Century Marks

Century Marks

Presidential follies, take two

After winning control of the Philippines in the Spanish-American War, President William McKinley paced the floors of the White House, wondering what to do with the Asian archipelago. When he got down on his knees to pray for divine guidance, the answer came to him in four parts: don’t give the islands back to Spain; don’t let France or Germany have them either; don’t leave the Filipinos to themselves, as they’re unfit to govern themselves; take the Philippines, educate and civilize the people, “and by God’s grace do the very best we [can] by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.” The American conquest led to a bloody calamity. McKinley was assassinated long before he was able to see how awful God’s “perfect will” was (Matthew Paul Turner, Our Great Big American God, Jericho Books).

Silent bells

For the first time in centuries, church bells didn’t ring and no mass was celebrated the last Sunday of June in Mosul, the Iraqi city overrun by the radical Islamic group called ISIS. Christians in Mosul have been forced to pay a tax for their non-Muslim status. When one Christian family said it didn’t have the money, the mother and daughter were raped. The husband and father was so traumatized by the event that he committed suicide. By tradition, Mosul is the site of Jonah’s burial. Most Christians have fled from Mosul, some going to Kurdistan (Daily Beast, June 29).

Keep it local

Pastor Ray Cannata arrived in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. His church, Redeemer New Orleans, had only 17 members at the time. Now the congregation is up to 200, primarily people in their twenties and thirties. Cannata, who preaches a theology of place, has helped to restore the concept of the neighborhood church, within walking distance for members. A documentary about him, The Man Who Ate New Orleans, follows his effort to eat at every one of the city’s 700 or so independent restaurants (Wall Street Journal, June 5).

Game changer?

The mid-Atlantic region of the United Church of Christ passed a resolution in June asking its 40,000 members not to buy game tickets or wear any souvenir gear of the Washington Redskins until it changes its team name. The resolution, which passed unanimously, calls on the team to refrain from using American Indian imagery. Acknowledging that a name change wouldn’t reverse centuries of discrimination against native peoples, John Deckenback, conference minister, said that “a change in the nation’s capital can send a strong message.” The UCC has 185 congregations in its mid-Atlantic region (RNS).

Cardinal sin

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is drawing fire from Catholic theologians for an opinion piece he wrote in the May 22 Wall Street Journal. Dolan suggested that Pope Francis’s critique of capitalism does not apply to American capitalism and that the pope’s principle teaching on economics is that it must be based on the virtues of compassion and generosity. Others say it is precisely American-style capitalism that the pope has critiqued, because it is leading to greater disparities between the wealthy and the poor. Dolan’s critics were especially disturbed by his focus on personal virtues as opposed to social structures (National Catholic Reporter, June 6).