Did you know? National Public Radio has been under pressure from conservatives for its alleged liberal bias, but Jeffrey A. Dvorkin, NPR ombudsman, notes that NPR draws on many think tanks for its commentary. A tally of commentaries by think tank experts in 2005 indicates that interviewees more often came from the right than the left: 239 from the right, 141 from the left (www.npr.org, December 14).
“When I went to Washington as the pope’s envoy just before the outbreak of the [Iraq] war, [President Bush] told me, ‘Don’t worry, your eminence. We’ll be quick and do well in Iraq.’ Unfortunately, the facts have demonstrated afterward that things took a different course—not rapid and not favorable. Bush was wrong.”—Retired Cardinal Pio Laghi, recalling a conversation with President Bush on March 5, 2003
“We can’t completely separate politics and faith. They rise from the same wellspring: the concern about the distance between what is and what ought to be.”—Tim Kaine, a Catholic and a Democrat, who was elected governor of Virginia in November (Newsweek, November 21).
Death to the death penalty: Polls show that support for the death penalty among lay Catholics is declining. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, D.C., acknowledges that theology doesn’t seem to be driving this trend. Rather, it is more the consequence of the number of cases in which convicted inmates have been proved innocent after DNA testing (USA Today, November 8).
Bryan Rehm sued the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district over its requirement that intelligent design be taught as an alternative to evolution in the ninth-grade biology class. Rehm says he's been accused of atheism. “They don’t know that I’m the co-director of the children’s choir at church, or that I run the music at the second service, or that my wife and I run vacation Bible school,” he said. He maintains that intelligent design is not credible science, and that evolution does not explain away the existence of a divine Creator (beliefnet.com).
Leap of imagination: Christopher Herbert, the Anglican bishop of St. Alban’s, is troubled by strident Christian voices. “There is a noisy, almost angry, literalism around desires to define and codify who is, or who is not, a ‘real Christian,’ and what seems to accompany this is a plodding, narrow biblicism which is punitive in tone and joyless in character.” Apprehending the beauty and truth of God, which involves paradox and apparent contradiction, takes faith, but also playfulness and imagination (Anglican Theological Review, summer).
Lion and lamb: Pope Benedict XVI and liberal Catholic Hans Küng met in 1962 when they were both young and progressive. Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, took a turn to the right and may have played a role when Küng was later stripped of his privilege to teach on the grounds that his theology was incompatible with Catholic doctrine. Küng called Ratzinger a “grand inquisitor.” But after a recent four-hour meeting, Küng said the pope isn’t as reactionary as many assume, and needs to be given time. The two discussed the notion that science and religion are not incompatible, and the role of the church in a secular world (New York Times, September 27).
Rising tides: Environmentalist (and Century editor at large) Bill McKibben reports that according to one prediction up to 150 million people worldwide could become “environmental refugees” by the year 2050 because of rising waters. There is evidence “that tropical storms are lasting half again as long, and spinning winds 50 percent more powerful, than just a few decades ago. The only plausible cause: the ever-warmer tropical seas on which these storms thrive” (Newsday, Sept. 14).To our readers: When you access amazon.com from the Century's Web site, the Century earns a percentage of each sale. Thank you!
Carpetbaggers: Christian Exodus is a movement of politically active believers who wish to establish a government that operates on biblical principles—as they interpret them. The group has its eye on several counties in South Carolina (it is mum about which ones), and hopes members move there and take over the city councils, school boards and sheriffs’ offices. The long-term goal? A takeover of the whole state. (Los Angeles Times, August 28).To our readers: When you access amazon.com from the Century's Web site, the Century earns a percentage of each sale. Thank you!
Not bread alone: While most media sources are reporting the famine in Niger, few of them mention the issue of population growth, says John F. Rohe. Niger has 12 million people, but its population is projected to grow to 53 million by 2050 despite widespread loss of life. Niger's fertility rate—8 children per woman—is the highest in the world. While food aid is urgently needed, it must be accompanied by funding for family planning (www.caglecartoons.com). To our readers: When you access amazon.com from the Century's Web site, the Century earns a percentage of each sale. Thank you!
“America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior,” argues Bill McKibben (Harper’s Magazine, August). Americans have hijacked the teachings of Jesus that call for "a radical, voluntary, and effective reordering of power relationships, based on the principle of love.” The dominant American theologies of end-times obsession and consumer-oriented religiosity “undercut Jesus, . . . deaden his call, and . . . silence him.”
Some of the CEOs accused of unethical business practices are also “born-again” Christians: Richard Scrushy of HealthSouth, Ken Lay of Enron and Bernard Ebbers of WorldCom. How did they justify actions that are unethical, if not criminal? Robert S. McElvaine (Chicago Tribune, July 17) explains that while Hindus believe in karma—what one does in this life matters for the next life, some Christians believe all you need to do is "accept Jesus and then you can do whatever the hell you want."
Malcolm Gladwell, author of the popular book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, was born in Canada to an English father and a Jamaican mother. He did not look black until he let his hair grow out Afro-style. With the Afro he started getting “stopped and frisked on the streets of America for no other reason than looking like a black American.” This experience of racial profiling was the inspiration for his most recent book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, which delves into the psychology of the “unconscious mental processes we all use to size up a person or a situation with just a few telling details” (Black Issues Book Review, July-August).
The preferred form of worship in many congregations consists of a welcome, 20 minutes of singing contemporary music, then a special musical performance and a sermon. Whatever else happens is secondary to “disseminating information people need in order to gain more control over their lives” and to ensure that they achieve “individual happiness. (Never mind that control is an illusion and happiness is transitory. See Ecclesiastes.)” Sally Morgenthaler (Theology, News & Notes, Spring).