Century Marks

Century Marks


Thirteen years before the outset of World War I Jan Bloch (later known as Jean de Bloch) predicted that a major war in Europe would be devastating and that it would only end when one side was exhausted. Although he couldn’t foresee the deadly power of the machine gun, he predicted trench warfare: the increased range of smokeless rifles and use of magazines would mean combatants wouldn’t be able to reach other, bringing advances to a standstill. His predictions elicited skeptical responses. One British admiral observed that the prospects of huge casualties hadn’t stopped countries from going to war before. Bloch, a banker and important figure in Russia’s railroad system, called for arbitration to settle international conflict (History Today, May).

Critical perspective

Early in his career Billy Graham was invited to preach at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Aware that he was speaking to critical liberals, Graham declared, “I’ve got it right here in the Bible.” Douglas John Hall was a student at Union then, and the budding theologian heard Graham speak. Hall thought to himself, “that Book that you think you’ve got would not even make such a claim for itself. . . . That Book at every point utters a polemic against the entire human project of possession . . . and (this above all!) the possession of Truth, with a capital T” (Hall, Waiting for Gospel, Cascade).

A child shall lead them

Hannah Robertson, a nine-year-old from British Columbia, took the microphone at a McDonald’s shareholders meeting and rebuked CEO Thompson: “It would be nice if you stopped trying to trick kids into wanting to eat your food all the time.” Hannah had the backing of her mother, who writes a food blog, and the activist group Corporate Accountability International, which is pressuring McDonald’s to stop marketing to kids and to serve more healthy food. Hannah said that she wrote most of her speech herself (NPR, May 23).

Below the line

Ben Affleck and Josh Groban were among the celebrities who decided to join Live Below the Line’s weeklong challenge of living on $1.50 per day for food and drink. The program calls attention to the fact that almost 3 billion people in the world live on less than $1.50 each day. The estimated 20,000 who joined the project were also encouraged to contribute to efforts at addressing world poverty (Time, April 23).

Pivotal days

Four church historians were asked: “After AD 70, what day most changed the course of Christian history?” Robert Louis Wilken, Univer­sity of Virginia, cited the mid-seventh-century Muslim invasion of the Middle East. George Marsden, University of Notre Dame, chose the day in the fourth century when Emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity. Philip Jenkins, Baylor University, chose May 29, 1453, when the Roman capital of Constan­tinople fell to the Ottoman Turks. Thomas S. Kidd, also from Baylor, opted for October 19, 1740, when the revivalist George Whitefield preached at Jonathan Edwards’s church, an event that signaled the beginning of evangelicalism (The Gospel Coalition, May 17).