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Letters

FREUD While “The Back Page” is usually my favorite part of First Things, I must object to David Bentley Hart’s characterization of Freudian psychotherapy as deterministic in “­Roland on Free Will” (February). As a psy­chiatrist who has practiced and taught psychodynamic psycho­therapy . . . . Continue Reading »

The New Intolerance

In November, Cardinal Walter Kasper gave a speech at the Catholic University of America in which he said, “Mercy has become the theme of [Pope Francis’s] pontificate. . . . With this theme, Pope Francis has addressed countless individuals, both within and without the Church. . . . He has moved . . . . Continue Reading »

Our Death Mounds

As the Western suburbs of Chicago go, it’s a spectacular view. To the distant north is the angular, imposing steeple of Wheaton Bible Church. To the south looms the imperious tower of Fermilab, guarding its unnaturally circular particle accelerator. Continue Reading »

Who Am I To Judge?

At noon I have to be at the local Catholic school—let’s call it St. Dismas—to train altar servers. I will arrive a few minutes early, and by 12:05 most of the kids will have trickled in. We are in Southern California, so most of the boys at St. Dismas wear short pants year-round. Students are required to attend one Mass per month with the school, but it has never occurred to anyone, not their parents, not the pastor, not the teachers, and certainly not the students, that they should wear pants to Mass. The girls wear skirts that in 1966 would have been described as “micro-minis.” When I told the boys’ parents that I expected them to wear their uniform pants to Mass when they become servers, the school principal—a genial thirty-something man who insists on the rigorous use of the title “Dr.” but often wears sweatpants and flip-flops to work—cornered me outside his office for a talk. He warned me that I might get some pushback from parents on the pants requirement. “We are only a medium-Catholic school,” he informed me. “We’re not really that Catholic.” Continue Reading »

Why Christians Care About Sex

new study out this week shows widening gaps in how different demographics in America approach sexuality and family. The Relationships in America study, produced by the Austin Institute, looks at “how social forces, demography, and religion continue to shape attitudes about family and intimate relationships.” The findings are notable, boosted by a survey that draws from 15,738 respondents ages eighteen to sixty, a very large and representative sample of the general population of the United States. Continue Reading »

The Coming Methodist Revival?

These days, when outsiders consider Methodism, they tend to quickly assume that it is just withering away on its deathbed. But before checking for a pulse, observers ought to call to mind its history, particularly its vigorous beginnings. John Wesley preached to thousands from his father’s grave after being muzzled by the Anglican Church, and when the movement he spearheaded crossed the Atlantic, American Methodism spread on horseback as its dedicated circuit-riders expanded their territory along with the young nation. According to Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, in 1776, Methodists made up only a sliver of the religious pie, just some 2.5 percent of worshipers. By 1850, however, Methodism was by far the largest expression of Christianity in the United States, claiming over a third of all the nation’s religious adherents. Continue Reading »

The Decline and Rise
of Secular Judaism

In his 1782 book Letters from an American Farmer, John de Crèvecœur asked the most famous and important question in American history: “What then is the American, this new man?” The authentic American leaves behind him “all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new . . . . Continue Reading »

The “American” Religion

The great contest is over the culture, the guiding ideas and habits of mind and heart that inform the way we understand the world and our place in it. Christians who, knowingly or unknowingly, embrace the model of “Christ without culture”—meaning Christianity in indifference to culture—are . . . . Continue Reading »

An Unbooming Business

After the Baby Boomers:How Twenty- and Thirty-­Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion by robert wuthnow princeton university press, 312 pages, $29.95 Baby boomers are becoming old news and dated scholarship. For nearly a half century after the Second World War, the cohort of babies . . . . Continue Reading »

Metaphysical America

A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion by catherine l. albanese yale university press, 640 pages, $40 If one is looking for a fascinating tour of the many sideshows of the carnival that is religion in America, Catherine L. Albanese is the guide you want. . . . . Continue Reading »

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