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22gigantes.com - America’s two greatest strengthsher liberal democratic culture and her free-market economyhave made her a global superpower. But left unchecked, these two strengths can become great cultural weaknesses, sowing selfishness, recklessness, and apathy. In Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society, theologian R. R. Reno argues that America needs a renewal of Christian idealsideals that encourage self-sacrifice, responsibility, and solidarity. Drawing on T.S. Eliot’s 1940 essay The Idea of a Christian Society,” Reno shows how Christianity encourages an abiding ambition for higher things” and a moral vision” that can strengthen communities and transform America into a truly great nation.
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Most helpful customer reviews 4 of 4 people found the following review helpful. A society informed by the values of justice, mercy and protecting the weak By Glynn Young Perhaps the first thing one should note about “R.R. Reno’s Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society” is that he’s not calling for a return to some imagined Christian government for the United States. The title might lead some to believe that, given it’s a presidential election, year, and given that it’s this presidential election, with people talking of whom they’re voting against rather than whom they’re voting for.No, Reno, editor of First Things Magazine, isn’t writing about a Christian government. He’s writing about the idea of a society informed by the values of justice, mercy, and protection of the weak, as opposed to what the United States has become – a society informed by social Darwinism; a political, cultural, and economic elite that makes the rules for everyone except itself; and a culture of nonjudgmentalism that permeates our education system. Among other things. Among a lot of other things.Reno completed this book before the political primary system got fully underway. And so it’s surprising to see just how well he anticipated, without once mentioning their names, the rise of the anti-elitists in both major parties – Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party and Donald Trump in the Republican Party. He has much to say about America’s elites – corporate elites, political, elites, cultural elites – and none of it is good.“Visit the poorest neighborhoods of a major American city or an impoverished rural town and you’ll quickly discover a misery more profound and pervasive than simple material want,” he says. “Drugs, crime, sexual exploitation, divorce, fatherlessness, streams of expletives, pornography, violent images – they are everywhere. The sheer brutality and ugliness of the lives of countless Americans – not only poor but middle-class as well – is shocking.”And the worst impoverishment of all, and the one he lays at the feet of American elites, is spiritual impoverishment. Through actions like movies, news media, corporate CEO’s lobbying on social issues, social engineering in public schools, and more, American elites ridicule the values of family, honesty, hard work, caring for the weak, and decency – while often typically practicing those very same virtues in their own families.It’s fine to make often ridiculous rules and issuing directives for the children of the middle class and poor when your own children are in private schools and will be exempt. It’s normal to contemplate major changes to Social Security when you yourself have another pension system (Congress) and won’t be affected. (Those brilliant legislators in California – the ones so sanctimoniously passing gun control legislation – are exempting themselves from the bill because, as one of them explained, “We need protection.”)What Reno is doing here is tearing away the hypocrisy of what passes for elite thought – right and left – in this country. One small example: “There is a far greater range of moral and political opinion in American churches than in a typical newsroom or editorial board.”Reno’s suggestions for change recognize the difficulties of that change. It’s relatively easy to pass rules or make bureaucratic decisions out of the public spotlight; it’s quite another to change hearts. And it’s hearts that must be changed. It doesn’t take a “moral majority” to do that, either, for Reno understands something else, something profound: It doesn’t take a lot salt to ensure sufficient seasoning. A small number of people, standing with moral authority of doing what is right, doesn’t need political judges, people rewriting laws behind closed doors. And the hysterical rants of newspaper editorial writers to create change.If you want to understand what is happening in this wild and crazy political season, and why there is hope no matter who wins the White House, "Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society" is a good place to start. 3 of 3 people found the following review helpful. Progressive Political Righteousness vs. the Common Good By Ron Chandonia A thoughtful and non-polemical analysis of the baneful influence of America's secular progressive ethos on the welfare of those left behind by the new globalism, especially working-class white Americans. In some ways reminiscent of Myron Magnet's discussion of the black underclass in "The Dream and the Nightmare," it benefits greatly from Reno's Christian perspective on the social disorientation of people on the wrong side of America's widening class divide. That makes Reno's book especially effective at skewering the intolerance of our politically correct elites, for whom the triumph of liberal politics outweighs the common good: "The command to love your enemies promotes unity more effectively than the haughty conviction that you're on the right side of history." 1 of 1 people found the following review helpful. A Status Report on Tocqueville's 'DA' By GDP Because the adage "Don't judge a book by it's cover" is so often ignored, it is likely that Reno's 'Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society' will occupy a small niche of readers, and be quickly dismissed by many others. That is a shame because the content is so critical and pertinent to our world today. Importantly, although Tocqueville does not rate a single mention in this book, the state of America in 2016 as described by Reno is one of the possible outcomes Tocqueville foresaw, and feared, in the 1830's. Echoes of Tocqueville's foresight appear throughout this book. In other words, this book is grounded on a respected tradition of thought.Reno surveys contemporary America and notes the familiar troubling trends (divorce rates, out-of-wedlock births, etc.) in our contemporary society (he characterizes our society as a "post-Protestant WASP" culture - p. 172) and attributes many cultural failings to a failure in moral leadership. He also makes the case for how the burdens of "moral chaos" (p. 81) fall disproportionately upon the "poor and vulnerable" (p. 54). In a clever turn of phrase he describes this lack of moral leadership as "moral deregulation" (p. 85).Reno's concern is consistent with Tocqueville's, of whom Alan S. Kahan (see: Tocqueville, Democracy, and Religion: Checks and Balances for Democratic Souls) writes, "For Tocqueville, religion was the most powerful, possible moral, intellectual and spiritual influence on human beings, and he wanted to enlist religion in the service of the highest ends, freedom and human greatness" (p. 4). For both Reno and Tocqueville, it appears, "democracy" is only one of the necessary tools to achieve real freedom and human flourishing and that in the absence of a "moral anchor" the "logic of egalitarianism" can lead to social dysfunction and a loss of freedom.Tocqueville wrote, "After the general idea of virtue, I do not know any more beautiful thing than that of rights, or rather, these two ideas merge. The idea of rights is nothing more than the idea of virtue introduced into the political world." Reno's chief concern appears to be restoring a sense of virtue into our culture and to again recognize that freedom requires the linkage of virtue with politics. Virtue and normative social mores, of course, are seldom used terms today. Again, Tocqueville wrote, "Religion is considered the guardian of mores, and mores are regarded as the guarantee of the laws and the pledge for the maintenance of freedom itself."In 1995 Vaclav Havel said regarding Dutch resistance fighters, "To me personally, their endeavor serves as proof that the roots of a free, democratic, and equitable society lie deep in the sphere of morality - that such a society would in fact be unthinkable without a moral anchor" (see The Art of the Impossible: Politics as Morality in Practice - p. 189).The echoes continue … Reno writes of the imperative for "a thick local culture" (p. 120), of an "ever-cruder mass culture [which] normalizes dysfunctional behaviors" (p. 1), and of how "Materialism denies the existence of higher things …" (p. 148). These lines of thought can be found in Tocqueville's writings, too.Reno writes of restoring a sense of patriotism as a means of promoting "solidarity" … "We're facing a crisis of solidarity, not freedom, and the crisis of solidarity foretells a crisis of freedom" (p. 111). Tocqueville wrote, "… guided by the religious 'habit of thinking' that freedom was made possible by virtue of obedience, the American comes to recognize that patriotism involves a giving over of some freedom in order that true freedom be attained."Tocqueville's 'Democracy in America' is a masterpiece, while Reno's is a very good read which I enjoyed, but Reno's book can profitably be read as a commentary consistent with Tocqueville's, and engagement with the ideas of each may have significance for our future. See all 3 customer reviews...
"R. R. Reno understands what many Christian public intellectuals today fail to see: that we live in post-Christian America, and we have to come to terms with that fact. Reno's analysis is sophisticated, but Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society is realistic, plainspoken, and compelling. Crucially, the book is not a counsel of despair, but rather a source of hope for faithful Christian resistance because it forthrightly deals with the nation as it truly is, not as old-school culture warriors wish it were."ROD DREHER, senior editor of The American Conservative and author of The Benedict Option (forthcoming)"This call to arms against a postmodern paganism should appeal not only to Christians. This humane, bold, learned book offers a vision of a modern America guided by a proper understanding of freedom. It can help give form and structure to the hopes of those of us who believe that the exhaustion of the West need not be terminal."YUVAL LEVIN, editor of National Affairs and author of The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism "R. R. Reno is a compelling voice helping Christians and others to understand what’s happening in American culture, and why it matters. Reno is especially astute and prophetic on the way marriage and family revisions ravage the poor. This book will help equip the church to navigate the future without fear."RUSSELL MOORE, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and author of Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel From the Inside Flap In America today, is a Christian society possible? Is it even desirable?Yes and yes, says R. R. Reno, editor of First Things and one of America’s leading scholars of religion and politics. In fact, he warns, without a restoration of America as a Christian society, our culture will rapidly descend into an unhappy, shallow, lawless, and brutal place, divided more than ever between rich and poor and vulnerable to elite demagogues.Taking his cue from T. S. Eliot’s famous essay The Idea of a Christian Society, Reno looks at how Christianity has been unseated as America’s moral centerpoint and the terrible price we have paid.In Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society, you’ll learn:Why America’s growing underclass is the direct result of America’s receding faithHow secular liberalism inevitably divides society into a super-successful elite and the dysfunctional and dependent manyWhy government will continue to take over more and more of our livesunless Christianity’s public influence is restoredWhy humane values we take for granted will no longer hold sway in a dechristianized societyThe truth about the American Dreamwhat it really is and how it can be redeemedReno's bracing analysis is no counsel of despair, but rather a call to courage and action. America was onceand needs to be againa Christian society; and this book is the first step to understanding how to make it happen. About the Author R. R. RENO, the editor of First Things, America’s leading journal of religion and public life, grew up in Maryland and attended Haverford College. After earning his doctorate in religious studies from Yale, he taught theology at Creighton University for twenty years. His previous books include In the Ruins of the Church, Fighting the Noonday Devil, and various scholarly works. He lives with his wife in New York City.
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