Gems From the Web

Here is a selection of writing from the America Web site. Our site features two group blogs, “The Good Word” and “In All Things,” as well as weekly archive articles (under the banner In These Pages). Plus, you can find podcasts, video clips, slide shows and reviews of notable films and books. To view a list of Web-only material, visit, or scroll through our blogs, which can be accessed on our home page.

A review of the HBO miniseries, “John Adams,” America Connects

History may largely be the product of great men and women, but it is always the product of flawed men and women. Its humanity is what makes it so interesting. When we gloss over that fact, when we allow history to become mythology by mistaking the lust of nationalism for the love of patriotism, we do the men and women of history, as well as ourselves, a great disservice. By allowing ourselves to inhabit Adams’s life these past few weeks, we have come to know not only the intimate, personal struggles of one of America’s founders, but the fearful and faith-filled human reality that is the genesis of America’s collective identity.

Matt Malone, S.J.

Debating Patrick Symmes’s book, The Boys from Dolores, America Connects

One point the discussion of Cuba always fails to mention is that any development within the island is always shaped by the overwhelming presence of the political, economic and military threat that the United States government represents. Typically this is dismissed in the United States. This is odd. The American people have not experienced anything that could approximate the systematic onslaught imposed on the island by the United States since 1961. Yet we expect Cuba to act as if such policies were not in place. Nelson P. Valdés

“Five Minutes with the Pope,” from Sept. 19, 1987, In These Pages

And while I am at it, Your Holiness, let me say that though I have subjective doubts about some of the doctrinal questions you have elected to stress (e.g., contraception), I join those who believe the church is never so grand as when it defies the spirit of the age. The challenge for the effective true believer is to believe genially, to avoid the mien of an inquisitor, and this you have succeeded gloriously in doing.

William F. Buckley Jr.

A review of the band The Hold Steady, America Connects

Craig Finn envisions his work in a rock band as an exercise in holy foolishness. He sees his role as the lead singer as analogous to a street preacher, “the guy on the corner trying to save people.” In this sense, Finn’s lyrics become virtually homiletic, testifying to the inherent dignity of the drug-addled and the dispossessed. And like any good street preacher, Finn is not solely concerned with the possibility of individual redemption. There is an implicit social commentary in Finn’s lyrics that contextualizes his characters not so much as outcasts, but as direct reflections of America’s spiritual disquiet.

Sean Dempsey, S.J.

“Philip, Samaria and God’s Plan,”The Good Word blog

The Bible is populated with many characters that appear briefly and then vanish from the scene. Philip, the most prominent person in Acts 8, is one of these. Except for a brief mention of his name in 6:5 and 21:8, all we know about him involves two scenes of preaching. Yet he plays an important role in the expansion of Christianity in Acts…Søren Kierkegaard said that we live forward but understand backward. This certainly applies to Philip and the other characters in Acts. The entirety of God’s plan for them comes into focus only through hindsight. Philip’s activity in Samaria demonstrates that faith in the eventual knowledge of God’s plan can be powerful enough to initiate acts of discipleship.

Kyle A. Keefer

“The Perils of Catholic Education,”In All Things

This June our excellent parochial school is being closed after a hundred years. My live-in granddaughter Perry went there for the last eight years and has just moved to the local public school. I am grateful that she had the advantages of Catholic education that sociologists have described; these schools are rich in “social capital” because they provide a supportive community for learning and faith….Struggling to counter our secular culture’s ever growing “expressive individualism,” as Charles Taylor labels it, is no joke. Last week Perry came home from her new school and announced with an ironic gleam in her eye that in health class they were told to construct “self-esteem collages.” Ah, a Lenten project perhaps? We had a good laugh over this, but still... How is the faith going to survive without Catholic schools?

Sidney Callahan

“Remembering Archbishop Oscar Romero,”The America Magazine Podcast

Romero was always very cautious—for instance, if one reads his third pastoral letter he makes careful distinctions about the role of the church and the role of Christians in political movements for liberation, etc. It’s wrong to identify Romero as one who blurred the line incorrectly between faith and politics. If anything else I think he is a living embodiment of the kind of integral salvation that was talked about in magisterial documents from Medellin and Puebla to those of John Paul II.

Interview with Michael E. Lee

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