Century Marks

Century Marks

No more payback

When the patriarch Joseph revealed himself to his brothers in Egypt, he had a chance to retaliate against them for selling him into slavery. Payback—an eye for an eye—was the ruling ethic up to this point in the stories of Genesis. Instead, Joseph forgave his brothers and looked out for their welfare, ending the tit for tat. Old Testament scholar David Noel Freedman was once asked to sum up the whole Bible in a sentence. After a moment of reflection he said, “There is forgiveness” (Interpretation, July).

Heartache

Long-lasting loneliness can make humans sick and even cause death. Emotional isolation and lack of intimacy is as high a risk factor for death as smoking. The diseases that can be caused or exacerbated by loneliness are Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer. Loneliness is a “feeling that wreaks havoc on the body and brain” and has become “a public health crisis,” says Judith Shulevitz (New Republic, May 13).

Lost ethic

In a recent statement Pope Francis attributed a growing financial and economic crisis worldwide to a loss of solidarity within the human family and a rejection of an ethic of the common good. The income of a minority is growing exponentially, while that of the majority is crumbling, he charged. The free market economy denies the state the necessary right to regulate the economy for the common good. The pope commended the words of St. John Chry­sostom to financial experts and political leaders: “Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs” (VIS, May 16).

Biased how?

Brooke Gladstone points out that political bias is not the only kind of bias in the news media. There is a commercial bias that prefers new or dramatic stories over less exciting ones in order to get viewers and readers. There is a bad news bias, based on the notion that people are drawn to stories that make us afraid. An access bias makes reporters tread lightly on stories that might jeopardize their ability to get information from powerful sources. A visual bias prefers stories with good images. A narrative bias favors stories that have a beginning, middle and ending. A fairness bias tries to give equal weight to all perspectives, even though some may be crazy or even false (Saturday Evening Post, May/June).

Rare case

A hard-line Muslim cleric received an 11-year suspended sentence last month for tearing up and burning a Bible in Egypt. His son was given a suspended sentence of eight years for the same incident. The two were ordered to pay a fine of 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($700). The ruling can be appealed. The cleric ripped up a Bible and burned it during a rally last fall by ultraconservative Salafi Muslims in front of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, protesting an anti-Islam film produced in the United States. It’s rare in Egypt for an attack on a faith other than Islam to be prosecuted (AP).