Century Marks

Century Marks

Flip-flop

Utah is arguably the most conservative state in the United States. Its many Mormon residents often assume that the Republican Party is God’s Party. In their early days, however, Mormons were so overwhelmingly Democratic that Brigham Young assigned some families to support Republicans in order to foster a climate of bipartisanship. Utah voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt four times and for his Democratic successor, Harry Truman. Utah flipped to the Republican Party in the 1950s in response to the cold war and later in reaction to the civil rights movement and youth unrest. The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision on abortion sealed Republican support in Utah (Mary Barker, Religion Dispatches).

On the one hand

No comprehensive study has been done of the health implications of fracking, the method used to extract pockets of natural gas deep within the earth. Fracking uses fresh water under pressure, which releases a toxic flowback to the surface. Michelle Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Robert Oswald, a Cornell biochemist, have done a study of livestock, wildlife and people in the gaslands of Pennsylvania. They found that cattle exposed to fracking fluid have a high rate of stillbirths, cleft palates, contaminated milk and death. Cats and dogs have seizures, stillbirths, fur loss and vomiting. Humans experience headaches, rashes, nosebleeds and vomiting. In separate research, high levels of benzene were found in western Colorado communities close to fracking operations. In humans, benzene causes leukemia, birth defects and breast cancer (Orion, September/October).

Jesus’ complexion

Many Americans were disturbed when video clips of Jeremiah Wright surfaced in 2008 showing him preaching about a black Jesus crucified by white Roman centurions. Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey, authors of The Color of Christ, point out that the features of another image of Jesus hardly get noticed: Christus, an 11-foot white marble Jesus at the Mormon visitors’ center in Salt Lake City, is a central part of Mormon iconography. The statue, a replica of a work by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, shows a Northern European–looking Jesus. It fits with what Joseph Smith said was revealed to him about Jesus: that he had fair skin and blue eyes (Huff Post Religion, September 9).

Denominational decline

Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism, the two most liberal Jewish groups in the United States, are losing about 1 percent of their members each year, according Steven Cohen, sociologist at Hebrew Union College. Interreligious marriage is a significant cause: only 15 to 20 percent of interfaith families join a synagogue, and those who do are less active or leave the synagogue after the bar mitzvah of their last child. Jews tend to live in blue states where the rate of religious affiliation is the lowest. The largest “denomination” declared by American Jews is “none” (Economist, July 28).

Target audience

Despite the fact that President Obama has done virtually nothing to restrict firearms, the National Rifle Association and the firearms industry warn that Obama will take guns away from law-abiding citizens. The message is good for business. Last year the firearms industry had an overall economic impact of $31.8 billion. Employment is up in the industry 31 percent since 2008. Remington alone sold more than 1 million guns and 2 billion rounds of ammunition in 2011, its third most profitable year in the last two decades—outdone only by the two previous years. The NRA has said that a second term for Obama would result in an all-out war on Second Amendment rights. However, the Brady Center, which lobbies for gun control, has given Obama an F on efforts to control guns (Nation Institute, September 2).