Posts Tagged ‘religion’

INTERVIEW: Joseph Bottum discusses An Anxious Age

 Q. How did you come up with the idea for An Anxious Age?

In some ways, An Anxious Age really began when I was sent out to report on the protesters at Occupy Wall Street—and couldn’t finish the assignment. I could feel a spiritual anxiety about modern civilization radiating from nearly all of them, but I could find no easy way to explain it.
Now, two years later, this book is my answer: Not just those protesters but nearly everyone today is driven by supernatural concerns, however much or little they realize it. Radicals and traditionalists, liberals and conservatives—together with politicians, artists, environmentalists, followers of food fads, and the chattering classes of television commentators: America is filled with people frantically seeking confirmation of their own essential goodness. We are a nation of individuals desperate to stand on the side of morality—anxious to know that we are righteous and dwell in the light.
The trouble, of course, is that we’ve lost any shared cultural notion of what exactly that goodness might entail.

 
Q. The crux of the book is your claim that the most significant and under-appreciated fact about all of contemporary America is the collapse of the Mainline Protestant churches over the last fifty years. That’s a pretty bold claim. How did you come to view the decline of Mainline Protestantism as such an influential factor in the shaping of America’s cultural landscape?

The reasons for the Mainline churches’ decline are interesting in themselves. Science, capitalism, liberal Protestant religion, the bureaucratic needs of rising nation states—all those changes that Max Weber called the “elective affinities” that created the modern world—resulted in a pretty thin metaphysical order. By the late 1800s, most educated Americans probably had no strong belief in any supernatural entities beyond the bare Christian minimum of the individual soul, below, and God, above.
Maybe as a result, a hunger for a thicker world, for a supernatural infusion, is written across America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—from the table-rapping ghosts heard by spiritualists in the 1840s to the popularizing of the Ouija board in the 1910s, and on to our own time. Denied much sustenance in the central rooms of American religion, this spiritual hunger would eventually drain the Mainline churches down to their present cultural weakness.
And here’s where it really starts to get interesting. Because American history has led us to expect our national spirituality to be explicitly religious, tied to the nation’s churches, we often fail to recognize other effects as spiritual. But strange beings were set free to enter the social and political realms by the decay of the churches that were once a primary source of the cultural unity and social manners that we now lack in the United States.
I’ve gone back more than a century to Max Weber’s classic sociological study The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism to resurrect the notion of “spiritual anxiety”—in an effort to explain what escaped into the public life with the collapse of Mainline Protestantism. What once were religious concerns have fled the churches to become political and social agitations. And across the nation, in liberals and conservatives alike, there lurks a disturbing sense that how we vote is how our souls are saved.
Our dangerous spiritual anxieties, in other words, have broken loose from the churches that used to contain them, and they now madden everything in American life. These new supernatural entities—or, at least, these new social and political manifestations of the enduring human desire to perceive something supernatural in the world—seem to me omnipresent. Think of our willingness to believe that our political opponents are not just wrong but actually evil. Think of the ways we talk about food, weight, and cigarettes, the way we use such concepts as gender, race, and the environment.
In politics, culture, art—in everything, spirits and demons, angels and demigods, flitter through American public life, ferrying back and forth across our social and political interactions the burdens of our spiritual anxieties.

 
Q. In An Anxious Age you take up two case studies of contemporary American social classes. The first being “The Poster Children,” the college-educated members of the upper-middle-class, many of whom reject Christian belief. The second being “The Swallows of Capistrano,” the Catholics formed by the pontificate of John Paul II. How did you land on these two groups?

When the marvelous publisher Image Books and I first discussed writing something about the public face of American religion, the idea was a simple one: Catholicism in the United States had been on the rise since the late 1970s, both in numbers and influence. And it was planned that I would write about how Catholicism was replacing the dying Mainline Protestant vocabulary for speaking about morality in political settings.
I still think that’s more or less true. For a Catholic with any kind of historical memory, there’s something astonishing about reading a discussion of Just War Theory in, say, the New York Times—or hearing the figures on FOX News arguing about Natural Law. In an essentially Protestant nation, as the United States had always been, such forms of ethical and social analysis always used to be thought something eccentric that Catholics do.
But as I worked my way through the topic, I began to see political and cultural consequences beyond simply a rush to fill the public vacuum left by the Mainline’s collapse (a vacuum drawing in Catholics on one side and Evangelicals on the other side, the two main Christian groups traditionally pushed to the margins by the old liberal Protestant consensus).
What I saw was the rise, over the last fifty years, of a new class of post-Protestants—re-creating the bourgeois social attitudes of previous generations, however much they believe they have uniquely escaped the past. In both the noble range and the insufferable self-righteousness of their moral and spiritual concerns, the members of the elite Poster Children social class define and set the agenda for American culture—and they prove identical to their middle-class Mainline Protestant Christian grandparents, just without much of their grandparents’ Christian religion.
At the same time, I saw the influence of Mainline collapse on what I call “The Swallows of Capistrano,” the American Catholics formed by the papacy of John Paul II. Watching from the inside of many of the public fights, I observed the personal and cultural effect on these Catholics of the early victories—and later defeats—in the attempt to substitute Catholicism for the dying Mainline voice in public life. And now, I conclude in An Anxious Age, these Catholics will have to find ways to develop their own subculture, for they have lost to the Poster Children the battle to become a dominant American social force.

 
Q. Did you learn anything surprising while working on An Anxious Age?

I wanted William James or Ralph Waldo Emerson or even Louisa May Alcott to be the heroes of the story as I made my way through American intellectual and cultural history. But as I read the work of Walter Rauschenbusch, chief figure of the Social Gospel movement at the beginning of the 20th century, and the social critic Christopher Lasch toward the century’s end (both, it should be noted, longtime professors at the University of Rochester), I came more and more to see that the story of American religion wasn’t based in Boston. It happened, in truth, in Upstate New York—from the Mormons to the Oneida Community, from the growth of revivalism to the rage for spiritualism.
In other words, I sat down intending to write an account of the major features of American Protestantism centered around the Puritans and their Bostonian descendents. But when it came time to name my claim that no moment in American history is intelligible without understanding the condition of American Protestantism, I saw that I had to call it “the Erie Canal Thesis,” for much—maybe most—of that Protestant history actually happened somewhere near the old canal in Upstate New York.

 
Q. What do you hope to accomplish with the book? What do you hope readers will glean from it?

I hope that An Anxious Age will remind the social groups I called the post-Protestant Poster Children and the Catholic Swallows of Capistrano—will remind, in fact, all Americans—that we are not as far from the traditional forms of American history as we sometimes imagine ourselves. Spiritual concerns still motivate us, and our historical situation is still set by the condition of American Protestantism at any given moment.
More, I would like readers to see that Max Weber’s kind of sociological awareness of spiritual causes gives a fuller account of human culture than Karl Marx’s hard materialism. Purely material causes (economics, geography, even genetics, as some argue) undoubtedly have strong effects, but the spiritual anxieties of an age, together with the available spiritual rewards, have at least as much influence—and probably more—on the political, moral, and intellectual culture of a society.

 

 To schedule an interview with Joseph Bottum, please contact Katie Moore, publicist, kamoore@randomhouse.com, 719-268-1936.


INTERVIEW: Author Edward Sri talks about Walking with Mary

Q. You’ve written other books about Mary. How is Walking with Mary different?

I’ve been blessed to teach on Catholic beliefs and practices about Mary and do much research on the Biblical texts that shed light on Mary’s role in God’s plan of salvation. But this book explores more what Scripture may tell us about Mary’s own personal, spiritual journey…her own interior life.  The book considers, for example, what was it like for Mary to hear from the angel that she was full of grace, that the Lord was with her and that she was to become the mother of Israel’s great king—what would those words from the angel have meant for her as a first century Jewish woman?  Or what would Mary have been going through in the dramatic events surrounding her son’s birth? And what did it mean that she “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart”?

I invite readers to enter into the Biblical narratives and enter into Mary’s experience in those texts, considering what the Scriptures may tell us about Mary’s walk with God. Though there are not a lot of New Testament passages in which Mary appears, those texts are packed with meaning and can serve as windows into what God was asking of Mary at various moments throughout her life and into how Mary’s response at each step can serve as a model for us in our relationship with the Lord.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish with this book?

In this book, I hope to help readers know Mary and her spiritual journey better. 

Many of us may know that Mary, as the mother of Jesus, was an important person in the Bible. And Catholics especially may know Mary as the Immaculate Conception, the Ever-Virgin Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven and Earth.  But do we know the humanness of Mary?  Mary was a woman with whom we can all relate.  She went through various trials, dangers and sufferings, like we do. She faced moments of discernment, like we do. She experienced times of uncertainty and darkness—times when she did not understand. Though she was endowed with unique graces and privileges, Mary still had to “walk by faith and not by sight.”

Mary had to make a profound spiritual journey, in which she took ever greater steps of faith, trust and surrender to God’s plan.  She stands out as a model of faith in the Scriptures, and I aim to take readers through the various steps of faith Mary made from her initial calling at the Annunciation to her standing at the foot of her Son’s cross.

Q. Who is the target audience?

When writing it, I envisioned anyone who wants to take a closer look at the person of Mary, to know her better and to understand the beautiful journey of faith the Lord invited her to take throughout her life.  This book is meant to be a highly accessible book –easy to read, engaging and filled with practical insight for our lives. I hope any Christian who wants to walk in Mary’s footsteps as a faithful disciple of the Lord will benefit from this book.

Q. At the beginning of the book you ask the reader to put themselves in Mary’s shoes. Was this difficult for you as a man in the 21st century?

Entering into the experience of the heroes of the Bible or the saints throughout history is something we all should do.  The stories of the saints—whether they be men or women saints—tell us all something about our own humanity, our own challenges and struggles in life and our own walk with the Lord.  I think I have been able to enter into the experiences of women saints such as St. Catherine of Siena, St. Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and learn much from them.   And the same is true with Mary. 

Q. Besides reading the Bible, particularly the Gospels of John and Luke, what other research did you do to prepare for writing this book?

I have been doing research on the Biblical passages related to Mary for many years going all the way back to my doctoral studies.  Biblical scholarship in recent decades has offered many great insights on these passages, and many of these insights can help shed light on Mary.  In the book I draw from Biblical scholars of a variety of perspectives and faith traditions.  I refer to saints, scholars and texts from the Catholic tradition, but I also have learned much from many non-Catholics whose exegesis on Marian passages or reflections on Mary can make a significant contribution to our understanding of the mother of Jesus.

 

To schedule an interview with Dr. Sri, please contact Katie Moore, publicist, kamoore@randomhouse.com, 719-268-1936.

 


PRESS RELEASE: A Journey with Mary through Key Moments in the Gospels

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. Many books have been written about Mary, but few have opened up the Scriptures in a way that allows such a personal connection with the mother of Jesus.

In Walking with Mary (Image, Sept. 10, 2013), Dr. Edward Sri looks at the crucial passages in the Bible concerning Jesus’s mother, Mary, and offers biblical insight and practical lessons about the Blessed Mother’s faith that we can apply to our daily lives. 

“This book is the fruit of my personal journey of studying Mary through the Scriptures, from her initial calling in Nazareth to her painful experience at the cross,” writes Edward Sri. “It is intended to be a highly readable, accessible work that draws on wisdom from the Catholic tradition, recent popes, and biblical scholars of a variety of perspectives and traditions.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Edward Sri is a nationally known Catholic speaker who appears regularly on EWTN and is the author of several well-loved Catholic books. He is a founding leader, with Curtis Martin, of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), and he currently serves as vice president of mission and outreach, and as professor of theology and scripture at the Augustine Institute master’s program in Denver, Colorado. Sri holds a doctorate from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He resides with his wife, Elizabeth, and their six children in Littleton, Colorado.

Walking with Mary – A Nine Step Pilgrimage of Faith
In Walking with Mary, Dr. Sri focuses on nine pivotal moments, or steps, in Mary’s walk with the Lord. He uses these nine steps to draw readers into Mary’s story so that they, too, can walk with her on her journey of faith.

Step 1: An Open Heart
Scripture Moment: The Annunciation (Luke 1:28-29)

Step 2: A Servant of the Lord
Scripture Moment: The Annunciation continued (Luke 1:30-38)

Step 3: Magnify the Lord
Scripture Moment: The Visitation (Luke 1:39-55)

Step 4: Keep and Ponder
Scripture Moment: The Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-20)

Step 5: Sharing in the Sword
Scripture Moment: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:22-40)

Step 6: Walking in Darkness
Scripture Moment: The Finding of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52)

Step 7: She Still Says Yes
Scripture Moment: The Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-11)

Step 8: Total Surrender, Total Trust:
Scripture Moment: The Crucifixion (John 19:25-27)

Step 9: Persevering in Faith
Scripture Moment: The Crowning of Mary (Revelation 12:1-17)

 

Media inquiries should contact Katie Moore, publicist, kamoore@randomhouse.com, 719-268-1936

 


INTERVIEW: Maura Poston Zagrans talks about Camerado, I Give You My Hand

Q. What is the goal of the book? 

In showing how one man can make a difference in even the most hopeless of places, Camerado, I Give You My Hand inspires, dispels popular myths about the criminal justice system, and spotlights a holistic approach to prison reform.

The title comes from the last stanza in Walt Whitman’s poem Song of the Open Road, which appears in his Leaves of Grass

Camerado, I give you my hand!

I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;

Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?

Shall we stick by each other as long as we live? 

Camerado is a made-up word that describes a relationship philosophy that is based on the core concepts of mutual respect and partnership.

Author, Maura Poston Zagrans

Q. Upon hearing about Fr. Dave and his journey from lawyer to priest, you felt a very strong call to tell share his story in the form of a book. Do you think it was providential that your lives intersected when they did?

The fact that I heard about Father Dave when I did is, in my opinion, so providential it stands as compelling proof of God’s active involvement in my own little life. Meeting Father Dave was no accident nor was it sheer luck. This book was meant to be.

Q. You spent three years getting to know Father Dave. During that time, what was the most surprising thing you learned about him?

More than three years after beginning to work on my book, I am still being surprised by things I learn about Father Dave as well as things I learn from Father Dave; these stories surprise me not in nature but in sheer number.

I learned from our very first meeting to expect the unexpected. In June 2010, after completing a three-hour-long breakfast meeting, we left the Morris Inn on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. Outside the door, our paths crossed with internationally recognized President Emeritus Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C. Father Hesburgh paused to talk with Father Dave, inquiring about a foreign ambassadorship that Father Dave had been offered. He told Dave that he had written a personal recommendation for the position. Father Dave expressed warm gratitude, then told Father Hesburgh that he loved the work he was doing in the prisons too much to leave it. “Frankly, Father Ted, I can’t imagine abandoning ‘my guys’,” he said.

Another moment that made me shake my head is when I found out that this high school athlete, a golfer who once carried an eleven handicap, an avid tennis and basketball player and serious runner had also been a member of a crew that won a Potomac Frostbite National Championship in the Mobjack class. Everything he does, he does well.

 I had known Father Dave for quite some time before I learned about a Peace Mission in the Holy Land he completed with Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Gandhi. I never knew Dave had worked side-by-side with President Jimmy Carter on Habitat for Humanity projects until I saw a photo of the two of them, standing atop a new roof, hammers and nails in their hands.

Dave with President Jimmy Carter at a Habitat for Hummanity project in1996

But the most surprising thing I learned about Father Dave is that he really does not miss Barbara, the one and only love of his life who died of cancer after 45 years of marriage. He says he does not miss her because she is still with him. He says he feels her presence at his shoulder every day and that he relies on her gentle leadership, constant presence, and selfless assistance even more now than he did when she was alive.

 

Q. Your work on this book took you behind the razor wire and into maximum, medium, and minimum-security facilities. Did you ever feel like your life was at risk?  Did it change the way you view the criminal justice system?

I never felt at risk because I was with Father Dave. Going behind razor wire changed the way I view the criminal justice system because I learned, as did Father Dave, that the word “rehabilitation” is a misnomer that implies that these people were habilitated in the first place. Most of the two million Americans who are presently imprisoned need treatment–for substance abuse, poverty, poor education, and mental disorders–rather than punishment.

 

Dave and his wife Barbara with Martin Luther King Sr.

Q. Could you tell us a bit about Fr. Dave’s connection to Martin Luther King Jr. and why it is significant that the book is being released the day before the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech?

In the early 1960s, in Washington, D.C., the course of Father Dave’s life was changed by Martin Luther King Jr., who spoke to a select group of government leaders about the need to work for equality in our society. In the 1970s, when Dave was dean of the Notre Dame Law School, he was asked to re-enact the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which had been delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on 28 August 1963. When Dean Link assumed the lectern at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame, he was astonished to spot MLK Sr. (“Daddy” King), the guest of President Hesburgh, sitting in the front pew.

On this 50 year anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech Father Dave is continuing the work of the great civil rights leader. Like King, Father Dave helps us to confront and understand what King referred to as the “fierce urgency of now”.

 Q Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I have never met nor have I read about anyone who gives full and complete credit to someone else for all that he/she has accomplished. From the beginning, Father Dave has sung the praises of his late wife, Barbara, saying that he became the man he is because he was loved and inspired by her. I believe that this reveals more about his character than any of his titles, accomplishments, or the anecdotes I hear about his anonymous good deeds.

Even when he is faced with the challenge of counseling people on the most sensitive of issues, Father Dave never takes credit for meting out good advice. He says that if he is lucky enough to know the right words to say at just the right time in someone’s life, it is because the Holy Spirit provides those words.

I am profoundly proud that I can introduce to my readers someone who is truly humble, honorable, respectful, and admiring of his wife and of everyone, especially the Holy Spirit, who has helped him along the way. That he is a beacon of believability makes him a powerful force for change.

Father Dave

To schedule an interview with Rev. David T. Link or his biographer, Maura Poston Zagrans, please contact Katie Moore, publicist, kamoore@randomhouse.com, 719-268-1936.



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