Date published: November 2, 2010
LONG UVE "THE ARCH": At the insistence of his wife, Anglican archbishop Desmond ("the Arch") Tutu retired from public life on October 7, his 79th birthday. He had retired as archbishop in 1996 but continued to work in South Africa and around the world as one of the most winsome and effective spokespersons for justice in our time. His effectiveness was due in part to his way of combining selfconfidence with an ability to laugh at himself or even at God. "God is not evenhanded," said Tutu. "God is biased, horribly in favor of the weak. The minute an injustice is perpetrated, God is going to be on the side of the one who is being clobbered." Yet Tutu didn't dehumanize his oppressors; he displayed pastoral sensitivity and the capacity to forgive (Time, October 11).
RABBINIC APOLOGY: A day after a mosque near Bethlehem was torched by extremist Jewish settlers, a delegation of rabbis visited the mosque to condemn the act and offer an apology. "Our goal is to share our horror at the attack of the mosque and to clearly state that this is not the way of the Torah or the Jewish way," one of the visiting rabbis said. "Islam is not a hostile religion even if we have a dispute with some of its followers," he added. Hie rabbis acknowledged that they are committed to settling in the disputed territories, the land of their spiritual forebears. The visitors were escorted by the Israel Defense Forces, and Palestinian police surrounded the mosque (Ynetnews.com).
TEXTUAL TOGETHERNESS: Scriptural Reasoning (SR) was introduced to college and university chaplains last spring at their annual professional meeting. A number of them are introducing SR on their campuses. The SR process, begun at Cambridge University and the University of Virginia, is a way for small groups of people in the Abrahamic religious traditions to read and interpret their scriptures in conversation with one another. Each group has a facilitator, but no one acts as the authority. The use of interpretive tools like commentaries are downplayed. Students are eager to talk about religion, especially on secular campuses, said Joshua Stanton, who thinks SR may well change the shape of campus ministry (Huffington Post, August 5).
FIRE OR ICE? Humans have long speculated about how the world will end. During the cold war the focus was on nuclear annihilation. Now the focus is on the threat of terrorists getting access to bioweapons. Corey S. Powell lists 30 threats that could end the world- or human life- as we know it. Environmental toxins, a biotech disaster or an ecosytem collapse could make life impossible. But Powell thinks most of his 30 doomsday scenarios are unlikely (Discover, October).
TO FACEBOOK? When Lutheran pastor Amy C. Thoren first signed up for Facebook, she intended to keep her involvement separate from her work. But soon youth from her church were sending her friend requests, and she began to see its potential for ministry. Knowing that social hierarchies are formed and people are marginalized on Facebook just as in real life, Thoren has tried to reach out to the disregarded and the vulnerable. She has found it helpful to let her congregation know about her online habits and to discuss good social media practices with her ministry colleagues (Word & World, summer).
OR NOT TO FACEBOOK? Lutheran pastor Kae Evensen decided not to sign up for Facebook, though she realizes its potential usefulness in ministry. She thought that too much of life is already dominated by technology and that Facebook offers a mediated form of relationship which can keep us from being really present with one another. "There are some places you need to bring your body. Places like births and baptisms, . . . worship and weddings, deathbeds and funerals," she says. "Anytime a casserole is needed, it is a safe bet that a message on Facebook won't do the trick" (Word & World, summer).
LOW DEMAND, HIGH PAYOFF: When Sameer Bhatia, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, came down with acute myelogenous leukemia, a business associate sent an e-mail to more than 400 acquaintances about Bhatia's situation. Those e-mails were forwarded to others, and Facebook and YouTube videos were used to promote the Help Sameer campaign. Nearly 25,000 people registered in a bone-marrow database and eventually a match was found. The key to using social media for promoting causes like Bhatia's, says Malcolm Gladwell, is not making high demands on people (New Yorker, October 4).
NOTE THAT SONG: Four-part, a capella singing was used widely in 19thcentury churches, especially in the South. Songbooks like The Sacred Harp with shaped notes were used that made it easier for people to read music. This type of singing has experienced a resurgence in recent years. Shape-note hymn sings and conventions draw people with very different theologies and people of no faith. Many shape-note songs, with archaic harmonies and old-style lyrics, were written by English composers such as Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley. They were set to old English dance tunes and brought here from churches in rural England by colonial settlers (RNS).
DREAM TEAM: In January Apple announced that it had sold 250 million iPods, the fastest-selling music player of all time. The iPod fulfilled the dream of Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, to dominate the music industry and change the way music is heard, sold, bought and consumed. The year before, Apple had lost $816 million, and the company's reputation as an innovator was in decline. Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, authors of The Orange Revolution (Free Press), ask: would your organization, on the heels of its worst year, put its best people on a team and ask them to create something that fell outside the usual operating model?
BRAND NAMES: Three marketing researchers have concluded that the less religious one is, the more commercial brand names matter. Their paper, available online at the Marketing Science journal, is titled "Brands: The Opiate of NonReligious Masses?" For people who aren't religious, visible markers of commercial brands, such as logos on a laptop or shirt pocket, function as a means of self-expression and as an assertion of selfworth comparable to the symbolic expression of faith. The word for marketers: direct nonreligious consumers to recognizable national brands and the religious ones toward lesser-known store brands (Office of News and Communications, Duke University).