Century Marks

Century Marks

Before Mitt

Mitt Romney was not the first Mormon to run for the presi­dency of the United States. Founder Joseph Smith ran as an independent in 1843–1844, until he was killed by a mob while sitting in prison awaiting trial. He was charged with treason against the state of Illinois and the Constitution of the United States for ordering the destruction of an anti-Mormon newspaper. The newspaper had promised to expose Smith's secret organization of a "Council of Fifty" that privately ordained him "king over Israel on earth." Smith had the largest militia in the country, in size second only to the U.S. Army (D. Michael Quinn in The Columbia Guide to Religion in America, edited by Paul Harvey and Edward J. Blum).

God for us

The doctrine of the Trinity has flourished in modern theology ever since Karl Barth wrote the first volume of Church Dogmatics. But it hasn't always been considered a welcome doctrine. In 1230 the Cistercians banned sermons on the feast of the Holy Trinity because they thought the subject too difficult. Dorothy Sayers captured the bafflement of many Christians: "The Father is incomprehensible, the Son is incomprehensible, and the whole thing is incomprehensible. Something put in by theologians to make it more difficult—nothing to do with daily life or ethics." Nevertheless, the intent of the Trinity, says Beverly Gaventa, should be to return us to reflection on God in scripture, where the main emphasis is that "God acts for us and for our salvation" (Interpretation, January).

Violence against Christians

Anti-Christian violence is a greatly underreported problem, argues Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim from Somalia. Attacks against Christians increased 309 percent between 2003 and 2010 in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This violence for the most part isn't centrally planned and is the spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animosity. One of the most serious problems is in Nigeria, where an organization called Boko Haram wants to establish Islamic shari'a law. In 2011 its members killed more than 500 Chris­tians and destroyed or burned over 350 churches in ten of the northern states of Nigeria (Newsweek, February 13).


Last month a car drove through the front doors of the Happy Corner Church of the Brethren in Clayton, Ohio. The driver drove the car around the sanctuary, causing extensive damage. The driver then abandoned the car, which was thought to have been stolen (WDTN, January 19).


Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, says doctrine is needed in order to help Christians know how God acts in creation and in transformation. We must have doctrine in order to know what it is that we are to be attuned to. "But if doctrine doesn't make possible poetry and contemplation, then doctrine is a waste of time," he says. This "is where the poetic and contemplative touch the prophetic, because the prophetic is all about the diagnosis of dead words and false acts. The prophetic task is to smell out death in a situation" (Williams, A Silent Action).