Century Marks

Century Marks

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).


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).

Unknown endings

George Kennan was arguably the greatest U.S. foreign policy analyst of the 20th century. He devised the containment doctrine in relation to the Soviet Union, a middle ground between war and diplomacy. When the U.S. was moving toward invading Iraq, Kennan warned: "War has a momentum of its own, and it carries you away from all thoughtful intentions when you get into it. Today, if we went into Iraq, like the president would like us to do, you know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end" (Foreign Affairs, January/February).

From savage to terrorist

Americans like to think of themselves as compassionate and generous, and they often are. But when it comes to the casualties in other countries caused by U.S. wars, says John Tirman, Americans tend to be ignorant at best and callous at worst. By one estimate, American wars since 1945 have taken the lives of 6 million people, both civilians and soldiers. An early 2007 poll asked Americans how many Iraqis had died in the Iraq War. Their average answer was nearly 10,000 when in fact the actual number was in the hundreds of thousands. Historian Richard Slotkin says this neglect of casualties on the other side stems from what he calls the "the frontier myth." This is the notion that righteous violence is justified to subdue or annihilate savage peoples. Today we call them terrorists (Washington Post, January 8).