Century Marks

Century Marks

Imagine it

When Toni Morrison taught creative writing at Princeton University, all her students had been told in previous classes to write about what they knew. She said to forget that advice because first, they didn’t know anything yet, and two, she didn’t want to read about their experiences. She told them to imagine people outside their own experience, such as a Mexican waitress in Rio Grande who could barely speak English. It was amazing what these students came up with, Morrison said, when they were given license to imagine something outside their realm of experience (American Theatre, March 10).

Fajitas and prayer

An appellate court in New Jersey has ruled that a man who was burned while praying over sizzling fajitas can’t sue Applebee’s restaurant. The customer said that while he was praying over the meal he heard a popping noise and then felt a burning sensation on his left eye and face. He later claimed that his arms and neck were also burned from the sizzling fajita and that the waitress did not warn him about the danger. The trial judge dismissed the suit, ruling that the restaurant didn’t have to warn him of an obvious danger (Courier-Post, March 5).

Hope on death row

Kelly Gissendaner sits on death row, awaiting execution by the state of Georgia, having been convicted of the murder of her husband. Jennifer McBride met Gissendaner in a theology program for inmates in which McBride was teaching. McBride, who now teaches at Wartburg College, says that Gissendaner confessed her crime, repented, and has become a redeemed person. She’s been reconciled to her children, she ministers to other inmates in prison, and counsels troubled youth. In the theology program, Gissendaner started a correspondence with German theologian Jürgen Moltmann, finding hope in his theology of hope. Gissendaner’s initial date for execution was postponed due to concerns about the chemicals being used (CNN.com, March 6).

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).