"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree . . .” With those words the writer of Luke’s Gospel acknowledged the political backdrop of Jesus’ life. The Roman Empire was the world’s unrivaled superpower. Its influence extended throughout the Mediterranean, and it had developed the capacity to enforce its will in such remote outposts as Judea.
The U.S.’s approach to the Middle East frequently seems less policy than fated inevitability. The U.S. requires oil from that region for its survival, therefore it underwrites despotic and corrupt regimes, and bears the consequences of those alliances. Yet neither the need nor the alliances are written in the stars.
The alarm has been sounded over the future of reading. We are rapidly becoming a culture of the image, not the word, we are told. Those who have been saturated in the hyperkinetic visual stimulus of electronic media are losing patience with the page and the more linear habits of thought needed to follow communication structured by printed words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters.
The U.S. Post Office says it will need $2.5 billion for additional security in response to the biological war being waged against Americans through the mail system. The airlines have already received a $15 billion bailout in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
Mubarak Awad, a Greek Orthodox Catholic influenced by Quakers and Mennonites, could have become the Palestinian Gandhi. After his father was killed by Jewish freedom fighters in 1948, his mother taught her children to turn the other cheek. In 1983 Awad opened the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in Jerusalem, with the aim of fomenting mass nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation. His peaceful efforts got him kicked out of the country in 1988. He now teaches nonviolence at American University. He remains optimistic about the prospects of nonviolent resistance in the Middle East, but fears the current conflict between Israel and Gaza is driving more people into the extremist camp (Newsweek, August 11).