Century Marks

Century Marks

Patriotic preaching

Holy war is often identified with something from the distant past like the Crusades. James P. Byrd, author of the new book Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution, argues that the American Revolution was like a holy war. Patriots, believing in the justice of their cause, appealed to scripture, backed by preaching from pulpits. George Washington insisted on having chaplains in the army and he ordered his soldiers to attend services. Appeals for victory were made to God in battle. Even the skeptical Thomas Paine used scripture in his “Common Sense,” the most influential revolutionary pamphlet (Washington Post, July 5).

Questioning a pope

When Pope Francis met recently with thousands of Italian and Albanian schoolchildren, he threw aside his prepared speech and invited the children to ask questions. One young girl, no more than six, asked if he wanted to be pope. He first said that only someone who hated himself would want that job. More seriously, he responded: “I didn’t want to be pope.” When asked about his decision not to live in the luxurious papal apartments, he said it was a matter of personality. “I need to live among people.” He concluded the 30 minutes of banter with the children by saying to them: “Don’t let anyone rob you of hope” (Huffington Post, June 7).

Kosher no more

The Polish parliament has rejected a bill backed by the prime minister that would allow slaughterhouses to kill animals using Jewish kosher and Muslim hallal methods. The procedure was stopped last year by court action, which deemed the practice of slitting an animal’s throat and letting it bleed to death a form of animal cruelty. Some observers believe that anti-Semitism lurks beneath this decision, a sensitive matter in a country where millions of Jews were killed during the Nazi occupation of Poland (Reuters).

Airport security

When people fly they are more anxious than usual, especially after a crash like the one involving an Asiana flight in San Francisco last month, which killed three. The anxiety of flying can help point people toward God, says Michael Zaniolo, a Roman Catholic priest who oversees the airport ministries at O’Hare and Midway airports in Chicago. Huts Hertzberg, an evangelical pastor who oversees Protes­tant ministries in Chicago’s airports, notes that 68 million passengers fly through O’Hare annually, and the airport has 40,000 badged employees. “It’s a city and we’re the only church in the city,” he says (Chicago Tribune).

Ordered life

When Richard Morgan, a retired pastor, moved into a retirement community with his spouse, it struck him that they were entering something like the monastic life. They surrendered all ownership of private property; they relinquished control over their own lives, giving authority to the retirement corporation; and they now live by a fixed schedule, including chapel services at a specified time. As St. Benedict admonished in his rule for monastic life, they regularly ponder the fact that they will die—for their neighbors die rather frequently (Weavings, August/September/October).