Century Marks

Century Marks

Unself-conscious

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams recalled for the Guardian (July 8) how he once was an angst-ridden young man who worried about whether he was suffering enough or was compassionate enough. But then Mary Clare Millea, a Catholic nun, said to him, "You don't have to suffer for the sins of the world, darling. It's been done." If we're not preoccupied with justifying ourselves, said Williams, then we can focus on other things and can even afford to be wrong. "Jesus is the human event that reverses the flow of human self-absorption."

So what?

A young woman preaching her first sermon seemed to do everything right: her exegesis was sound; the text and title of the sermon matched well; the sermon was carefully organized and delivered in a clear, understandable manner. But the sermon was wrongheaded, especially in context—an African-American congregation. The people called her sermon a lecture, because she failed to speak to their life situations and didn't answer the "so what" question (Raquel A. St. Clair in Interpretation, July).

Unauthorized wars

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war, but it has exercised that power only five times, the last being in the case of World War II. Since the signing of the Constitution in 1787, American presidents have put military forces into action hundreds of times without congressional action. To counteract the executive office's actions in Vietnam, the War Powers Resolution was passed in 1973, calling for an authorization letter and giving the president a two-month deadline. This law has been toothless. No president, Democrat or Republican, has wanted to have his powers as commander in chief curtailed by Congress (Time, July 4).

Financing wars

The Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University estimates that the total cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, plus operations in Pakistan, will exceed $4 trillion. This is more than three times the amount Congress has actually authorized. The total cost is already between $2.3 and $2.7 trillion. These wars could cost more than World War II, which at today's dollars would be about $4.1 trillion. Unlike previous American wars, the current ones have been largely financed with borrowed money (Independent, June 30).

Sidelined

With two Mormons running for the U.S. presidency, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued a statement prohibiting full-time leaders of the church from engaging in politics. The ban, which includes leaders' spouses, proscribes making political contributions and endorsing candidates. Part-time officials are permitted political activity so long as it isn't focused on their congregations and it is made clear that they are speaking for themselves, not the church (UPI).