medical debt of some 9,000 people and announced he was forgiving their debts on his HBO show Last Week Tonight. The show created its own collection agency and negotiated $15 million of debt down to a payment of only $60,000. The announcement was made during a sketch in which Oliver delivered a blistering critique of the debt purchase industry. (NBC4i.com, June 6).

Unusual punishment

Instead of sending Jake Strotman to jail for assault, a Cincinnati judge ordered the 23-year-old Catholic to attend a Baptist church for 12 consecutive Sundays. Strotman had gone to a hockey game with some friends. It was dollar beer night at the arena, and the young adults apparently became inebriated. After the game they taunted some Baptist street preachers and a scuffle ensued. That his sentence should be attending Baptist services was Strotman’s suggestion (RNS).

Busy, busy

Kim Armentrout, a United Methodist Church pastor in Ohio, began a yearlong time-logging project in January. The project has revealed that she’s not as busy as she claims and has more time for interacting with her husband and daughter than she thought. “I can stop feeling guilty” about neglecting family, Armentrout said. She thought that on weeks when she had a funeral there was little time for anything else. Her log shows that a funeral involves only five hours at a funeral home or seven if the funeral is held at the church. Holy week was stressful, having put in 58 hours of church work. But the exercise taught her that she told herself “false stories” about how busy she is. Armentrout, like other professionals, tend to think of their busiest weeks as the norm (New York Times, May 13).

Deal or no deal

Six months after a nuclear deal was reached between the United States and Iran, Iran hasn’t realized the economic stimulus it expected from the lifting of economic sanctions and gaining access to about $100 billion of assets frozen in foreign banks. U.S. laws are still very restrictive on dealing with Iran, and foreign businesses haven’t flooded to Iran as expected because European and Asian banks are afraid of violating American sanctions and being subjected to penalties. The Iranian government accuses the United States of obstructing Iran’s effort to join the world economy. Relaxing sanctions takes congressional action, something unlikely to happen in an election year (Newsweek, May 18).

Virtual sacraments?

The Church of Scotland is launching a two-year study of online interaction with the church and questions this raises about membership and sacraments. The church, known as The Kirk, has seen its rolls fall by almost one-third between 2004 and 2015 to just under 364,000 members. The church’s Legal Questions Committee is pushing for “a wide-ranging review of practice and procedure which is impacted by the use of new technology in church life.” David Robertson, moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, whose members broke from the Church of Scotland in 1843, said: “At best it is a cheap gimmick, at worst it comes across as yet another desperate attempt by a declining national church to shore up its numbers and justify its existence” (RNS).