Smokin’ hymns: The Anglican Church in Jamaica is adding to its hymnals some tunes by reggae stars Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, including Marley’s hit “One Love” and Tosh’s “Psalm 27.” Both men were Rastafarians—a group that mixes Old Testament prophecy, Afrocentric social advocacy and the sacramental smoking of marijuana (RNS).
Foiled by do-gooders: After a man robbed a bank in Marietta, Georgia, one Saturday morning, he attempted to blend into a group of volunteers outside a church who were unloading food for distribution to other churches. When he started losing bills tucked under his shirt, two of the volunteers confronted the robber and held him until police arrived (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 12).
Mooned: The pastor of Times Square Church is trying to get a state court to block a billboard company from displaying certain ads on the Broadway building that houses the church and its school and day-care center. The ads are for a bidet company, and they show naked backsides with smiley faces on them (Redeye, July 10).
Where the money is: The Congressional Research Service reported that CEOs are paid, on average, 179 times more than rank-and-file workers—almost double the 90-to-one ratio of 1994. If the federal minimum wage had risen as much as executive pay has since 1990, it would now be $22.61 an hour, according to the Institute for Policy Studies. Instead, it increased to $5.85 on July 24, the first increase in a decade (AP).
Where would Jesus bike? Bicycling advocates in Chicago are seeking to close a network of boulevards on Sundays from May to October so they can be used by bikers, roller bladders and skaters. They’ve met resistance from some churches along the route. One of the pastors adamantly opposed to the plan is calling for a compromise—wait till Sunday afternoon to close the streets (Chicago Reader, June 22).
Icon you not: In June, an image of Jesus could seen on a car window in Texas, the word Allah was visible in a sliced tomato in Britain, the face of God could be seen on the ceiling of a Tennessee church and Elvis’s profile was sighted on a rock in Colorado (Chicago Sun-Times, June 19).
Poetic resemblance: Jewish theologian Neil Gillman once asked an Israeli astronomer, “Was the big bang loud?” Somewhat indignantly, the astronomer replied: “Of course not, there was no air so there was no sound.” When he found out that Gillman is a theologian, the astronomer smiled and said, “You know what? Big bang is much more theology than it is science. Both are poetry” (Cross Currents, Spring).
Silent retreat: Brian Doyle, sometime contributor to the Christian Century, reports that his sister, who lives in a monastery, once went on a summer-long silent retreat. He asked her what her first words were when she broke her silence. She grinned and said “Pass the butter,” and when he complied, she laughed: those actually were her first words after the retreat. He also asked her if it had been hard to remain silent. At first it was, she said, but then it had become a prayer (U.S. Catholic, June).
Holy hilarity: The Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church in Wichita, Kansas, celebrates Holy Humor Sunday the week after Easter because “God played the best practical joke of all on death, on Satan, in raising Jesus.” This year one skit involved a taste test to find the best grape juice for communion. The panelists in the skit were embarrassed to learn they had chosen “Real-Value Artificial Grape Drink from Wal-Mart” (Mennonite Weekly Review, April 23).
Spin zone: The Iraq war was not the first one to be encouraged by sectors of the media. The Spanish-American War was set off when an explosion destroyed a U.S. warship while it was docked in Havana. Publisher William Randolph Hearst was itching for a fight with Spain. He sent hordes of reporters to Cuba to cover the explosion and within days was spinning the news to blame Spain. War against Spain was soon declared (Columbia Journalism Review, March/April).
Make videos, not war: Ava Lowery, 16, is a Methodist peace activist in Alexander City, Alabama. Rolling Stone magazine called her one of the great mavericks of 2006. Lowery makes homemade videos that juxtapose images from the Iraq war with popular music and provocative quotes (her Web site is www.peacetakescourage.com). One of her best-known videos is “WWJD?” which pairs the song “Jesus Loves Me” with images of grieving and wounded Iraqi children. (Chicago Tribune, April 4).
Party politics and piety: Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report is skeptical that Democrats can win over evangelical voters by using the right language. The Democrats had minimal impact on white evangelical voters in 2006, Rothenberg says. White evangelicals are more likely to change the Republican Party than to change parties (Roll Call, March 22).
Flat (and cool) earth society: In response to recent warnings by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) about the consequences of greenhouse-gas emissions, the conservative American Enterprise Institute is offering a $10,000 prize to scientists and economists who write articles which call attention to weaknesses of the IPCC report. In reporting this news, the Chronicle of Higher Education (March 2) said it is eagerly awaiting a patron who will offer “a reward for papers that discredit the spherical-earth theories that have been circulating for the past millennium or so.”
Casualties of war: Nearly half of the 3,000 members of the U.S. military who have died in Iraq have come from towns with fewer than 25,000 residents, and one in five have come from towns with fewer than 5,000 residents. Nearly three-fourths of the casualties are from towns where the per capita income is below the national average, and more than half come from towns where the percentage of people living in poverty is above the national average (Chicago Tribune, February 20).
Made in Japan: A Japanese Christian women’s leader has joined opposition political groups in urging the country’s health minister to resign because he said that women are “birth-giving machines.” “We Christian women cannot tolerate the idea that life is produced with machines. We believe that life is created by God and that we receive it,” said Junko Matsuura, chair of the Women’s Committee of the National Christian Council in Japan (Ecumenical News International).