Century Marks

Century Marks

Not churchless

Despite the rising number of Americans who identify with no religion—especially the case among millennials—the United States is far from becoming a churchless nation. On any given Sabbath four out of ten Americans attend a house of worship, a number that hasn’t fluctu­ated much in the past half-century. More than 81 percent of Americans say they identify with a specific religion or denomination, and 78 percent say religion is either very or fairly important in their lives. That people have greater freedom to say they belong to no religion may mean that those who claim religious faith actually take it more seriously than was the case when identifying with religious faith was a matter of social obligation (The Christian Science Monitor, October 11).

Oily behavior

Two separate, independent investigations of the petroleum company Exxon are releasing very similar findings, according to global-
warming activist Bill McKibben. Both reports conclude that Exxon knew about the effects of global warming years ago but hid its findings from the public, denied global-warming science, and participated in efforts to obstruct the politics of global warming. As early as 1978 insider scientists told top executives at Exxon that climate change was real, was caused by human activity, and would raise world temperatures. Instead of alerting the rest of the world, Exxon used its knowledge to buy oil leases in areas where it knew ice would melt, and used its finances to fund efforts to squelch global-warming research (Guardian, October 14).


Rob Schenck has been an antiabortion activist for years. After the Washington Navy Yard shooting in 2013 that left 13 people dead, Schenck decided that one can’t be both “pro-life” and “pro-guns.” Christians shouldn’t own guns for defensive purposes, he says. He has been encouraging conservative Chris­tians to get involved in the gun control debate, even though polls show that white evangelicals are the least likely group to support stricter gun laws. His outspokenness about guns has cost his organization financial support. The Armor of Light, a documentary about Schenck’s change of focus, was released last month (Washington Post, October 5).

Proud to lose

Harvard Univer­sity’s debate team won national championships the past two years, but they recently lost a debate to a team from the Eastern New York Correctional Facility. The inmate debaters in this maximum security prison take courses at nearby Bard College. The Harvard team posted on its Facebook page: “There are few teams we are prouder of having lost a debate to than the phenomenally intelligent and articulate team we faced this weekend.” The prison debate team has also defeated teams from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, which they debate annually, and the University of Vermont (AP).

Identity crisis

While the issues of “God, guns, and gays” have not gone away, the culture wars are taking a new form. The question being raised in the Republican presidential race is: What does it mean to be American? Older white males seem threatened by the fact that the white majority is dwindling and by the empowerment of gays and lesbians. Leading Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson are playing into this fear, focusing on immigration and Islam (U.S. News, September 25).