Century Marks

Century Marks

Resigning in protest

Christopher John Antal, a Unitarian Universalist pastor and U.S. Army chaplain, resigned from the army in protest of the military’s use of drones. In a letter to President Obama, he wrote that the White House “continues to claim the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any time, for secret reasons, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials. I refuse to support this policy of unaccountable killing.” Antal had condemned drone warfare in a sermon to troops and private contractors in 2012, which led to an unrequested departure from Afghanistan where he was stationed at the time. He said that if the United States is one nation under God, then it is not only under God’s grace and protection, but also God’s judgment (Military.com, May 12).

Table talk

Lunch at Cole Community Church in Boise, Idaho, is not an ordinary church potluck. The guest list is half Christian, half Muslim. The meat is lamb, cooked according to the Muslim halal style. The meal is a “peace feast,” started by Nick and Laura Armstrong, who had lived in predominantly Muslim countries for many years and were startled by the animosity toward Muslims they discovered upon their return to the United States. The purpose of the meals is for those gathered to talk about their faiths, not to argue about them. People ask each other questions like, “What do you believe God expects of you here on Earth? What do you wish people/the community understood about your faith?” (Idaho Statesman, April 1).

Chair in atheism

Lou Appignani is donating $2.2 million to the University of Miami to endow a chair for the “study of atheism, humanism and secular ethics.” Appignani, an 83-year-old Floridian, said, “I’m trying to eliminate discrimination against atheists.” Militant atheist Richard Dawkins lauded this endowment, saying, “It’s a very bold step of the University of Miami, and I hope there will be others” (Patheos, May 20).

Welcome to Islamberg

American Bikers United Against Jihad spent months recruiting bikers for a ride through Islamberg, New York, an exclusively Muslim town, in an attempt to call attention to what it considers a homegrown jihadist threat. Only five bikers showed up, but 400 people turned out for a counterdemonstration. Once the bikers had passed, the demonstrators were welcomed by Islamberg residents with food, speeches, and music. The majority of the citizens of Islamberg are African Americans (Guardian, May 16).

Making music to the end

Jane Little died at age 87 doing what she had been doing for the past 71 years—playing bass with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. She joined the symphony at age 16 in 1945 and was known as the longest-tenured orchestra musician in the world. A frail and injury-prone woman, the bass was an unlikely instrument for her to play. She collapsed while the symphony was performing “There’s No Business Like Show Business” as the encore at a pops concert. Members of the bass section carried her backstage; she never regained consciousness. “Hollywood could not have scripted it better,” said one viola player of her death (Washington Post, May 16).