Century Marks

Century Marks


Americans now donate five times as many clothes to charity than they did in 1980. The supply of donated clothing outstrips the demand: typically, only 20 percent of donated clothing is sold where it is donated. In 2014, 11 percent of clothing donated to Goodwill ended up in landfills. About 45 percent of all donated clothing is exported to foreign countries by for-profit companies. The glut of used clothing disrupts local economies in developing countries, putting textile workers out of jobs. Bre Cruickshank recommends that clothing donors invest “in timeless styles of better quality,” rather than “refreshing our wardrobe according to seasonal trends” (Not Just a Label, April 9).

Joined by the Psalms

U2 front man Bono and biblical scholar Eugene Peterson have found common ground in their love of the Psalms. Peterson didn’t know who Bono was when Bono first expressed interest in Peterson’s writings. A friendship developed, and Peterson and his wife, Jan, were eventually invited to a U2 concert in Dallas. A video was recently released by Fuller Theological Seminary featuring the two conversing about the Psalms. “The psalmist is brutally honest about the explosive joy that he’s feeling and the deep sorrow or confusion,” the singer said during the dialogue. “And I often think, ‘Gosh, well, why isn’t church music more like that?’” (YouTube, April 26).

Power of positive spirituality

A study of HIV-positive men and women showed that those who engaged in spiritual practices had a two to four times greater chance of survival than those who didn’t. The researchers began interviewing people at the mid-stage of their disease. The researchers asked participants whether they prayed, meditated, went to religious services, were grateful to God for what they had, or believed that God could forgive them for wrongdoing. The findings showed that the way people focus on the meaning of life and relate to God can affect health, even in the case of HIV. Roughly one-fifth of the participants engaged in “positive spiritual reframing” of their disease, seeing it as a way God was using them, for example. These people had a survival rate four times greater than that of the others (Atlantic, May 6).

Mixed message

The Mariinsky Orchestra from St. Peters­burg, Russia, performed a concert in May in the ruins of Palmyra, Syria. The concert was directed by Valery Gergiev, who until recently was the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. Gergiev is also a supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Gergiev said the concert was a protest against the violence and barbarism of the Islamic State, which while occupying Palmyra damaged a number of historic sites and used the ancient Roman amphitheater to execute prisoners. The city was taken back from ISIS by Syrian forces backed by Russian airstrikes. Western observers said the concert was a propaganda ploy by Russia to suggest its involvement in Syria is benevolent (BBC, May 5).

Earthy spirituality

Christopher Pramuk sees a connection between Thomas Merton and Pope Francis. What binds them together is St. Francis’s awareness that the fate of the earth and the fate of God’s creatures are integrally related. As Pope Francis wrote in Laudato si’: “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. . . . There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology.” Pramuk says that Merton’s writings embody what Pope Francis calls an “integral ecology,” challenging modern certainties and envisioning a different way of being human in the world (Los Angeles Review of Books, April 23).