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).

Bubble burst

Physicist Stephen Hawking made a $100 bet that physicists wouldn’t be able to discover the Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle.” He lost the bet when the Higgs boson was discovered two years ago, and he said that the discovery had made physics less interesting. He and other scientists are also theorizing that the Higgs boson could one day destroy the universe by creating a vacuum bubble that expands through space, wiping out everything. That is unlikely to happen anytime soon. If and when it does, humans won’t have any warning, and it will come at the speed of light (Christian Science Monitor, September 10).

Cover up

A British team surveyed 600 Muslim women living in Britain to see how they felt about their own bodies. The women who wear the hijab (head covering) at least part of the time had on average more positive body images than those who never wear one. The hijab wearers were less inclined to want to be thin, and they were less influenced by media standards of female beauty. The lead researcher cautioned against applying their findings to Muslim women who live in countries where the wearing of the hijab is mandatory. The study did not prove that the hijab was the source of a better body image (NPR, September 15).

Urban megachurch

The influential Australian-based megachurch Hillsong made it to the front page of the New York Times on September 9. Hillsong, founded 30 years ago, has churches in many major cities around the world, including New York and Los Angeles. Young people are especially drawn to the church, known for its original folk-rock music which incorporates catchy tunes and accessible lyrics. By some estimates, Hillsong has 100,000 people in its pews at their various locations each Sunday, including multiple campuses in Australia. The Pentecostal-leaning church has drawn fire from both the right and the left—the right for what is deemed a thin theology, the left for its strong stand against abortion and the inclusion of gays.