Century Marks

Century Marks

Textual criticism

The Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby retail chain, has an unusually large collection of biblical artifacts, including some 40,000 biblical manuscripts, Torah scrolls, Dead Sea scrolls, and cuneiform texts. The family started its collection only six years ago. This sudden acquisition of previously unknown artifacts is raising questions among those involved in the antiquities trade, given that there is a history of illegally acquired antiquities from the Middle East. Green family representatives say that they have privacy agreements with sellers and brokers, a practice that is both legal and common. The collection will be housed in the 430,000-square-foot Museum of the Bible, which will open in Washington, D.C., in November 2017, two blocks from the National Mall (Atlantic, January-February).

It’s the economy

In December and January, the Working America organization talked with likely voters in working-class neighborhoods outside Cleveland and Pittsburgh to try to find out their concerns and better understand the appeal of Donald Trump. Their “front porch focus groups” revealed that working-class folks are more motivated by economic anxiety than by racial bigotry. They are frustrated with politics and feel powerless to change government to address their needs and concerns. Only 5 percent of these voters named immigration as their top concern. However, nearly half of those who said immigration is their top concern support Trump (Working America, January 26).

Secularism v. state religion

Bangladesh’s 1971 constitution declared all religions to be equal in the eyes of the state. The military ruler Hussain Muhammad Ershad amended the constitution in 1988 to make Islam the state religion. The current government amended it again, reinstating the principle of secularism but reaffirming Islam as the state religion. The High Court has agreed to hear a case calling for a resolution of this contradiction. A wave of militant violence has plagued Bangla­desh in recent months, including bombings of Hindu temples and Muslim mosques (Reuters).

Youth boom

The world has a problem: too many youth. A fourth of the world’s population is between the ages of ten and 24. Old people are concentrated in the wealthiest countries; youth are most likely to live in developing countries. India has the largest population of youth, a number equivalent to the combined populations of the United States, Canada, and Britain. Worldwide, two out of five young workers are either unemployed or employed in such low-paying jobs as to make it impossible to escape poverty. An increase in youth unemployment is one of the best predictors of social unrest, according to researcher Raymond Torres of the International Labor Organization. Seeing that it was running out of youthful workers, China ended its one-child policy for couples last year (New York Times, March 5).

Payback

In 1945, when he was eight years old and living with his family in a refugee camp in Germany, Gunter Nitsch received a CARE package from the United States. Last month Nitsch wrote a letter to an eight-year-old Syrian boy named Zaher living as a refugee in Jordan. “Seventy years ago, when I was eight years old like you, I was also a refugee,” Nitsch wrote. “I’m writing to share my story with you to let you know that, no matter how bad things may seem, there are good people in this world who can make everything better.” Nitsch wrote a book about his childhood, Weeds Like Us, which he dedicated to the Pennsylvania Menno­nite family who had sent his family multiple CARE packages (Chicago Tribune, March 9).