If the economic recession has made people more receptive to spiritual concerns and theological insights, that interest has not translated into sales of religion books (see Marcia Nelson’s report in this issue).
A lot of outrage, including threats of physical violence, has been directed at executives of the American International Group and other financial-services firms. The executives are perceived as having triggered the world wide economic crisis by their reliance on subprime mortgage–backed securities and on credit default swaps (something few people understand even after hearing them explained).
Many excellent scholars study Islam. Many other scholars explore the changing face of global Christianity. Rarely do those experts look at the two worlds—Muslim and Christian—side by side, which is a pity: when we do, we see some remarkable parallels and connections that shed light on both.
North is North, and South is South, and never the twain shall meet. Well, actually, they do. In a globalized world, people move freely, carrying ideas and practices with them, and some of the resulting meetings and mergers can be surprising, even bracing.
The U.S defense budget, always outsized, has become even more bloated in recent years. In the past eight years military spending has nearly doubled, with much of the increase devoted to financing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A year ago Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University and Linda Bilmes of Harvard predicted that the Iraq war could cost the U.S. $3 trillion.
Warren Buffett, the second wealthiest man in the world, likes to project an image of himself as a man who values responsible lending and affordable housing for people of modest means. A different picture is portrayed by Clayton Homes, the country’s largest builder and lender of manufactured housing, which was bought in 2003 by Berkshire Hathaway, the investment conglomerate controlled by Buffett. An investigation led by the Center for Public Integrity and the Seattle Times has discovered that the company engages in predatory loan practices and charges exorbitant interest rates and add-on fees, which trap many owners in homes they can’t afford that can’t be resold or refinanced (Center for Public Integrity, April 3).