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).

Where’s the conflict?

A large-scale study of American college students shows that a vast majority don't see a conflict between science and religion. Nearly 70 percent of freshmen view science and religion as either independent of each other or as having a collaborative relationship. The rest, who do see a conflict, are divided almost evenly between those who favor the perspective of religion and those who favor science. Students were polled as freshmen and then as juniors to see if their views changed over time. Seventy percent of freshmen who favored religion over science had switched by the time they were juniors to seeing the fields as not being in conflict; 46 percent who favored science over religion as freshmen shifted to that nonconflictual view by their junior year (Huffpost Religion, May 25).

Death as preacher

Kava Schafer, a spiritual director and hospital chaplain, believes that cultivating an awareness of one's own death is a spiritual discipline. She quotes the prophet Muhammad, who said: "Consult your death. The only preacher you need is awareness of your death" (Presence, June).