Mark's account of the beheading of John the Baptist is a sordid tale of anger and revenge, resentment and death. Jesus is never even mentioned. The key to understanding why this sorry saga shows up where it does in Mark's Gospel is its relation both to the growing fame of Jesus and the success of his disciples. John's death foreshadows Jesus' death and the deaths of many of the early followers.
Yielding to increasing pressure to show the Arab and Islamic worlds (and much of Europe) that he is sensitive to the plight of the Palestinian people, President George W. Bush recently declared his commitment to implement a “road map” to an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Meanwhile, a powerful domestic countermovement capable of undermining the U.S. initiative is well under way.
Last month the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) wisely voted to send a five-year study of the family back to the committee that drafted it for revision. “Living Faithfully with Families in Transition” was weak precisely where it hoped to be strong—as a social-justice statement about families.
Funding for the 1996 law that changed welfare had an expiration date of September 30, 2002. So last year, Congress had an opportunity to renew and revise the system. The House and Senate disagreed, however, about funding amounts and changes for the system.
Welfare reform has triggered experimentation by states, which are responsible for its administration, and copious research about what works. In this search for effective answers, the prevailing way of thinking about welfare and poverty has also cast a spotlight on religious congregations and the potential support they provide.