Date published: October 19, 2010
HOLD TIGHT: For over 20 years Kyle Childress's Baptist congregation in Texas has ended worship with a ritual he learned from an African-American pastor: "Let's take each other's hands," it begins. "Now look who you're holding hands with, and hold on tight! Because we're going to need each other this week." Over the years several members have told Childress that at first they didn't know how to respond when encountering a crisis, unti] it hit them: they could call the person whose hand they had held the previous Sunday (Christian Reflection, vol. 36).
DIFFERENT BUSINESS MODEL: Sadie was a successful businesswoman. She started out with a dry goods store that expanded to include everything from bulk foods to hardware. Then she opened stores in other areas, eventually owning eight stores. But there was one problem: Sadie is Amish, and the Amish believe, as one put it, that "bigness ruins everything." So Sadie sold off some of her holdings to other Amish, including some of her employees, keeping her own enterprises small. Spreading the wealth came at a price to herself: she had gone into business to help cover the considerable medical expenses of her children (Donald Kraybill et. al, The Amish Way, Jossey-Bass).
MYSTERY BOOK: During the Vietnam War David Rensberger decided that God was calling him to resist the draft. That decision earned him a prison sentence. While incarcerated he worked in the prison library, where he discovered a scholarly edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. "What was that book doing in that library?" he wondered. He concluded that it was put there for him to find. He began learning Hebrew using that book, which turned out to be the start of a 35-year career in biblical studies (Weavings, 25:4).
WORD SEARCH: The first known concordance was of the Latin Vulgate Bible. It was compiled in the early 13th century by a Dominican cardinal, Hugh de St. Cher, with the help of 500 monks. The famous Crudens Concordance of the King James Version was compiled by one man, the bookseller Alexander Cruden. He accomplished the task, but it took him more than a year working from seven in the morning to one in the afternoon. A task that once took years to accomplish can be done now in minutes with computers and a digitalized text (History Today, September).
PANCAKES AND PRAYER: For more than a decade in Kansas City, Missouri, the name IHOP has referred not only to a restaurant chain featuring pancakes but also to a church named the International House of Prayer. Open seven days a week, 24 hours a day- just like the restaurant- the congregation is known for nonstop praying and singing in anticipation of the Lord's return. Early last month the restaurant chain sued the church for trademark infringement. The two organizations both use IHOP as a web address, distinguishable only by the use of .com for the restaurant, .org for the church (RNS and American Scholar, Autumn).
BY THE NUMBERS: The close 2008 senatorial race in Minnesota won by Democrat Al Franken might as well have been decided by the flip of a coin, says Charles Seife. The observable errors in the vote recount process exceeded the number of votes separating the two candidates, which was somewhere between 200 and 300. That fact should unnerve Democrats. Here's a data check to unnerve Republicans: in 2004 the Bush administration claimed that its tax cuts saved the average American $1,586. While that figure is technically accurate, most families received less than $650. The average was inflated by the much larger amount received by the very wealthy (review of Seife 's Proofìness in the New York Times Book Review, September 19).
MAYBE MOSES HAD SOME HELP: A team at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, thinks it has an explanation for the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus. Using a computer model of a section of the Nile Delta, the team determined that a wind of 63 miles per hour, lasting 12 hours, could have opened the waters for a passage some 2.5 miles long and 3 miles wide and providing a four-hour window for the crossing. This phenomenon is known as a wind setdown. Other researchers suspect that the NCAR team's findings are tainted by a desire to prove the biblical story (CSMonitor.com, September 21).
DID YOU KNOW? In the middle of the ninth century, during the reign of Abbasid Caliph Al-Mutawakkil, last ruler of the Umayyad dynasty, Christians were forced to wear distinctive yellow garb. This discriminatory practice oddly anticipated what would happen several centuries later when Christian societies in Europe subjected Jews to the same humiliation (Diarmaid MacCulloch, Christianity, Viking).
FOOL ME TWICE: Paul Hoffman was editor oí Discover in the 1990s when for five years the magazine published a hoax each April. Many people were taken in by the April fool articles. Hoffman, an avid amateur chess player, was himself taken in recently by the "discovery" that 19-year-old Magnus Carlsen, ranked the best chess player in the world, is a second cousin to actor Matt Damon. Smart people are some of the easiest ones to fool, says Hoffman. They think they're too smart to be fooled, they've learned to believe in things that are counterintuitive and they know scientific explanations often defy everyday experience (Discover, October).
RELIGIOUS DEFENSE: A 14-year-old North Carolina girl was suspended by her high school because she refused to remove a stud from her nose. She and her mother contested the judgment, saying it was an infringement on her freedom of religion since they are part of the Church of Body Modification. Formed ten years ago in Arizona and incorporated in Pennsylvania in 2008, the church claims to promote growth in mind, body and soul through body modification. It has a national membership of about 3,500 (News Observer, September 11).