Century Marks

Beyond Belief: All references to God in the Oscar-nominated movie The Queen have been bleeped out in a version distributed to Delta and some other airlines. The president of the distribution company said it was a mistake made by an overzealous employee who had been told to edit out all profanities and blasphemies (USA Today, January 25).
February 20, 2007
Talking about Jesus: Jonathan Miller, Democratic state treasurer in Kentucky, is considering a run for governor. He has developed a stump speech that works well in a conservative, religious state like Kentucky—it talks about Jesus. Nothing startling there, except that Miller is Jewish. Miller says that when he wants to talk to poor people about how he would help them he keeps getting asked, “What’s your position on gay marriage?” (Forward, December 15)
February 6, 2007
High calling: When Harris Interactive took its annual poll in 2006 measuring the prestige granted different professions, the top three were firefighters, doctors and nurses. Clergy came in eighth, behind scientists, teachers, military officers and police officers. Ministers have declined in prestige only 1 percentage point since 1977, when the survey began. Firefighters weren’t even included in the survey before 2003 (Calling, Winter).
January 23, 2007
Wages of war: No one can predict the long-term consequences of war, but not until last summer did the U.S. stop collecting a 3 percent tax on long-distance telephone calls that was begun in 1898 to help pay for the Spanish-American War—a war that lasted only several months (Vital Speeches of the Day, December).
January 9, 2007
“As Christians, we believe that war is not inevitable; people choose war and people can choose peace. . . . ‘Blessed are peacemakers,’ Jesus said.”—Lebanese Catholic cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir on conflict in the Middle East
December 26, 2006
Charitable giving: An alternative Christmas gift is available through Charity Checks. Here’s how it works: you choose an amount and make the payment online. The recipient gets to choose the charity to which the gift goes. The giver gets the charitable tax deduction. The charity gets the donation (www.charitychecks.us).
December 12, 2006
Real money: By one estimate, the war in Iraq may eventually cost the United States $2 trillion. Which raises the question: how else could we have used this money? According to Nicholas D. Kristof (New York Times, October 24), it is four times the amount of money needed to stabilize the Social Security system for the next 75 years, and it is four times the amount needed to provide health care insurance for all uninsured Americans for the next decade. Every minute we stay in Iraq costs another $380,000.
November 28, 2006
Real money: By one estimate, the war in Iraq may eventually cost the United States $2 trillion. Which raises the question: how else could we have used this money? According to Nicholas D. Kristof (New York Times, October 24), it is four times the amount of money needed to stabilize the Social Security system for the next 75 years, and it is four times the amount needed to provide health care insurance for all uninsured Americans for the next decade. Every minute we stay in Iraq costs another $380,000.
November 28, 2006
Gotcha—take one: When member of Congress Lynn Westmoreland (R., Ga.), who cosponsored a bill to display the Ten Commandments in the U.S. Capitol, appeared on The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert asked him to name all ten. Caught off guard, Westmoreland had trouble naming three (Chicago Tribune, October 22; interview appears at youtube.com).
November 14, 2006
First Pluto, now limbo: The Catholic concept of limbo is about to be put out of business. Pope Benedict XVI is expected to disavow the place where unbaptized babies and those who lived before the time of Christ were thought to live for all eternity—on the limbus of heaven; that is, on its border, according to speculation by St. Augustine (Philadelphia Inquirer, October 6).
October 31, 2006
Take this to court: People who think the Ten Commandments should be displayed in public places have a new option: having them tattooed on their arms or other visible places on their bodies. Check out the religious tattoos at www.religioustattoos.net.
October 17, 2006
Knit together: Jacqueline Novogratz tells the story of a favorite sweater that she wore for years. When she was 12 she finally donated the sweater to Goodwill. Then, 12 years later, she was jogging in Rwanda and saw a small boy wearing a sweater. She ran up to him and took a look at the collar: her name was on it! For Novogratz, the experience confirmed the interconnectedness of the human family (Atlantic Monthly, October).
October 3, 2006
A billion here, a billion there: Every two years or so the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi issues this claim: he could eliminate global terrorism by creating a “spiritual force field” with donations from billionaires (Chicago Sun-Times, August 29).
September 19, 2006
Eyes to see: When two of Motti Tamam’s brothers were killed by a Hezbollah rocket, the Israeli asked that his brothers’ eyes be available for transplant. One of the recipients was an Arab, Nikola Elias, who was blind in one eye and had little vision in the other. The two men later met, shook hands and exchanged phone numbers (ABC News, August 10).
September 5, 2006
How dare he? When retired Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke in a Seattle cathedral, the audience was prepared to applaud him for his part in ending the apartheid regime in South Africa. However, people were apparently miffed when Tutu criticized members of the congregation for not bringing their Bibles to church. Few shook his hand as they left the cathedral (Thomas Trzyna, Blessed Are the Pacifists, Herald Press, forthcoming).
August 22, 2006

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