Century Marks

Century Marks

Nature vs. nurture

Religiously affiliated people are more likely to be women than men. This tendency is even more pronounced in the United States than it is in the rest of the world, according to data gathered by Pew Research Center. In the United States 64 percent of women but only 47 percent of men say they pray daily. American atheists are 68 percent male. Pew’s data support those who argue that gender difference in religion is more cultural than biological. Muslim women are more likely than men to pray and to believe in angels than men are, but men are more likely to pray in mosques than women. In Christian countries where women work outside the home, religious differences between men and women are less pronounced (Washington Post, March 30).

Bible belt

Bill Haslam, Repub­li­can governor of Tennessee, recently vetoed a bill that would have made the Bible the official state book. Haslam is a Christian who says his favorite authors are the popular Christian writers Philip Yancey and Eugene Peterson. The governor said the nation’s founders “recognized that when the church and state were combined, it was the church that suffered in the long run.” Treating the Bible as a cultural artifact trivializes it, he argued. The two Republican sponsors of the bill said they would try to override the veto, which can be done with a mere majority of votes in the two chambers of the state legislature (Los Angeles Times, April 17).

War no more

A three-day Vatican conference last month called on the Catholic Church to rethink its commitment to just war theory. The theory too often provides a justification for war, the conference’s final document says, arguing that the just war approach gets in the way of exploring nonviolent resolutions. “We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence,” the document says. Conferees said that the destructiveness of modern warfare and the effectiveness of nonviolent means of peaceful resolution have made the theory, which goes back to Augustine and Aquinas, outdated. “Jesus is our inspiration and model,” they state. “Neither passive nor weak, Jesus’ nonviolence was the power of love in action” (National Catholic Reporter, April 14).

Teaching for peace

Hanan al-Hroub, the winner of the $1 million award for the 2016 Global Teacher Prize, is a Palestinian teacher who was raised in a refugee camp outside Bethlehem in the West Bank. Her students “come from stressed-out environments,” she says, and they often act out the violence they see in their homes and streets. Al-Hroub uses games, puppets, and team-building in the classroom to reduce the stress endured by her students. Pope Francis nominated her for the award, which is granted by the Varkey Foundation and sponsored by the ruler of Dubai, the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. Al-Hroub plans to use the money for college scholarships for students going into education and for teachers committed to employing her teaching methods (Washington Post, March 22).

Where is the church?

The black church led the civil rights movement but is much less visible in the Black Lives Matter movement. Black church pastors today are less likely to be in the streets, and they no longer have the authority in the black community they once had. The youth involved in the Black Lives Matter movement are less likely to be in church, even though black youth more often identify themselves as religious compared to their white, Hispanic, and Asian peers. Some young black activists reflect the anti-institutional spirit of the times, while others say they want to create economic, political, cultural, and educational structures independent of the church. Jamal Bryant, a megachurch pastor in Baltimore, said the black church is going to have to adjust to this new reality. “How do you become part of something you don’t lead?” he wondered (Atlantic, March 22).