As we moved out of the Old Colony building a few days ago, I remembered having written about the place back in 1977 when it—along with the Fisher building to the north and the Manhattan building to the south—was being considered for landmark status.
Part of the fabric of public life in America during the post–World War II years, perhaps the cross-stitch that held the symbolic boundaries in place, was anticommunism. Most mainline church editors were part of it.
In the decade following World War I, Americans confronted a rapidly changing cultural context. Prohibition took effect in 1919 and gave birth to an era characterized by the frustrations of law enforcement and a booming business for “bootlegging” and organized crime. Throughout the decade, the Century underestimated the strength of voices opposing prohibition.
Before the outbreak of World War I, the Century, not unlike many other American journals, regularly expressed an idealistic and basically isolationist position when considering America’s role in the world.
The Christian Century emerged from rather humble origins. It started as just another local denominational publication speaking for the Disciples of Christ in Des Moines, Iowa, and surrounding regions. Those connected with its founding chose the name Christian Oracle for the journal and adopted the motto “Speak as the Oracles of God.”
Are you going to change the name of the magazine in the year 2000? That’s a question we’ve heard often in recent months. The questioners have been eager to remind us of the large hopes that gripped the editors of this magazine a hundred years ago, and to remind us also—in case we hadn’t noticed—that those hopes were unfulfilled. The Christian century? It didn’t turn out that way, did it?
Reinhold Niebuhr, the theologian whose work Andrew Finstuen invokes in this issue, had an interesting relationship with the Christian Century. He started writing for the magazine in 1922 while he was a pastor in Detroit.
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