Century Marks

Century Marks

College plans

In 2014, 6.1 percent of bachelor’s degrees were in the humanities, the lowest level since statistics on college majors started being kept in 1948. Since the recession of 2008, the number of history majors has declined from 2.2 to 1.7 percent. College students often feel pressured by parents and peers to go into fields that are potentially more lucrative. Politicians also feed this trend away from the humanities, from Presi­dent Obama’s ridicule of an art major to Marco Rubio’s remark that welders get paid more than philosophers. Over the long run, many humanities majors do OK financially. A midcareer historian is likely to make as much as someone with a bachelor’s degree in business. And the humanities hone critical thinking skills that are useful in many fields (Los Angeles Times, May 30).

Case closed

The occupation of a Massachusetts Roman Catholic church to prevent its closure will end now that the Supreme Court has declined to hear the case, brought by people who have held their ground for 12 years. The occupation dates back to the early days of the clergy sexual abuse scandal when the archdiocese of Boston decided to close and sell some 70 churches to cover its legal costs. Working in shifts since 2004, a group of about 100 people have maintained a constant presence in St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church, which was built in the 1960s. Initially, it was one of more than a dozen Boston-area Catholic churches occupied by parishioners. The other groups either lost their battle in the courts or abandoned their efforts. The parishioners held a farewell celebration at the church in Scituate, about 25 miles southeast of Boston, on the last Sunday of May (Reuters).

Busy, busy

Kim Armentrout, a United Methodist Church pastor in Ohio, began a yearlong time-logging project in January. The project has revealed that she’s not as busy as she claims and has more time for interacting with her husband and daughter than she thought. “I can stop feeling guilty” about neglecting family, Armentrout said. She thought that on weeks when she had a funeral there was little time for anything else. Her log shows that a funeral involves only five hours at a funeral home or seven if the funeral is held at the church. Holy week was stressful, having put in 58 hours of church work. But the exercise taught her that she told herself “false stories” about how busy she is. Armentrout, like other professionals, tend to think of their busiest weeks as the norm (New York Times, May 13).

Deal or no deal

Six months after a nuclear deal was reached between the United States and Iran, Iran hasn’t realized the economic stimulus it expected from the lifting of economic sanctions and gaining access to about $100 billion of assets frozen in foreign banks. U.S. laws are still very restrictive on dealing with Iran, and foreign businesses haven’t flooded to Iran as expected because European and Asian banks are afraid of violating American sanctions and being subjected to penalties. The Iranian government accuses the United States of obstructing Iran’s effort to join the world economy. Relaxing sanctions takes congressional action, something unlikely to happen in an election year (Newsweek, May 18).

Virtual sacraments?

The Church of Scotland is launching a two-year study of online interaction with the church and questions this raises about membership and sacraments. The church, known as The Kirk, has seen its rolls fall by almost one-third between 2004 and 2015 to just under 364,000 members. The church’s Legal Questions Committee is pushing for “a wide-ranging review of practice and procedure which is impacted by the use of new technology in church life.” David Robertson, moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, whose members broke from the Church of Scotland in 1843, said: “At best it is a cheap gimmick, at worst it comes across as yet another desperate attempt by a declining national church to shore up its numbers and justify its existence” (RNS).