Century Marks

Century Marks

Misplaced faith

Pryor Creek Community Church in Oklahoma is one of a number of congregations that sponsor classes on using concealed weapons. Pryor Creek and the others see it as a way of reaching out to new people and gaining members. These churches are facing sharp criticism in the wake of the school shootings in Connecticut. Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good says he grew up in gun country and isn’t opposed to the Second Amendment. But “the gospel should be ‘Put your faith in Christ,’” Cizik says. These church programs teaching people to use guns seem to suggest “Put your faith in Glock” (RNS).

Open doors

The Occupy Wall Street movement initially got the cold shoulder from some churches, but attitudes changed in New York City after Hurricane Sandy. Members of Occupy organized a relief effort called Occupy Sandy, and churches in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Coney Island opened their doors as organizing hubs and supply centers. Occupiers won the trust of locals by helping clean up damaged churches and serving people passed over by state-sponsored efforts. And they cleared pews of supplies before worship services so that the sanctuaries could be used by their congregations. Even before Sandy, the Occupy movement was reaching out to faith groups with a program called Rolling Jubilee, an effort to buy up defaulted debts for pennies on the dollar and then liquidate the debts (Utne Reader, December 20).

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).

Warning signs

“Our Earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end. Bribery and corruption are common. Children no longer obey their parents. Every man wants to write a book, and the end of the world is evidently approaching.” This doomsday prediction is almost 5,000 years old, dating to an Assyrian clay tablet of 2800 BC (Chicago Tribune, December 9).

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).