Century Marks

Century Marks

Book collector

For 20 years, José Gutierrez, a garbage truck driver in Bogotá, Colombia, has been rescuing books from upper class neighborhoods. He turned his own modest house in a poor neighborhood into a community library, which by now has some 20,000 volumes stacked from floor to ceiling. Known in Colombia as “Lord of the Books,” he attributes his own love of reading to his mother, who read stories to him every night when he was a child. Gutierrez’s favorite books include One Hundred Years of Solitude by his Nobel Prize–winning fellow countryman Gabriel García Márquez (AP).

Be not offended

Some Duke University students are refusing to read the graphic novel Fun Home, sent to all incoming members of the class of 2019. They say its explicit sexual themes and images conflict with their religious values. Some academic observers see this as part of a larger cultural shift from maintaining political correctness to enforcing empathetic correctness. The first trend is motivated by a desire not to offend, the second by a wish not to be offended. Religion is not the only motivation behind this trend. Writing under a pseudonym last June, a professor confessed, “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me” (Christian Science Monitor, August 25).

Former Catholics

Nearly half of all former Catholics have left institutionalized religion altogether, according to a recent PRRI/RNS survey. Among former Catholics, 14 percent identify themselves as white, evangelical Protestants, and 9 percent as mainline Protestants. This cohort is more likely to be young, male, and politically liberal or independent. Former Catholics are also less likely to say their views of the Catholic Church have changed since the advent of Pope Francis. They do share similar views with Catholics on climate change, immigration reform, and same-sex marriage, although they are more liberal on legalizing abortion in all or most cases (PRRI, September 3).

Truth for sure

George Johnson says modern culture is reaching the point at which there are no longer any incontrovertible truths, just competing ideologies and narratives. He points to people offended by the findings of science, from evolution to climate change, and to those who fall for conspiracy theories about vaccination and fluoridation. Another example: some native Hawaiians are protesting the placement of a new telescope on Mauna Kea, saying that it would desecrate a holy mountain where Sky Father and Earth Mother gave birth to humankind. When Johnson pointed out last fall that there are already 13 telescopes on that mountain, he heard from young anthropologists who protested that science is just another way for Westerners to further their cultural hegemony of marginalized peoples (New York Times, August 25).

Frat life

San Diego State University is likely the first campus in the United States to open a Buddhist-sponsored fraternity and a sorority. They are the brainchild of a Buddhist temple in San Diego, which has been offering courses and meditation on campus for the past six years. “Instead of a keg, we’ll have a meditation room,” the founder said. Life in these Greek-lettered houses will attempt to integrate generosity, morality, patience, diligence, concentration, and wisdom into their academic and social lives. Community service will be promoted (Lion’s Roar, August 30).