Century Marks

Century Marks

Spaghetti monster

A Massa­chu­setts woman who calls herself a Pastafarian has won the right to wear a colander on her head while having her driver’s license picture taken. She says that wearing the spaghetti strainer is a sign of her devotion to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which claims that an airborne “spaghetti monster” may have created the universe. The bizarre religion’s website says it first “came into the mainstream” in 2005. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles stipulates that people can wear headgear in license photos only for religious or medical reasons (Boston Globe, November 13).

String of beads

Harvard historian of religion Wilfred Cantwell Smith likes to talk about the origins of the rosary, the string of beads used for prayers by devout Catholics. Catholics got the idea for using prayer beads from Muslims, for whom prayer beads are quite common. The Muslims likely got the idea from Buddhists, and the Buddhists no doubt picked up the idea from Indian Brahmans, whose 108 beads account for the requisite number of Hindu prayers (Mark Juergens­meyer et al., God in the Tumult of the Global Square, University of California Press).

Reasoning together

The United States should leverage its success in brokering a nuclear deal with Iran to work at a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict, say Middle Eastern experts Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson. All the players need to be included: the United States, Russia, the Gulf Arab states, and Iran. Each of these nations will need to give up its preconceived notions. For the United States and Gulf states, this means letting go of regime change as a starting point; for Russia and Iran, that Assad must be propped up (Foreign Affairs, November/December).


Last August, Darryl Jackson Jr., a 24-year-old African American, was arrested in Valparaiso, Indiana, for resisting arrest and failure to identify himself. Jackson was approached by a white police officer while parked by a curb waiting for a friend. Criminal charges were dropped, but the mayor objected to the police action, and activists at Valparaiso University came to Jackson’s defense. Through mediation by citizens, the mayor, the sheriff, and Jackson had collaborative discussion, resulting in a joint statement of apology and reconciliation (WBEZ, November 10).

Latter-day saints

About 1,500 Latter-day Saints have submitted letters of resignation to the Mormon Church to protest a new policy barring children of married same-sex couples from being baptized until they are adults, movement organizers said on Sunday. The new church policy bars children of gay married couples from being baptized in the faith until they turn 18, leave their parents’ home, and disavow same-sex marriage or cohabitation. “The people in the Mormon Church are finding that this is not a Christ-centered policy,” said Brooke Swallow, one of the organizers of the protest. “This is a policy that is about the people at the top, and their views and prejudices, and they are not thinking through what this will do long-term to families” (Reuters).