David Brooks on his life-changing pilgrimage with St. Augustine and Dorothy Day

David Brooks (AP)

David Brooks quietly walks into a small, glass-enclosed conference room at the Aspen Institute offices in Washington, D.C., right on time and tastefully dressed in a conservative suit and tie. The veteran New York Times columnist looks as if he could have just walked off the set of one of the numerous news shows on which he has become a fixture over the past 20 years. He is soft-spoken and—in a surprising inversion of “the camera adds ten pounds” cliché —not as tall as one might have expected.

His calm demeanor and well-turned-out appearance belie the fact that Brooks, 57, is a man who has been experiencing enormous upheaval in his life over the past few years. In 2013 he separated from his wife of 27 years, with whom he has three grown children. In the wake of the breakup, he was alone and adrift. Despite being raised in a secular Jewish family and having been a self-described atheist, he found himself drawn to the lives and writings of St. Augustine and Dorothy Day. He began exploring Christianity in earnest, reading more deeply and visiting various churches near his home.

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Anyone who follows his twice-weekly columns or reads his books knows that David Brooks has been circling the topics of virtue and what constitutes a life of meaning for years.

In 2017 he married Anne Snyder, a writer and former researcher for Brooks’s 2015 bestseller The Road to Character, who is 23 years his junior and a committed Christian. It was a move that set a few tongues wagging inside the Beltway punditocracy.

“Having failed at a commitment,” he writes regarding his divorce and the aftermath in his latest book, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life, “I’ve spent the ensuing five years thinking and reading about how to do commitments well, how to give your life meaning after worldly success has failed to fulfill. This book is a product of that search.”

Anyone who follows his twice-weekly columns or reads his books knows that Brooks has been circling the topics of virtue and what constitutes a life of meaning for years. This focus has led to much speculation; Google the question “What religion is David Brooks?” and you will discover that the subject has become a bit of a parlor game. Meeting him in person, the first question feels unavoidable: “What is it like going through the most public conversion process in recent memory?”

“It’s been pretty much fine,” Brooks says after a brief laugh. “My Jewish friends have been mostly fine and charming and given me a long leash. The Christian world has been welcoming.”

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More problematic has been what he believes is the secular news media’s tin ear on issues of faith. “They treat it like you have changed from being a Republican to a Democrat,” he says. “As if it’s that kind of choice. ‘I used to like french fries; now I like sweet potatoes.’ You feel like there’s something that’s sacred and mysterious that is being handled with boxing gloves.”

Brooks is no stranger to rough treatment. His Twitter feed brims with vitriolic comments from trolls taunting him about his divorce and remarriage. Among Times readers he is like a Rorschach test. Ask a random sampling of them and you are bound to hear everything from genuine interest, affection and puzzlement regarding where he stands (“Is he still a conservative?”) to deep frustration and anger at his changing perspectives and moralizing.

David Brooks: "I do think the public square has been denuded of moral conversation, and yet it’s completely hungry for it.”

Morality in the Public Square

Brooks is fine with being tagged as a moralizer. “I’m very happy to spark that reaction,” he says, “because I do think the public square has been denuded of moral conversation, and yet it’s completely hungry for it.” But what exactly does this integration of a budding Christian faith—particularly one heavily influenced by the life of Dorothy Day—look like in the public square? How do his beliefs regarding the roles of business, government, market economics and more square with a Gospel message that emphasizes a radical identification with the poor, the sick and the hungry?

There is no short answer to that question. It’s complicated. It is no accident that Brooks’s last two books have been constructed around the notion of journeying. With Brooks, it is better to speak in terms of provisional findings than final conclusions.

In Brooks’s reckoning, the “second mountain” he writes about is the one people begin climbing once the goals of the first mountain—the goals of success, personal fulfillment and happiness—have been met and found wanting. “If the first mountain is about building up the ego and defining the self,” he writes, “the second mountain is about shedding the ego and losing the self.”

It is similar to the distinction he made between the résumé virtues” and the “eulogy virtues” in The Road to Character, but the years since he wrote that book have been the most turbulent of his life, and his own understanding has changed. “I no longer believe that character formation is mostly an individual task,” he writes. “I now think good character is a byproduct of giving yourself away. You love things that are worthy of love. You surrender to a community or cause, make promises to other people, build a thick jungle of loving attachments, lose yourself in the daily act of serving others.”

Those thick, loving attachments and values are at the core of Weave: The Social Fabric Project, an initiative Brooks has directed for the Aspen Institute since 2018. The project highlights people and organizations across the United States who are working on the local level to relieve the social fragmentation, loneliness, division and distrust so prevalent in our society and replace them with relationship, community and purpose.

Weave reflects a communitarian instinct that has long been part of Brooks’s worldview. “David is the last living, surviving American Whig,” says E. J. Dionne Jr., a Washington Post columnist and Brooks’s frequent debate partner on NPR. In the mid-19th century, the Whig Party—typified by Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln—advocated for “old national greatness conservatism...internal improvements, use the government to build the country and its competitive capacity. But there was also a very strong moral and religious strain to the Whigs,” he says. “Even in David’s most conservative period, he was always drawn to the communitarian strains of conservatism.”

David Brooks freely admits that it is his own story that he is mining in The Second Mountain.

Mining the Second Mountain

Brooks freely admits that it is his own story that he is mining in The Second Mountain. Conquering his first mountain turned him into someone who was “aloof, invulnerable, and uncommunicative—at least when it came to my private life.” He calls himself out as being guilty of evasion, workaholism and conflict avoidance and as lacking in empathy. “This pattern—not being present to what I love because I prioritize time over people, productivity over relationship—is a recurring motif in my life.” In the past few years, he has begun to resemble the bright student who has finally looked up from his textbooks and is starting to connect his voluminous reading and thinking to a more deeply lived emotional reality. 

“Life has to tender you up before you can be touched. So when bad things happened to me in 2013, I moved out of the typical neocon camp, which is ‘I really approve of religion for other people. I think it’s good for them and good for society, sort of like eating vitamin D or something,’” he says. “But I never thought I would actually be implicated. And then I think somehow you just get implicated.” For readers, Brooks’s getting implicated can feel like a voyeuristic window into an intelligent mind at work on the ultimate mystery.

Being the dutiful student that he is, Brooks initially attacked the question of faith as if it were a syllabus for a challenging new course. He thought that he could just come to belief by doing the homework and reading the right books. He came into the Christian world through reading Dorothy Day and St. Augustine but found the Christian concept of grace a stumbling block. “[Day and Augustine] don’t place as much emphasis on agency, and I had real trouble understanding surrender and grace,” he says. “And at first I thought, ‘O.K., it means take your hands off the wheel and just lay back and let God take over.’” The more deeply he read, the more he realized how foreign the notion of grace was to him—and yet he was fascinated and captivated by it.

During his religious exploration, Brooks was taken by the unabashed faith he encountered in Christianity and how it contrasted with what he experienced at conservative synagogues on the high holy days during his childhood. Referring to different traditions in Judaism, he comments, “In the Orthodox [Jewish] tradition you see faith. In the conservative tradition, you see peoplehood,” he says. “The rabbis probably have faith, and some people in the congregation have faith. It’s just not the main subject. And I think that is, frankly, a weakness that there’s not more God-talk.”

He also encountered some serious impediments. “I found that Christians, especially of the Protestant evangelical variety, are plagued by the sensation that they are not quite as intellectually rigorous or as cool as the secular world,” he writes. “At the same time, many of them are inflated by the notion that they are a quantum leap or two more moral.” Brooks believes the critique offered in Mark Noll’s 2010 book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind“The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind”—is essentially still true.

“When you have any spiritual wandering, if people think of you as a thoughtful person, they all say, ‘Oh, you’ll wind up Catholic someday.’ Just because they think you’re going to want the spiritual...the hardcore stuff.” Brooks and his wife attend a Christian church in the D.C. area, but he says it is no secret that his wife has always been drawn to a certain “Catholic air.” “I don’t know,” he says, reflecting on what all that means, “there is something different. I’m too new to this world to really put my hand on it.”

The pilgrim journey on which David Brooks’s own soul has taken him reveals a fascinating contrast.

Power to Shock

Brooks considers St. Augustine the most brilliant mind he has ever encountered. “His capacity to understand human psychology 1,600 years ago is equal to our own,” he says. But he also recognizes himself in the broad strokes of Augustine’s own life story: the Ivy League student who found his success empty and unsatisfying. “[Augustine] was a classic achieve-a-tron who went for the things that clever people go for—which is closed intellectual systems like Manichaeism. And then he sort of let his soul take him on the journey it took him.”

The pilgrim journey on which Brooks’s own soul has taken him reveals a fascinating contrast. On the surface, it can seem as though this very buttoned-down personality is having a life-changing conversion experience while still fully clothed. The inclusion of numerous lists—“Stages of Intimacy,” “Stages of Community Building” and more—throughout The Second Mountain only heighten that sense. But in conversation with Brooks, it is hard to ignore that something deeper is going on. As much as he might be seduced by a beautiful mind like Augustine’s, he has come across great minds before. In the lives of St. Augustine and Dorothy Day, it is their acute emotional openness and insight combined with intelligence that is so compelling. It is an awakening for which his rational mind does not yet have words.

“I think for people like me, [Day’s] kind of goodness has the power to shock,” he says. “Just because, as she said, ‘You should live in a way that wouldn’t make sense unless God exists.’ She really did live that way.”

So how has that shocking goodness affected his voice in the public square? “I think I’m more aware of how capitalism, unbalanced, just rationalizes selfishness.... And it also justifies a sort of amoralism. It turns off the moral lens,” says Brooks. “It hasn’t made me anti-capitalist, but it’s made me see the ways that capitalism—and specifically the meritocracy—have on balance created a very shallow view of life.”

Though he concedes there are people better able to debate the issue, he perceives the relationship between Catholicism and capitalism “as rival mind-sets that balance out each other in a productive way. It’s a tension that never gets squared.”

It will be interesting to see how the body of Catholic social thought and the life of Dorothy Day—that has inspired so much of his wife’s work—will influence his own thinking moving forward. Day’s faith life was deeply devotional and conventional; her political, social and economic critiques are not so easily domesticated.

Brooks has studied the pilgrim narratives of others, deeply human stories of profound vulnerability and gradual transformation.

Pilgrim’s Progress

Thinking, writing and living in tension has become Brooks’s stock in trade. He grew up a secular Jew who attended an Episcopal elementary school and summer camp, both of which had positive impacts on him. He is a self-described “border stalker,” who has always lived on the line between worlds. No doubt this is one reason he frustrates so many readers. What some of us experience as cognitive dissonance is simply a fact of life in the world in which he grew up.

Having been on a pilgrimage of his own over the past seven years, Brooks has studied the pilgrim narratives of others, deeply human stories of profound vulnerability and gradual transformation. If the stories in this genre have a general sense of coherence and direction to them, it is because they are written retrospectively, after a fuller understanding of the change has come. Brooks has not granted himself that luxury; he is writing in real time. Perhaps the problem is ours, then. Has our desperate need for fixed coordinates in a complex world made the notion of pilgrimage so foreign that we are frustrated and intolerant of it in others?

For his part, Brooks reports he is reading more Jewish authors than ever. He has a particular fascination with the Book of Exodus. “Frankly, I feel the blood of 3,000 years of my ancestors more strongly, and I feel protective of it,” he says. “Maybe because I’m wracked by guilt by somewhat leaving it. So I feel more Jewish than ever before. I prize Judaism more than before.”

He is also fascinated by the idea of looking at the roots of Judaism and Christianity and how the two faiths have become different by 2,000 years of cultural history in which each group defined itself against the other. He believes that if you go back to the actual Jesus, the traditions were a lot closer than they seem today.

Wherever Brooks’s pilgrimage is taking him, the journey will almost certainly include open expressions of doubt and unknowingness. “The way I experience faith is not a block of concrete,” he writes in Second Mountain. “Faith is change. Faith is here one moment, gone the next, a stream that evaporates. At least for me.” Brooks comes to faith from a journey that is intensely personal and connected to his own unique makeup and personality. If we are honest, that is also the story of everyone who comes to faith as a mature adult.

“I connect more with a smaller group of people who struggle with faith, who wrestle with all the ridiculous unlikelihood of faith,” he writes. “I experienced grace before I experienced God, and sometimes I still have trouble getting back to the source.”

Correction: For clarification, words from a direct quote that were mistakenly cut in the editing process have been reinserted.

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Vince Killoran
2 months 1 week ago

Holy smokes! This is a considerable amount of space given over to David Brooks. Even after reading this this essay I'm not sure why I should pay attention to an establishment political and cultural newspaper columnist and commentator. Who cares about his "journey"? Isn't he still leading a well-heeled life with the elites?

I will check back, however, to see how Brooks re-purposes Day and Merton in his search for his "authentic self."

Bill McGarvey
2 months 1 week ago

Thanks for the comment Vince. “Who cares about his journey?” I guess it’s safe to say that I, and others, do that’s why it’s in these pages. America is a Catholic journal and— in the endless volumes written about faith over thousands of years—stories of conversion are among the most individual, unique and interesting.

Is he still leading a well-heeled life with elites? I didn’t consider his financial status or social circles relevant here so I didn’t inquire about it. Though I thought commenting on his own reconciliation regarding capitalism and Catholic social teaching/Dorothy Day’s witness deserved some push back and that’s why it’s included.

Vince Killoran
2 months 1 week ago

No need to reply to each comment Bill. In fact, it seems a bit off-putting. Too much like something a publicist would do rather than an essayist in a journal/magazine. You've written a long article; now let the readers respond (and engage w/each other).

As for Brooks, I just don't see why he is so compelling a figure. If it is that he is a "seeker," that doesn't seem especially unique. If his story is an opportunity to discuss "communitarian conservatism," then I would like to read a convincing explanation of squaring a defense of free market capitalism with Christianity. Michael Novak attempted this with his response to the U.S. Bishops pastoral letter, ' "Economic Justice for All" back in the mid-1980s. Along with his co-author William Simon (who made big money with leveraged buyouts), they argued that closing up factories in close-knit communities and supporting Reaganomics tax cuts for the rich and deep cuts to social services were consistent with Catholic social teaching. Brooks pulls his punches on this important matter.

Bill McGarvey
2 months 1 week ago

Thanks Vince. It’s funny, I have a very different experience of this. When I reply to comments and clarify confusion where possible it seems to enable a more productive conversation that is grounded in the reality of the topic at hand and not in other’s agendas/pet theories. Not sure that’s necessarily “publicist like” I think a writer who spent as much time thinking about the topic as I have could shed some light where appropriate. Thanks again. B

Christopher Lochner
2 months 1 week ago

It used to be that "celebrity" was an after dinner dessert, perhaps a mint. Now "celebrity" is the main course of which there is only one selection type. ( A modern version of a god.) Ahh, the glory of celebrated people celebrating even more important celebrated people. One wonders where the there is in all of this. The Authentic Self in modern times? Sir, you must be joshing. We can still dream, though.

Bill McGarvey
2 months 1 week ago

Thanks for the comment Christopher.
Brooks’ celebrity status seems to be beside the point here. The list of
Celebrities who don’t get coverage in America is endless. The number of “celebrities” like Brooks—I think the label is a bit of a stretch to be honest—who write intelligently about spiritual conversion... precious few.

Suffice it to say, I don’t agree that it’s impossible to search for the authentic self in modern times.

Edward Sweeney
2 months ago

Bill, you missed Christopher's point. David Brooks is the celebrity celebrated by your article. You are the celebrity celebrating Brooks.

Bill McGarvey
2 months ago

Ah ok! I’m a celebrity?!? That explains the TMZ guys outside my door!
Our definition of celebrity has clearly taken a hit in the US...
;)

Todd Witherell
2 months 1 week ago

“On the banks of the Potomac, we see firmness and decisiveness, whereas across the capitals of Europe, we see Hamlet-like dithering and equivocation. But history will decide who was right about Iraq: George W. Bush or Jacques Chiraq.”

- David Brooks

(immortal wisdom, right? I wonder what Dorothy Day might think of this?)

Bill McGarvey
2 months 1 week ago

Thanks for the comment Todd. Not sure that’s a particularly fair standard to judge him by here. Of course, when he wrote that it was many years before he’d encountered Day and embarked on this spiritual journey. While it’s not explicit in the article, I think it’s safe to say that Brooks’ thinking has changed considerably over the past 7 years. Does that mean he won’t make mistakes in judgement etc moving forward? Of course not. As I tried to highlight in the piece, one can argue with his point of view but it’s difficult to argue the authenticity of the journey he’s on. Again, it’s better to think about him in terms of provisional findings rather than final conclusions. I don’t take the development/change in his thinking as a fault. Quite the opposite in fact.

Todd Witherell
2 months ago

Yes, but perhaps the hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, of dead Iraqi children, moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas would, if the could speak, insist that Mr. Brooks’ “provisional findings” carried rather “final conclusions” in their world. You don’t have read Dorothy Day to realize that lies and mass murder and race hate kill actual human beings. It’s a long loneliness, isn’t it?

Andrew Strada
2 months 1 week ago

Would it be too cynical to wonder how much of his searching is driven by the need to keep a much younger second wife happy (or, in the case of Newt Gingrich, a third wife)? Many adult males will burn incense at any altar that is required to keep harmony in the bedroom.

Bill McGarvey
2 months 1 week ago

You are not alone in that question. But the timeline of events that he presents in his book resists that notion. When they realized there was more than simple friendship between them and deeper feelings were developing, Anne moved to Texas and they weren't in touch for a number of years. A lot of his own exploration of faith happened while she was not in his life at all. He was in another relationship with a woman in New York for a time during that period as well.

Andrew Strada
2 months 1 week ago

I do appreciate your reading and responding to the comments. Not many of the authors do that. With respect to Mr. Brooks and his spiritual journey, I suppose that giving the other fellow the benefit of the doubt would be the Christian way to react.

Jason & Amy Rogers
2 months 1 week ago

Would that be such a terrible thing? Might not the presence of his new wife be a way that God is reaching out to him?

Jake Gallerano
2 months 1 week ago

In Brooks, I've always found too many answers and not enough sincere questioning, though, I do find some of his revelations accurate, I always find myself questioning his sincerity - here is a man who always seems to recognize the liminal in public sentiment, and gets his foot on the starting line - it's a talent, a gift even, but it seems to simply assure himself a place at the table - and after following him a bit, there really isn't much there but a pandering to the notion of oligarchy and noblige oblige as a bloodless self-righteousness by the nihilistic, that he rightly recognizes in the Capitalism that he now gently prods. I do find it interesting that he discovers himself as St. Augustine. There are many, perhaps more who never experience the void that is existence, with, or without faith, and the necessity of clinging to something absurd, such as a life raft in a vast deserted ocean. Perhaps, it's the capacity for the absurdity of hope or faith that is humanity, and rather than faith, what he's discovered is his need for it. He does provide an interesting Confession, I'm not quite sure, if either it, or he is up to an Augustinian measure. But, hell, no one knows what is in another's heart. His despair at the collapse of his marriage rings true and authentic, and certainly can ignite the first step in a long journey of examination and discovery. If he would donate all the proceeds from his book sales to Catholic Charity I would be more inclined to read him. My bad!

Bill McGarvey
2 months 1 week ago

Thanks for your comment, Jake. I couldn't agree more with your statement that "no one knows what is in another's heart." I disagree that Brooks "discovers himself as St. Augustine." I think he simply sees parallels to his own life 1600 years later: a well-educated successful person who finds it all empty.

Peter Schwimer
2 months 1 week ago

The first thought I had on reading this article was: Welcome, welcome to the faith and the journey. And it is a journey, isn't it? I read Mr
Brooks infrequently. But I've always thought that he had a fine intellect even if I did not always agree with his politics. I wish him well and success on his journey. There will be bumps in the road but he'll find his way.

Jason & Amy Rogers
2 months 1 week ago

Thank you for this article. I've been paying more and more attention to David Brooks lately because I, too, feel there is a need for moral discussion in the editorial pages.

Bill McGarvey
2 months 1 week ago

Glad you enjoyed it.

Dennis Stone
2 months 1 week ago

Surprised Bill that you did not mention “Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr. So closely parallels David Brooks’ “Second Mountain.” However, this is an example of the gift of uniqueness that the Lord has given us and how we can learn from each other’s experience.

Bill McGarvey
2 months 1 week ago

I have not had the chance to read "Falling Upward" though I've heard good things. Thanks for your comment.

Thomas Romig
2 months 1 week ago

Thank you, Mr. McGarvey, for your thoughtful piece...and for your gracious responses to the people who posted comments. David Brooks strikes me as a person who is always open to new ideas, always willing to change course as he experiences the inevitable twists and turns that life challenges us with. You captured this well.

Bill McGarvey
2 months 1 week ago

Thanks Thomas. I appreciate it. B

rose-ellen caminer
2 months 1 week ago

I've always loved David Brooks, seeing him on PBS and reading an article by him here and there. I don't know why exactly, his sincerity, his unhippness, whatever; regardless of whether I agree with all or most of his positions. my liking him transcends any politics.I read a commentor refer disparagingly to him as a "faux innocent." That was funny reading that, as the very thought I had of him was that he is a true innocent.That the word "innocent" was even used about him by someone else, told me that I had not mis characterized him, the word "faux" was the mis characterization[imo

FRAN ABBOTT
2 months 1 week ago

Thank you, Bill McGarvey, for creating a dialogue. Generous, enlightening & much appreciated.

Bill McGarvey
2 months 1 week ago

You're vey welcome, Fran.

John McCauley
2 months 1 week ago

Thanks for the article — I wish Mr. Brooks well on his journey. I thought the article speaks to many of us post-50ers — who all are climbing our own 2nd mountains as life turns from raising families, adjusting to new career moves and dealing with inevitable health declines. Isn’t Brooks in a way acknowledging that there is indeed an objective truth? Strikes me that his journey thus far has been a deep immersion in the relativistic mud of our times — constant seeking of meaning in the hyper rationalizations of our times — be nice to see him abandon this tendency altogether and come to full terms with Augustine’s “ our hearts are restless until we rest in thee” — an acknowledgement of a real objective truth and reality — a belief that there is indeed a presence, a participation, real actions of God in this existence. Perhaps this might help Mr. Brooks move forward — certainly Augustine and Day had this in-breaking moment in common — when knowledge of this objective truth rushed into their persons forever redefining both and benefitting us all. I hope this might occur for Mr. Brooks and will pray for him. God seeks him versus he seeking God.

Vincent Gaglione
2 months 1 week ago

When you are the graduate of 14 years of Catholic education and 65+ years of homilies at Sunday Masses, there is definitely a “conservative” bent to one’s ways of thinking and seeing the world. But 50+ years working in secular environments with all kinds of peoples of different and no faiths only prove that all that “conservatism” is life-limiting and deserving of pungent reflection, and sometimes objection. That’s why when I discovered David Brooks’ columns in the Times and his commentary on numerous radio and TV programs I was immediately attracted to someone who looks beyond his core beliefs to examine them and himself and his world from other perspectives. I rarely if ever experienced that within my Catholic world (some rare exceptions to be sure) and he showed me how to do it. Having never read any of his books, I had no idea of his current life’s journey. I am sort of pleased that some exceptional Catholics (surely St Augustine and Dorothy Day) have helped him lately. Thanks for a good article and some revelations even about myself!

Linda Dickey
2 months 1 week ago

Good article--very well written! Knew Brooks was coming our way since I did the same (Jewish and baptized in 1995 at age 49). Conversion is a process, but it's also a moment when you say yes (and we can say no). It's inspiring and comforting to read the stories of others like ourselves.

Bill McGarvey
2 months ago

Thanks Linda. I think conversion narratives are often the most compelling things to read in any context: religious, political, personal etc. The recognition of the need to change and the work--thinking, reading, praying etc--done to make that happen can be powerful.

Courtney Beck
2 months 1 week ago

Must have been a great interview Bill! I have long appreciated David Brooks. He’s clearly a thoughtful man and in this day and age I find his voice and journey refreshing.

arthur mccaffrey
2 months 1 week ago

excellent analysis of what it means to be a non-superficial person in the 21st century. There are a lot of seekers out there but we don't always get to hear their story as well articulated as this.
The fact that he titled his book "Second Mountain" immediately threw me back to another seeker's book--Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton, someone else who was looking for meaning as a young man. I for one appreciate Brooks's openness in talking about his journey. Since he is such a well-read intellectual, I would recommend he read what French author Francois Mauriac had to say about grace, or Graham Greene whose books are all about struggles with Faith and Grace (E.g. "The end of the affair"--which might strike Brooks as almost a wee bit too close to home, maybe?)

Bill McGarvey
2 months ago

It's interesting, I asked Brooks about Merton and he had read him but felt him to be too dry for his taste. I think the monastic desire didn't resonate. No idea if he'd read Mauriac or Greene.

arthur mccaffrey
2 months ago

then make sure if he reads only one book, the one book that would resonate most with his own life experience would be Greene's "The End of the Affair".

Al Cannistraro
2 months ago

"For his part, Brooks reports he is reading more Jewish authors than ever. He has a particular fascination with the Book of Exodus. “Frankly, I feel the blood of 3,000 years of my ancestors more strongly, and I feel protective of it,” he says. “Maybe because I’m wracked by guilt by somewhat leaving it. So I feel more Jewish than ever before. I prize Judaism more than before.”
"He is also fascinated by the idea of looking at the roots of Judaism and Christianity and how the two faiths have become different by 2,000 years of cultural history in which each group defined itselfs against the other. He believes that if you go back to the actual Jesus, the traditions were a lot closer than they seem today."

I am disappointed that David Brooks has not taken a more objective and journalistic perspective as he examines Jewish and Christian origins. He appears to be automatically and thoughtlessly buying into all the traditional, faith based biblical historical assertions that currently lack objective corroboration. It's OK to choose to believe those assertions, but the element of choice/faith should be acknowledged, in my opinion, especially coming from a journalist.

Just about everybody is guilty of this, but I've been hoping that Brooks would bring an attitude of journalistic objectivity to his religious explorations.

That said, I am a big fan of Brooks, and I appreciate his focus on character and virtue. I also appreciate that I frequently learn something worthwhile as a result of his columns.

John Barbieri
2 months ago

Life is like a series of journeys. Good companions can help one another along the way. Upon arriving at a destination, in only a moment it is time to leave on the next journey. Looks like David Brooks has found some good friends to walk along with. Good journey, Mr. Brooks! May you have many many friends on your journey!

Rob Jacobs
2 months ago

I rather enjoyed the photo of Mr. Brooks lecturing in front of a backdrop that says “Resetting Our Moral Compass.” I’ve always had a soft spot for black humor... intentional or otherwise. Mr. Brooks was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the Iraq War— that deeply immoral, illegal, villainous, and tragic event. Why is it that those who are so eager to drop fragmentation bombs on human beings are also the ones who lecture us on our “moral compass” and write books about “the road to character.”
Spare me.

Mark Ruzon
2 months ago

Thanks for the article. I've watched and read David Brooks for many years but knew little of his life and faith journey. This kind of story is what makes America for me.

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