Date published: May 17, 2011
FROM THE OTHER SIDE: The native mountaineering guides in the Himalayas, known as sherpas, are intimately acquainted with the face of Mount Everest. However, they know it only from one side - the view from their home valley. They have been known to respond in disbelief to images of Everest taken from the other sides. Their disbelief changes to one of amazement when they realize that something with which they are so familiar can have other sides to it (from Jacob Bronowski's Science and Human Values).
ASHES TO ASHES: On Ash Wednesday Sara Miles walked in the Mission District of San Francisco with about a dozen others, all dressed in black cassocks, offering people the imposition of ashes. A mother unwrapped her weekand-a-half-old boy and held him up. Miles crossed his forehead with ashes and said. "Remember you're dust and to dust you shall return." The mother said, "Thank you"- as did everyone else who received the ashes that day. Why, Miles wondered, would people say thank you when told they're going to die? "Because it's the truth," she decided. "And ashes on the skin show that, despite all the lies of our culture, nothing is hidden, or pretend, or made-up anymore. We are walking, the Gospel tells us, in the light" (Journey with Jesus, April 17).
HOLY CURIOSITY: Marilyn McEntyre teils about a rabbi who, when approached by a member of his congregation who was rejoicing about something, would ask darkly, "How do you know it's not a disaster?" When someone would approach him with a lament, he would respond, "How do you know it's not a blessing?" McEntyre says the rabbi "called his pupils to look again, without judgment, but with what I would call 'holy curiosity,'" which makes "us willing to live in the mystery of an unfolding story" (Weavings, 26:3).
COVER UP: Psychiatrist Barry Gault had a thorough Catholic upbringing and education, which he recalls fondly. In all his years in the Catholic Church, he says, he never heard of children being sexually abused by priests. He didn't learn about the priest sex scandal until he read about it in the Boston Globe. He says that any executive who discovers scandal within his or her organization is faced with a choice: either conceal it or resolve it. Leaders of the Catholic Church chose concealment over resolution, which meant losing trust with parishioners once the scandal was exposed (Commonweal, April 22).
LIVING VICARIOUSLY: Laura Hillenbrand. who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, has found some relief by writing about the physical endurance of a horse (Seabiscuit) and an accomplished runner who in World War II was a prisoner and tortured (Unbroken). "I'm looking for a way out of here," she told the Washington Post. "I can't have it physically, so I'm going to have it intellectually. It was a beautiful thing to ride Seabiscuit in my imagination. And it's just fantastic to be there alongside Louie [Zamperini] as he's breaking the NCAA mile record. . . . It's my way of living vicariously" (Publishers Weekly, March 28).
A CHRISTIAN BAYWATCH: Many Christians feel an antipathy toward Hollywood, and conservative evangelicals especially have called for the making of more inspirational, familyoriented movies with Christian themes. One film designed to meet that demand is Soul Surfer, the story of a young female surfer from an evangelical family who lost her arm to a shark. It may be the kind of movie evangelicals want, but it moved critic Andrew O'Hehir to ask, "Why are Christian movies so awful?" Does God really want "to be glorified by way of something that looks like an especially tame episode of Baywatch""i (Salon, April 12).
TEXTUAL KINDNESS: One of the marks of an educated person is the ability to engage in critical thought. Literature professor Heidi Oberholtzer Lee argues that much of what passes for critical thought in higher education is just critical. She tries to inculcate in her students a spirit of humility- to listen, value and engage the writers, to see what wisdom one can learn from them, before engaging in a hermeneutics of suspicion. She wants her students to display humility not only toward one another but also toward the texts they read. She calls it an act of "intellectual hospitality" (Christian Scholars Review, summer 2010).
IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Sarah L. Courteau is a young, white professional who recently bought a house in the Rosedale section of Washington. D.C., a largely black community that is being gentrified. Courteau points to some studies showing that gentrification doesn't displace as many people as is sometimes feared, and that the people who remain behind benefit from the upgrading of their neighborhood. Gentrification does cause tension, however, between the long-standing residents and the newer ones, and the divide is often along color lines. White people who have moved near the Brown Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church have complained about the parishioners using parking spaces in the neighborhood and about the loud gospel singing that wafts from the church's long worship services (Wilson Quarterly, Spring).
COME, Y'ALL: A central Florida church has gotten attention because of its highway billboard that says: "Scumbags Welcome!" The pastor has been deluged with calls, split evenly between those who like the sign and those offended by the choice of words. The pastor said the sign was intended not to demean anyone, but to convey Jesus' welcoming attitude toward all sinners (AP).