Century Marks

Century Marks

End of history

In June the Iraqi city of Mosul fell to ISIS, the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams. An underreported implication of this turn of events is how devastating this is to the story of Christianity, says church historian Philip Jenkins. “No later than the second century AD, the city had a Christian presence,” says Jenkins. “This was a vital base for the Church of the East, the so-called Nestorian Church, which made it a metropolitan see.” Also present were the so-called Monophysites, today’s Syrian Orthodox Church. Mosul was also the center of a network of monasteries, some of them the earliest and most active in the monastic movement. “For anyone who cares about Christian history, it’s like the end of the world,” says Jenkins (aleteia.org, June 24).

Not making the cut

Some Jewish parents are deciding to forgo circumcision for their baby boys. Instead, they’re creating new rituals to welcome their babies into their families and to acknowledge the covenant between God and the Jews. These alternative rituals variously include communal candle lighting, anointing the baby, washing the baby’s feet, putting out a chair for Elijah, or cutting open a pomegranate, a symbol of fertility. These parents, called intactivists, believe they have no right to subject their infants to a procedure with dubious outcomes without their consent. Some studies indicate a lower risk for HIV and other genital diseases for males who have been circumcised (Tablet, July 9).

Sympathetic unbeliever

Philosopher Michael Ruse is an ardent evolutionist and unbeliever, but he often comes to the defense of believers who are under fire from militant atheists like Richard Dawkins. Ruse says his sympathetic stance toward religion is partly due to his Quaker upbringing. “I grew up surrounded by gentle, loving (and very intelligent) Christians. I never forget that,” said Ruse. He also objects to what he regards as bad atheist arguments. Evolution explains the existence of religion as an adaptive mechanism, but that doesn’t necessarily explain it away. “It is as plausible that my love of Mozart’s operas is a byproduct of adaptation, but it doesn’t make them any the less beautiful and meaningful,” Ruse said (New York Times interview, July 8).


Dawn Gikandi, 31, is a rarity in Kenya—a female pastor, a theologian, a social media devotee, and a disabled person in a country that often stigmatizes people who are physically impaired. In April, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa ordained Gikandi and sent her to her first post, Bahati Martyrs’ Church in Nairobi, where she and another pastor care for more than 4,000 congregants. Since then, the news of her ordination has spread and become an inspiration to Kenya’s disabled community (RNS).


In June a mob of hundreds of people brutally attacked a group of Vietnamese Mennonites, including Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and 20 church leaders and Bible college students, who had gathered for a religious retreat. More than 300 plainclothes police and security forces stormed the host church at night under the pretext of conducting an “administrative search.” The pastor, known for defending the rights of Vietnamese minorities, suffered injuries to his head and chest and was left with broken teeth. For years, Vietnamese authorities have been accused of suppressing Protestants and other religious groups. These churches are prohibited from reaching out to children and evangelizing openly (Ecumenical News).