Century Marks

Century Marks

Neither beggar nor borrower

Through 16 centuries the church officially upheld the biblical prohibition against charging interest. Its concern was to protect poor people, on the basis of the Old Testament belief that the God who rescued the Hebrew people from enslavement looks out for the poor. That tradition fell out of favor when Deism arose and God was removed from economic life. But how society deals with debt is a sign of the quality of its corporate life, says M. Douglas Meeks. Jesus taught forgiveness of debtors. The current economic crisis, caused in no small part by bad lending practices, demands that the charging of interest be regulated out of concern for the poor (Interpretation, April).

Not saying

Michael Ware, a former CNN correspondent, mentioned to a marine during a break in a firefight in Iraq that people back home ask him what was the worst thing he saw in Iraq. He said he tells them, "You haven't earned the right to know." In response the marine said that when he goes home, he is asked how many people he's killed. His reply: "That is between me and the dead" (Newsweek, May 2).

Mormon candidates

The Republican Party may have two Mormon candidates running for the presidency. Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, is already in the race. Jon Huntsman, a distant cousin of Romney's, former governor of Utah and until recently Obama's ambassador to China, is also considering throwing his hat into the ring. Huntsman was a Mormon missionary to Taiwan where he learned Mandarin and Taiwanese Hokkien. He's a bit coy about his religion: he refers to himself as a very spiritual person who is proud of his Mormon roots, but declines to say whether he still belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Time, May 23).


A decade ago singer-songwriter Paul Simon went through a period of self-loathing. He kept hearing a voice inside himself tearing him down. Simon's doctor referred him to a skilled psychiatrist who had quit his job to work for a church in Baltimore. The psychiatrist told Simon that it wasn't unusual for writers to hear such inner voices condemning them. He advised Simon to imagine the voice as that of a comic figure like Bugs Bunny and to put the voice under his shoe. The experience ended up being referred to in the line "Who's that conscience sticking on the sole of my shoe?" in Simon's song, "Sure Don't Feel Like Love" (Rolling Stone, May 12).

Fairy tale?

In 2009 cosmologist Stephen Hawking was gravely ill. He was asked recently whether during this time he feared death. His response caused an outcry: "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." In his bestselling 1988 book A Brief History of Time, Hawking had written about what a great accomplishment it would be if scientists could come up with a theory of everything, "for then we should know the mind of God" (Guardian, May 15).