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An Anxious Age

by Joseph Bottum

We live in a profoundly spiritual age, but not in any good way. Huge swaths of American culture are driven by manic spiritual anxiety and relentless supernatural worry. 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 desperate to stand of the side of morality--to know that we are righteous and dwell in the light. In An Anxious Age, Joseph Bottum offers an account of modern America, presented as a morality tale formed by a collision of spiritual disturbances. And the cause, he claims, is the most significant and least noticed historical fact of the last fifty years: the collapse of the mainline Protestant churches that were the source of social consensus and cultural unity. Our dangerous spiritual anxieties, broken loose from the churches that once contained them, now madden everything in American life. Updating The Protestant Ethic and the Sprit of Capitalism, Max Weber's sociological classic, An Anxious Age undertakes two case studies of contemporary social classes adrift in a nation without the religious understandings that gave them meaning. Looking at the college-educated elite he calls "the Poster Children," Bottum sees the post-Protestant heirs of the old mainline Protestant domination of culture: dutiful descendants who claim the high social position of their Christian ancestors even while they reject their ancestors' Christianity. Turning to the Swallows of Capistrano, the Catholics formed by the pontificate of John Paul II, Bottum evaluates the early victories--and later defeats--of the attempt to substitute Catholicism for the dying mainline voice in public life. Sweeping across American intellectual and cultural history, An Anxious Age traces the course of national religion and warns about the strange angels and even stranger demons with which we now wrestle. Insightful and contrarian, wise and unexpected, An Anxious Age ranks among the great modern accounts of American culture.From the Hardcover edition.

The Christmas Plains

by Joseph Bottum

A well-respected writer and editor's memoir of childhood Christmases set in the sometimes harsh but always captivating landscape of South Dakota.Wreaths and holly, fruitcakes and mistletoe, ornaments and snowflakes, St. Nick and Scrooge's humbug, Joseph and Mary, a young child in a manger and magi from the East. These words automatically stir up the season of Christmas and invoke memories of family and friends and hope and faith. By turns sweet and comic, sentimental and serious, the former editor of First Things magazine shares his reflections of the mad joys and wild emotions of the season while growing up on the South Dakota plains.

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