Century Marks

Century Marks

Retrenchment

Walter Russell Mead cites mainline Protestant seminaries to illustrate what is happening in higher education more broadly: a bubble is about to burst. The problem is a mismatch between the capacity to train more pastors and church leaders and the decreasing need for pastors in denominations that are shrinking in size. Students are also wary of taking on the debt needed to finance a seminary education. The bottom line: too many seminaries are recruiting too few students. Some will have to close, others must restructure and consolidate, and many seminary employees will lose their jobs (The American Interest, December 21).

Emancipation promised

This month is the sesquicentennial celebration of Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, popularly thought to be the act that freed the slaves. In reality, it didn’t free all the slaves, only those in parts of the Confederacy that were in rebellion against the Union. Since those slaves were behind enemy lines, the proclamation couldn’t be enforced, at least not while the Civil War was in progress. The proclamation didn’t apply to parts of the South that weren’t in rebellion or to four border states with slaves who ­didn’t join the Confederacy. The procla­ma­tion, however, set the stage for the passing of the Thirteenth Amend­ment two years later, which outlawed slavery (USA Today, December 25).

Killing us

The U.S. has more guns per capita—about nine guns for every ten people—than any other country. It has nearly twice as many guns per capita as Yemen, which ranks second. The U.S. also ranks first in total number of guns, with 270 million of them privately owned. The second highest total is in India, which has 46 million guns—and a population three times that of the United States. The U.S. ranks second only to Mexico in its gun-related murder rate. Mexico’s gun-related murder rate is driven by drug wars (Washington Post, December 15).

Signs on the wall

Last month vandals spray-painted “the Maccabees will succeed” and “Jesus is a bastard” on the walls of a Greek Orthodox monastery in Jerusalem and slashed tires on three cars. This was the fifth attack on monasteries and churches in the area during 2012. Extremist Jews sympathetic to Israel’s settlement movement are suspected. The father superior of the monastery said the vandals would be welcome to come for coffee and conversation. He said he forgave them the first time and would continue to forgive them. Extremists have carried out similar vandalism attacks on other churches and mosques, which have been de­nounced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Jerusalem Post, December 12).

Sacred sounds

Though one may not share Deal W. Hudson’s conservative theological and political views, he’s compiled an interesting list of the “100 best recordings of sacred music.” The list includes not only what he considers the best compositions of all time, but the best recordings of those works. Sacred music lovers will quibble with some of his choices (Elgar and Vaughn Williams have as many entries as Bach) and will point out some omissions. Among his choice of 100 top recordings, Hudson marks those that he considers indispensable (www.catholic.org).