In early December the security situation had improved enough in Bethlehem for busloads of tourists to come back to visit the birthplace of Jesus and other holy sights in Israel and the West Bank. That was about the only the good news from the Middle East. In the Gaza Strip, the standoff continued between the Israeli government and the Palestinians.
Christians persecuted in Iraq . . . Christian clergy murdered in Indonesia . . . churches destroyed in the Sudan. Around the world, stories of anti-Christian abuse and violence mount up, and are usually presented as irrefutable evidence of the violence of Islam.
Countless times over the past two decades, when this magazine had an especially important theological book to review or topic to explore, we contacted William C. Placher, one of our editors at large. And since he could not write all the articles we suggested, we would often have to move to the next thought: Who can write almost as well as Bill?
The election of Barack Obama offers hope that religion will play a more constructive role in the public arena rather than the largely divisive role it has played in recent years. One sign of hope is that Obama was able to narrow the Democrats’ so-called God gap.
A global survey by National Geographic indicates that people are eating better—more local food, less meat—yet diets in many countries are still unsustainable environmentally. The best country is India, since many people are vegetarians and those who aren’t tend not to eat beef, the most environmentally detrimental meat. Americans eat the most packaged and convenience foods and the least fruits and vegetables. Mexico ranked last in the rankings due to a diet high in chicken and beef. Japan, which eats the most seafood, is the most resistant to dietary change (National Geographic, September 29).