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.
During the early 1950s, the Century’s editors could hardly be classified as strategists in the war for civil rights, but they tried their hand at analysis and expressed sympathetic support for both the commanders and the ground troops.
Every half century or so the Christian Century moves its offices. As our old Dearborn Street neighborhood seems to be “going condo,” we moved to Michigan Avenue last autumn. We’ve traded the historic Old Colony Building for the equally historic Monroe Building. I don’t keep desks in the places from which I’ve retired, but I do drop in on this office, and savor the occasions.
At first the editors of the Century, like most others who viewed the situation from afar, failed to appreciate the threat posed by the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. By May 1933, a few months after Hitler assumed the position of chancellor, editorials began to take the rise of fascism more seriously.
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.
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?
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.”
The only downside to spending time on a barrier island in North Carolina in the summer is that it’s hard to find a good newspaper. You can locate the New York Times if you look for it, but it’s not easy. My son-in-law peruses the Times on the Internet, and, bless him, he will print out as much of it for me as I want.
We have relegated to the “remember when” columns all resistance to the updating of Thanksgiving Day to lengthen time for Christmas shopping. This year it was a September Saturday when the first school boy (“Earn $50 this easy way!”) came to our door to sell us greeting cards. Now, finally, almost anachronistically, Advent announces itself as the beginning of preparation for the Nativity.