Truth in fiction: Fiction often captures a historical moment. Already a number of novels have appeared that deal with the 9/11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath: John Updike, Terrorist; Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; Jay McInerney, The Good Life; and Lorraine Adams, Harbor (Chicago Tribune, July 15).
Hot air: Although Americans drive just 30 percent of the world’s nearly 700 million motor vehicles, they account for nearly half of the greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles worldwide. The reason? Americans drive farther and their cars get lower mileage and use fuel with more carbon content (Los Angeles Times, June 28).
Most valuable payer: Dwyane Wade was the Most Valuable Player in the recent NBA basketball finals, in which his team, the Miami Heat, beat the Dallas Mavericks. Wade, who just completed his third year of professional basketball, is already being compared to Michael Jordan, the best player of all time. But perhaps Wade should be known for another trait: he tithes 10 percent of his $3.03 million income to his home church in Chicago (www.time.com).
God squad:The Colorado Rockies baseball organization wants players with character, and that appears to mean they are looking for evangelical Christians. At least three major league teams are sponsoring promotional "faith days," appealing to church groups with discounted tickets and the prospect of entertainment by Christian musicians and speakers (www.thenation.com, June 2).
Congregants at a church in Georgia did a double take during a recent sermon. Filmed with a high-definition camera, pastor Andy Stanley's face on the screen was so lifelike that some thought he was there with them. Not so. "Godcasting” is when churches use remote feeds, either live or by DVD, to bring a pastor's sermon to several congregations at the same time (Christian Science Monitor, May 18).
Americans produce 472 billion pounds of trash each year, including 96 billion pounds of wasted food—more than 300 pounds per person. (Discover, June).
How can you tell if someone is Lutheran? When the minister cracks a joke during the sermon, a Lutheran will smile right out loud (Dennis Fakes, the Joyful Noiseletter).
A Century reader reported seeing a church sign in western New York that said, “If you’re through with sin, come on in.” Somebody wrote below it: “If not, phone 425-XXXX.”
Jonathan Tasini, a Jew who is running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, says that U.S. Jews must speak out about American foreign policy on Israel. He believes "there will only be a just peace agreement when a Palestinian state—a strong, vibrant, prosperous, independent state, able to provide jobs and a good life for its people—thrives alongside Israel.” (rachelswords.org).
After scripture scholar Phyllis Trible lectured on the story in Judges 19 about a woman who was gang-raped, murdered and dismembered, a woman came up to Trible weeping, saying that she too had been raped, and didn’t know the Bible contained "her" story. Rather than being offended by its inclusion, the woman felt blessed by it. “You never throw away any part of the Bible,” says Trible. “You never know when . . . it will relate to a reader.”
The hidden Jesus: After the end of the Japanese occupation of Burma in 1945, the minority population of Christians feared for their lives in the face of some Buddhist mobs. Myanmar theologian Anna May Chain said that during this time her family was taken in by friendly Muslims—the males were hidden in a mosque and the females were led from one safe house to another. Later they were sheltered in a prison where Buddhists jeopardized their own well-being by bringing them food, medicine and clothes. They finally found refuge in a convent run by Catholics, then considered “outsiders” by Protestants. At this very vulnerable time in the life of her family, said Chain, Muslims, Buddhists and Catholics were like Jesus to them, offering hospitality and charity (address at the World Council of Churches Ninth Assembly).
Dr. Spin: A seminary class was debating whether the Garden of Eden story (Gen. 2-3) reinforces or resists the oppression of women when one student interjected: “It’s all just spin anyway. You can spin the text any way you want.” But Professor Jacqueline Lapsley, ruminating on the unlikely story about Balaam and his donkey (Num. 22-24), says two principles of biblical interpretation can guard against spin: our interpretation shouldn’t reinforce our own self-interest, and it should serve the larger purposes of God, that is, God’s love “for Israel, for the church and for the whole world” (Interpretation, January).
Military action against Iran is unwarranted and unwise: one, a nuclear threat is not imminent. Two, the U.S. and Israel’s military superiority should discourage Iran from aggressive action. Three, the destruction of Iran’s nuclear facilities would be difficult: they are widely dispersed, with many in underground bunkers. Four, Iran has the means with which to retalliate. Five, Iran could embargo its oil and plunge the world into deep depression. Finally, military action would strengthen hardline Islamists (Richard Falk, the Nation, Feb. 13).
Reallivepreacher: "The lion's roar came out of the age of enlightenment. It was the roar of freedom. It was the roar of truth. It was the roar of the victor standing over the body of his vanquished foe. It was an angry roar, and the lion had good reason to be angry." Read more of Gordon Atkinson's new essay here.