The earliest occurrence of what church historians call a jeremiad happened before there was a United States. In 1670, only 50 years after the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Reverend Samuel Danforth offered a harsh assessment of the colonists’ “errand into the wilderness.”
The sudden, hideous explosion of oil in the Gulf of Mexico is the latest reminder of who we really are. By we, I mean:British Petroleum: Broken Pipe? Bigtime Pollution?Our government: The Bush administration's constant deregulation is a factor, but Barack Obama avoids offending the big oil and coal companies. We as in us: Every politician in America notices that Americans scream any time the price of oil begins to rise.
Once upon a time, Europe lived in an age of faith, which found buoyant expression in the massive popularity of pilgrimage. Pilgrimage shrines flourished across Europe, some drawing millions of followers each year, and new pilgrimage destinations emerged regularly to meet the demand.
It’s tempting to blame partisan politics for last summer’s debacle over “death panels” and the very idea of doctors and patients holding conversations about the end of life. But the truth is: these conversations are difficult. Although some people welcome them, others approach the subject of death cautiously. Many of us would rather not explore what awaits us in the final years or weeks of life. Perhaps this reluctance explains why only one in five Americans has completed an advance directive for medical care.
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran had his brother hand deliver a check for $400,000 last month to Tehran’s only Jewish hospital with the message that “our government intends to unite all ethnic groups and religions, so we decided to assist you.” In September Rouhani’s administration had issued a Rosh Hashanah greeting to Jews around the world. Though some question Rouhani’s motives, his behavior is a refreshing contrast to that of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is a Holocaust denier (New York Times, February 6).