Century Marks

Century Marks


Last October reporter Clare Morgana Gillis visited the northwest corner of Syria. The Free Syrian Army had recently pushed the Syrian regime’s forces out of the region, but it was still being shelled. Gillis found decimated forests, abandoned villages, unpicked olives weighing down their branches, apples rotting on the trees. One elderly farmer, waving two guns, said: “Nobody outside is hearing us. . . . People all through the Muslim world made demonstrations about this Muhammad video. This is junk! God will protect Muhammad--who is protecting us?” A Catholic priest in a mostly abandoned Christian village said: “This is not our war. It’s between Sunnis, Alawites and Shia. . . . Christians refuse to take arms—our weapon is to pray” (American Scholar, Web exclusive).

Mission creep

Historically Americans tended to be suspicious of standing armies, preferring instead to use temporary militias. It was not until World War II that a standing army was established, with some dissent. Robert Taft, a Republican senator from Ohio, predicted accurately in May 1941 that if the United States were to enter the war, it would have “to maintain a police force perpetually in Germany and throughout Europe.” A permanent Department of Defense wasn’t established until after the war. Now the U.S. not only has a standing army, it has perpetual war, argues Jill Lepore—war perpetuated by what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex. Lockheed Martin alone has annual defense contracts of about $30 billion and spends $15 million a year on lobbying and campaign contributions (New Yorker, January 28).

Not just for clergy

The Academy of Parish Clergy 2013 Book of the Year Award goes to Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World, by Brian D. McLaren (Jericho). The Reference Book of the Year Award goes to The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Intro­duction, by Donald A. Hagner (Baker Academic). The Top Ten Books for Parish Ministry published in 2012 are: Sara Gaston Barton, A Woman Called: Piecing Together the Ministry Puzzle (Leafwood Publishers); Diana Butler Bass, Chris­tianity after Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening (HarperOne); John Swinton, Dementia: Living in the Mem­ories of God (Eerd­mans); Gregory L. Hunt, Leading Con­gre­gations through Crisis (Chalice); Fred Craddock, Dale Goldsmith and Joy V. Goldsmith, Speak­ing of Dying: Recovering the Church’s Voice in the Face of Death (Brazos); Lauren F. Winner, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis (HarperOne); John Dominic Crossan, The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus (HarperOne); Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey, The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (University of North Carolina Press); Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Com­mentary (Eerd­mans); Justin Lee, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate (Jericho).

Latinam legere?

The 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI has put church leaders on notice that they can’t avoid social media like Facebook and Twitter. The pope tweets in nine languages, with 2.5 million followers, including 11,000 who follow his tweets in Latin. The pope understands that social media are a daily part of many people’s lives and have reshaped the dynamics of communications and relationships. A study commissioned by the U.S. Catholic bishops in 2012 indicated that 53 percent of Ameri­cans weren’t aware that the Cath­olic Church has an online presence (AP).

Virtue, not vice

Justin Welby, the recently named archbishop of Canter­bury and a former oil executive, sits on a commission in the United Kingdom reviewing the culture and standards of banking. He does not think that adding regulations is the way to address the crisis in the banking industry. He noted that the head of a major bank told him that it has 3,500 compliance officers and 900 lawyers on staff. What banking needs is virtue, according to the archbishop. “Financial services must serve society, not rule it. They must be integrated into the economy, not semidetached,” he said (Bloomberg, January 10).