Century Marks

Century Marks

Jesus’ complexion

Many Americans were disturbed when video clips of Jeremiah Wright surfaced in 2008 showing him preaching about a black Jesus crucified by white Roman centurions. Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey, authors of The Color of Christ, point out that the features of another image of Jesus hardly get noticed: Christus, an 11-foot white marble Jesus at the Mormon visitors’ center in Salt Lake City, is a central part of Mormon iconography. The statue, a replica of a work by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, shows a Northern European–looking Jesus. It fits with what Joseph Smith said was revealed to him about Jesus: that he had fair skin and blue eyes (Huff Post Religion, September 9).

Denominational decline

Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism, the two most liberal Jewish groups in the United States, are losing about 1 percent of their members each year, according Steven Cohen, sociologist at Hebrew Union College. Interreligious marriage is a significant cause: only 15 to 20 percent of interfaith families join a synagogue, and those who do are less active or leave the synagogue after the bar mitzvah of their last child. Jews tend to live in blue states where the rate of religious affiliation is the lowest. The largest “denomination” declared by American Jews is “none” (Economist, July 28).

Target audience

Despite the fact that President Obama has done virtually nothing to restrict firearms, the National Rifle Association and the firearms industry warn that Obama will take guns away from law-abiding citizens. The message is good for business. Last year the firearms industry had an overall economic impact of $31.8 billion. Employment is up in the industry 31 percent since 2008. Remington alone sold more than 1 million guns and 2 billion rounds of ammunition in 2011, its third most profitable year in the last two decades—outdone only by the two previous years. The NRA has said that a second term for Obama would result in an all-out war on Second Amendment rights. However, the Brady Center, which lobbies for gun control, has given Obama an F on efforts to control guns (Nation Institute, September 2).

Price to pay

Last month the doors to a Trappist monastery near Jerusalem were set ablaze and inflammatory phrases—including “Jesus is a monkey”—were painted on the monastery walls. A Jewish extremist group, unhappy because two Jewish settlements had been dismantled by the Israeli government, was blamed for the vandalism. It’s seen as part of the settlers’ “price tag” retaliation campaign—making others pay for the loss of settlements. Rabbi Dov Lipman led a group of Jews to the monastery, bearing flowers and a message of peace. The group stayed long enough to help remove the graffiti (ncronline.org and Haaretz, September 5).

Call and response

Tim Lucas, pastor of the Liquid Church, a large congregation in New Jersey, is planning a sermon series on politics in which he will try to elevate the level of political conversation beyond the current polarities. He will ask people to respond, via their cell phones, to such questions as: Can a Christian vote for a Mormon? How would Jesus address gay marriage and immigration? He also plans to ask which candidates people are going to vote for and display the results on screen. “Jesus pretty much transcends liberals and conservatives,” Lucas said. “There’s something about Jesus that defies red-state blue-state, black and white thinking” (christianpost.com, September 5).