The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) provided a pleasant respite from the normal summer news of denominational wrangling over homosexuality. The PCUSA General Assembly actually talked about God. Delegates last month voted to “receive” (rather than approve or send back to committee) a study document that encourages churches to explore various words and images for the Trinity.
A few years ago, after government officials decided to return some unearthed Indian artifacts to the present-day descendants of their original owners rather than ship them to a museum, a Saturday Night Live spoof put this act of generosity in perspective: “As for the rest of North America, we’ll be keeping that.”
Ten months ago, the nation was riveted by televised images of people, most of them African Americans, fleeing the floodwaters in New Orleans. It was obvious that poor black neighborhoods were the most vulnerable when Hurricane Katrina hit and the levees broke, and that blacks had the fewest resources with which to cope with the disaster.
Martyrdom was part of the founding of the Shi‘ite branch of Islam, which presently dominates Iranian life. Following that tradition, children as young as 12 were sent to the front lines during the war with Iraq in the 1980s to clear minefields with their bodies.
Several of the United States’ allies remain among the world’s most egregious violators of human rights, according to a recent report from a nonpartisan federal panel, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
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).