This week's podcast features an interview with the novelist and essayist Mary Gordon. Gordon's new book, Reading Jesus, began as an effort to understand Christian fundamentalism by looking at the primary sources of the Christian tradition. As she examined Jesus' life and work, she discovered that she did not always agree with Jesus's teachings. Yet she did not find her faith undermined by these disagreements, and instead came to a richer if more complicated understanding of what it means to be a believer.
Listen to assistant editor Kerry Weber's interview with Mary Gordon.
Thomas A. Shannon's essay in the May 31 issue considers the role of the moral theologian. Back in 1995, he looked at the American political scene in the early day's of Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America." Shannon offered a fuller notion of the Catholic idea of subsidiarity, which, both then and now, is often used as an argument in favor of smaller government:
But the principle of subsidiarity has its flip side: as big as necessary or appropriate. This is the dimension of subsidiarity we are in danger of forgetting. For while we should not do for others what they should rightly do for themselves, neither should we require them to do what they cannot or should not do for themselves. The virulent anti-government rhetoric of the current Congress, the talk shows and other electronic media suggest that each individual can do it all on his or her own: No instructions needed; Pull yourself up by the bootstraps; I made it by myself; Government destroys initiative; Government destroys freedom. Such rhetoric goes beyond standard liberal cries for autonomy and traditional libertarian celebrations of the rugged individual. Witness Presidential candidate Lamar Alexander's pledge to dismantle the Federal Government and make Congress part-time. Such anti-government, anti-insider sentiments are only the latest extreme in a season of extremes.