Handel this: Handel’s Messiah is most often sung during the Christmas season, but Handel intended it to be performed during Holy Week. In his lifetime the work was seldom sung in churches but was sung in playhouses, where opera was performed. When the influence of Puritans in 18th-century England led to the banning of operas during Lent, oratorios like the Messiah became a popular alternative form of entertainment (Frank Burch Brown in Interpretation, January).
Local bankers: Move Your Money is an online grassroots movement encouraging people to take their money out of banks that are “too big to fail.” It is appealing to people who are angry at big banks for predatory lending practices, for receiving government bailout money and for giving huge bonuses to their employees. Although some community banks have also failed, they typically are more conservative in the way they use their money and are often more connected to local businesses and needs (Move Your Money).
Up with religion: Religion is now the most popular theme studied by historians, according to a member survey by the American Historical Association. Culture had previously taken the top spot in surveys over the past 15 years. A decade ago only 2 percent of job openings and fellowships posted with the AHA listed religion among the desired specializations; last year, 10 percent listed religion (Inside Higher Ed, December 21).
How wide is God's mercy? One of Shane Claiborne's non-Christian friends asked if Claiborne thought the friend was going to hell. "I hope not," replied Claiborne. "It will be hard to enjoy heaven without you." If we "do not believe God's grace is big enough to save the whole world," says Claiborne, "we should at least pray that it is" (www.esquire.com).
“I take the ones I can afford and then trust in the Lord.” —Robert Brown, 60, from North Carolina, who has heart disease and emphysema, on coping with the rising cost of prescription drugs
Bravado is a killer: By the time Americans reach the age of 85, women outnumber men 2.2 to 1. Boys and men are conditioned to be tough. Hence, they are much more reluctant to seek medical help. “The cultural reasons for not going to the doctor are killing men,” says Dr. Marianne J. Legato, author of Why Men Die First (Web MD).
Wedding on wheels: If you don’t have time to go to church to be married, you can hire Darrell Best of Shelbyville, Illinois. He’ll come to you with his wedding chapel on wheels. Converted from an old fire engine, the chapel has several pews, plexiglass windows that look like stained glass and a sound system disguised as a pipe organ. The fee is a mere $200 plus $2 per mile roundtrip (ABCNews.com).
Our common lot: Ethicist Daniel Callahan asks why it is that the U.S. is the only developed country that doesn't provide universal health-care insurance. One reason is that Americans don't have a strong tradition of thinking about the common good. "Suffering, disease, and death are our common lot," argues Callahan. "They ought to be dealt with as our common problem . . . in the recognition that we all have bodies that go awry and fail" (Commonweal, October 9).
God for a change: The Shona people of Zimbabwe have many names for God. Janice McLaughlin's favorite is Chipindikure, which means "the One who turns things upside down." It comes from the word kupinduka, which means "to be uprooted." Says McLaughlin, a longtime Maryknoll missionary: "What an amazing concept to explain God's presence in the often unwanted and unplanned changes that happen to us throughout our lives" (Ostriches, Dung Beetles, and Other Spiritual Masters, Orbis).
Pill popping: Sales of the antidepressant drug Cymbalta are up 14 percent since the summer of 2008. Unfortunately, some of the people who might benefit the most from the drug aren't getting it. A study of homeowners in Philadelphia on the brink of foreclosure revealed that 37 percent suffered from severe clinical depression, yet nearly half said they were too poor to buy prescription drugs (Toronto Star, September 2).
Pain too shall pass: The great French painter August Renoir suffered from painful arthritis in his later years, and had to strap a brush to his paralyzed fingers to do his creating. When friends suggested he give up painting, Renoir responded, “Pain passes but beauty remains forever” (Paul Coutinho, S.J., in Just As You Are).
Books to change lives: Hakim Hopkins was in juvenile detention when his mother sent him a copy of the classic Native Son, by Richard Wright. Reading the book changed Hopkins’s life and gave him a vocation: he runs an independent bookstore in inner-city Philadelphia with the name Black & Nobel (playing off the names of both Barnes & Noble and the Nobel Prize). A banner outside his store advertises, “We ship to prisons.” One customer who purchases books for her father in prison reported that he reads the books she sends him real fast—though he wasn’t a reader when he was out on the street.
Racial profiling: When President Obama was in the Illinois Senate, he worked on a racial profiling bill that led to state traffic studies on who gets pulled over by police. The latest study reveals a consistent pattern: 24.7 percent of white drivers who consent to a search of their vehicle have contraband, while only 15.4 percent of minority drivers do. Yet minority drivers were twice as likely to be asked to consent to a search of their vehicle (Chicago Tribune, July 26).
Called to journalism: Barbara Ehrenreich, giving the commencement address at the journalism school of the University of California at Berkeley, warned graduates that they are embarking on a career in a dying industry. Still, she challenged the graduates: “As long as there is a story to be told, an injustice to be exposed, a mystery to be solved, we will find a way to do it. A recession won’t stop us. A dying industry won’t stop us. Even poverty won’t stop us” (SFGate.com, May 31).