Century Marks

Century Marks

Mormon mainstream?

Mor­monism is the fourth-largest denom­ination in the country; two Mor­mons are running in the Republican primary for the presidency; and the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon recently won nine Tony Awards. Yet other signs suggest that Mormonism is still outside the mainstream. A Pew poll found that a quarter of respondents say they would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who is a Mormon. When Newsweek contacted the 15 Mormon members of the U.S. Congress, only four were willing to speak on the record about their faith (Newsweek, June 13 & 20).

Subversive prayer

When the late Abraham Joshua Heschel was asked by a journalist why he was demonstrating against the Vietnam War, Heschel said: "I am here because I cannot pray." He went on to explain: "Whenever I open the prayerbook, I see before me images of children burning from napalm." We ­shouldn't pray, he said, while we remain silent about the atrocities committed by our government in our name. "Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive" (Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings, Orbis).

Watchdogs missing

A report from the Federal Communications Commission concludes that a dearth of in-depth news reporting exists at the local level, which means that the public has lost a way of holding government, businesses and schools accountable. Cable news and the Internet provide more news options than ever, but they are not filling the void left by the contraction of newspapers. "The independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism—going so far as to call it crucial to a healthy democracy—is in some cases at risk," the FCC report says. Staffing levels at local newspapers have fallen by more than 25 percent since 2001 due to the weakened economy and to declining revenues from advertisers that have switched to the Internet (AP).

Discuss this

In On What Matters, philosopher Derek Parfit asks this question (according to reviewer Peter Singer): "If a massive asteroid hit Earth tomorrow, ending human history, would it have been a good thing that humans existed at all?" (TLS, May 20).

The priest and the gangster

A Catholic chaplain at the federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri, has been charged with passing messages for Frank Calabrese Sr., a Chicago mobster and convicted killer sentenced to life in prison. The chaplain also was recruited by Calabrese to search for a violin he had concealed in his home, supposedly a Stradivarius worth millions. The prosecutors say the priest was aware that he was violating prison rules by serving as Calabrese's go-between (UPI).