Century Marks

Century Marks

Dirty laundry

The problem with much philanthropy is that it keeps in place a system that makes a few people wealthy and keeps many people in poverty, argues Peter Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett. The chairman of his own philanthropic foundation, he refers to “conscience laundering”: the very rich spread around a little of their wealth to help the poor and make themselves feel better (New York Times, July 26).

Veiled attack

A violent protest was sparked last month in a Parisian suburb when police checked the identity of a woman wearing Muslim garb, which is forbidden by French law. When the woman’s husband scuffled with the police, a larger battle with the police erupted, lasting two days. One teenager lost an eye in the conflict (The Week, August 2).

Voice for change

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for advocating the education of girls, made a case for education in a speech on her 16th birthday at the United Nations Youth Assembly. “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world,” she said. “Educa­tion is the only solution.” She called on the UN and world leaders to fund universal education for primary school­children by 2015. The UN estimates that 57 million primary school-age children don’t get an education, half of them from countries in conflict (Aljazeera, July 12).

Triumph of liberalism

Robert Bellah, a sociologist of religion, believes that liberal Protestantism has been eclipsed because it has been so successful. It has infiltrated and transformed secular humanist culture. The teaching in religious studies departments in many American universities has a liberal Protestant bent. The reform of other religions, including Catholicism at Vatican II, and the work of international human rights movements reflects the influence of liberal Protestantism. Even the growing ranks of the so-called “nones” have more in common with unorganized liberal Protestantism than with atheism (First Things, June/July).

Hymn comeback?

“Our God,” a praise hymn by Matt Redman, is the most popular song sung in American churches, according to a chart that tracks such matters. Approaching the top ten list is a retro hymn, “In Christ Alone,” cowritten by Keith Getty. Getty represents a newer group of songwriters who try to get more content into their songs than the usual praise songs. Getty believes hymns should be singable without a band and should say something bold. “I think it’s to the church’s poverty that the average worship song now has so few words. . . . It is so focused on several commercial aspects of God, like the fact that he loves our praises,” Getty says (NPR, July 8).