Century Marks

Century Marks

Hope

The late Václav Havel, the dissident Czech writer who became his country's president after the fall of the iron curtain, differentiated between hope and optimism. Hope, he said, "is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, and orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. . . . It is an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. . . . [Hope] is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out" (Pro Ecclesia, Winter).

Haves and have-nots

Economist Richard Wolff says that both rich and poor Americans tend to think of themselves as middle class, but the middle class has nearly disappeared. The businesses that had success catering to the middle class in the past—Sears, for example—are having difficulty today. Upscale boutiques and high-end department stores at the one end and discount stores at the other end are doing well (The Sun, February).

Missionary competition

Evangelicals have long had an antipathy toward Mormons, considering their religion a cult. But neither doctrinal differences nor Mormonism's onetime endorsement of polygamy account fully for contemporary evangelicals' misgivings about the Church of the Latter-day Saints. David S. Reynolds points out that both evangelicals and Mormons are missionary-minded. The growth in number of and competition for proselytes by Mormons pose a threat to evangelicals' own missionary impulses. Mormons have missionaries in 162 countries and a church membership of about 14 million (New York Times, January 25).

Charity

Tim DeChristopher, an environmental activist, was found guilty of making false statements and of violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act. He was charged with subverting the leasing of publicly owned lands in Utah to gas and oil companies. DeChristopher's strategy was to outbid the companies in an auction, even though he didn't have the means to lease the land. When he appeared in court to receive his sentence, he gave a passionate speech defending his actions. Then he turned to the judge and said, "This is what love looks like" (Orion, January/February).

Family man

President Obama has been accused of being aloof and not schmoozing enough with members of Congress and other movers and shakers in Washington. The president defended himself recently in a Time magazine interview: "I've got a 13-year-old and 10-year-old daughter and so, no, Michelle and I don't do the social scene, because as busy as we are, we have a limited amount of time, and we want to be good parents at a time that's vitally important for our kids" (Time, January 30).