Century Marks

Century Marks

Travel deficiency

About one third of the American population has passports. States with a high population of Latinos have a higher number of passport holders due to the post-9/11 passport requirement in traveling to Mexico (and Canada). Take Latinos out of the equation and the states with the fewest passports have the highest rates of opposition to Obamacare. According to Juan Cole, a historian at the Univer­sity of Michigan, lack of experience with the rest of the world tracks rather closely with how people think the United States should deal with the rest of the world. It also tracks closely with reactionary responses to social programs (Informed Comment, July 6).

Busy bodies

When you ask people how they’re doing these days, a stock response is “crazy busy.” That’s “a boast disguised as a complaint,” says blogger Tim Kreider. It is not the complaint of a person who has to work three jobs to make ends meet. Their response would likely be, “I’m tired.” Busyness for professional people is often self-imposed to inflate a sense of self-worth. Kreider wonders whether keeping busy is a cover-up for the fact that much of what we do doesn’t matter. “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets,” Kreider says (Opinion­ator, New York Times, June 30).

Prison theology

When theologian Karl Barth visited the United States for the first time in 1962, he asked to visit a prison. Afterward he referred to the prisoners’ cells as “the sight of Dante’s Inferno on Earth.” He thought the inhumane prison he visited contradicted the “wonderful message on your Statue of Liberty.” Barth himself preached regularly at a prison in Basel, Switzerland (Theology Today, July).

Spiritual warfare

Islamist fighters, claiming control over the northern half of the African country of Mali, are destroying historic Muslim sites in Timbuktu as part of their effort to establish Shari’a law. They disapprove of what they claim is worship of the tombs of Muslim saints. A representative of a local group of moderate Muslims said they look to the Muslim saints only for guidance; they don’t worship them, as the Islamists charge. The Mali government has condemned the destruction, likening it to a war crime. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee placed the mausoleums of Muslim saints on its list of endangered sites at the request of Mali’s government (AP).

Pulpit exodus

It is estimated by Pastoral Care Inc. that over 1,700 pastors leave the ministry each month. The reasons for this exodus are discouragement, failure, loneliness, moral failure, financial pressures, anger, burnout, health, marriage or family difficulties, and busyness or sense of being driven. Tim Peters says that pastors need to ask themselves in what areas they’re struggling. They should ask for help, find a group or person who can hold them accountable, and take ownership of their choices (churchleaders.com).