Century Marks

Century Marks

Occupy success

Critics of the Occupy Wall Street movement say it failed largely because of a lack of organization and focus. Jeff Madrick argues that the movement was a success not so much in changing policies as in raising public awareness of inequities. “We are the 99 percent” will remain a political slogan every bit as galvanizing for its time as “Hell no, we won’t go” was for the antiwar protesters of the 1960s and 1970s, he says. Civil rights demonstrations and antiwar movements were criticized in their day for being unfocused, but they led to enduring change (Harper’s, March).

Papal powers

Liberal Catholic theologian Hans Küng points out the Ro­man Catholic Church got along without the papacy as we know it today for a millennium. It was Pope Gregory VII in the 11th century who gave Catholics three enduring elements of the Roman system: “a centralist-absolutist papacy, compulsory clericalism and the obligation of celibacy for priests and other secular clergy.” Küng argues that the church needs a pope who knows how deep the church’s crisis is and how to lead the church out of it. He calls for the church to hold another council along the lines of Vatican II, this time gathering a “representative assembly of bishops, priests and lay people” (New York Times, February 27).

Abandoned

The number of South Korean seniors who commit suicide has nearly quadrupled in recent years. The country has the highest rate of suicide by the elderly in the developed world. This trend is attributed to the fraying of the traditional Confucian social contract, according to which the elderly were taken care of by their children. In the runaway South Korean economy, many younger people have moved to urban areas, leaving their parents behind in towns occupied mostly by older people. South Korea had nothing like Social Security until 1988, so many older Koreans aren’t covered by the program. The government refuses to support older people when it deems that their children have the means to care for them (New York Times, February 16).

Darwin’s surprise

In early editions of On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin didn’t express any religious beliefs, but he ended the book’s third edition with a hymn in praise of God. He was in awe of the fact that “from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved.” He wrote that the Creator had originally breathed life “into a few forms or into one.” Darwin’s 19th-century critics might not have been so surprised at this expression of religious wonder if they had known about the one book Darwin took with him on his voyages: Milton’s Paradise Lost (Roger Rosenblatt, Kayak Morning, Ecco).

Sans dogma

The service begins with a song, but instead of playing a hymn, the band plays “Don’t Stop Me Now,” by Queen. There is a reading, time for silent reflection and time for greeting others.  This is the pattern at an atheist “church,” which meets in a deconsecrated church in Islington, north of London. In place of a sermon on a recent Sunday, a Cambridge University physicist talked about wonder. An offering is taken to care for the facility, and the group intends to organize for community service in the future. Its motto: “Live better, help often, wonder more.” An enthusiastic participant said, “It’s got all the good things about church without the terrible dogma” (Guardian, February 3).