Century Marks

Century Marks

Deep thought

Writer-historian David McCullough is often asked how much time he spends researching his books and how much time writing them. People don't ask him how much time he spends thinking about them. McCullough says he does his best thinking while taking early morning strolls. He began his early morning walks while researching his biography of Harry Truman, who had his own tradition of taking strolls (CSMonitor.com, June 24).


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).


A few years ago Yonatan Gur was playing an online game with a Swede. While playing they chatted with each other. When Gur mentioned that he was from Israel, the Swede asked: "How many Palestinians have you killed?" and then quickly disconnected. Gur never had a chance to tell the Swede that he was active in Combatants for Peace, a nonviolent organization of Israelis and Palestinians working against the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Nor could he say that while in the Israeli army he refused to serve in occupied areas. The Internet is a powerful tool for change, but, says Gur, it doesn't take the place of face-to-face encounters, especially between hostile groups (CGNews).

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).