Century Marks

Century Marks

In the attic

James Fenimore Cooper Jr. and Margaret Bendroth are rummaging through church attics and basements in the New England states, especially Massachusetts, looking for records of early American life. Some churches are reticent to part with old documents, but the two historians point out how vulnerable the documents are and offer to keep them in a climate-controlled rare book room at the Congregational Library in Boston. Among their findings: a church in Middleboro possessed an application for membership submitted in 1773 by a slave (New York Times, July 29).

Bless this food

Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, got some attention on social media for giving a 15 percent discount to customers who prayed before eating. The practice had its supporters, but others saw an irony in rewarding people who disregard Jesus’ teaching against public displays of piety. Others wondered if the restaurant would honor prayers by people of non-Christian religions. The restaurant discontinued the practice after a lawsuit was threatened, charging the restaurant with violating nonprayers’ civil rights (NPR, August 1).

Elite rules

Since 1988 there have been ten major party candidates for the office of U.S. president. Except for Bob Dole and John McCain, they all attended elite, private colleges, and seven of those eight also went to elite professional schools. All eight of them went to Harvard or Yale at some point—both of the Bushes, Dukakis, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Obama, and Romney. Of the 14 presidential nominees between 1948 and 1984, the heyday of public universities, only three went to elite private colleges and only two attended Harvard or Yale, with a third candidate having gone to Princeton. Harry Truman didn’t go to college and Barry Goldwater didn’t finish college. Lyndon Johnson went to Southwest Texas State Teachers College, Richard Nixon to Whittier College, and Ronald Reagan to Eureka College (William Deresiewicz, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite, Free Press).

Txt msg

A Polish priest claims he is receiving messages on his cell phone from Satan after having failed to exorcise a demon from a teenage girl. One of the texts read: “She will not come out of this hell. She’s mine. Anyone who prays for her will die.” The priest said the devil and his followers aren’t shy about using technology, but often their actions aren’t identified as the work of the devil (Daily Mail, July 29).

Finding my religion

The conventional wisdom has been that going to college leads people away from organized religion, and that was true for those born in the first part of the 20th century. But it’s not true for recent generations, says sociologist Philip Schwadel at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. In fact, it’s the least-educated members of Generation X—people born roughly between 1965 and 1980—who are most likely to leave religion. “Americans born in the late 1920s and ’30s who graduated from college were twice as likely to drop out of religion than people who didn’t graduate from college,” said Schwadel. However, for the generation born in the 1960s, there’s no difference between those who did and those who did not go to college in their likelihood of religious affiliation. Among those born in the 1970s, “those without a college education are the most likely to drop out.” Schwadel did not include millennials—Americans roughly between the ages 18 and 30—in the study because, he said, it’s too soon to tell if they will settle on a religious identity (RNS).