Literature

People of the Books

Billion Photos / Shutterstock
Billion Photos / Shutterstock

NOT LONG AFTER graduating college, I read everything I could find about various expressions of Christian community. Somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon the stories of Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, and the other Catholic Workers who would follow in their footsteps. I remember being immediately captivated by the Catholic Worker vision for hospitality houses that were community hubs for both action—growing food, feeding the hungry, protesting American militarism—and learning—cultivating conversation and reflection on radical Christian faithfulness and the socioeconomic vision that defined the movement.

Although perhaps more widely admired for their activism and works of mercy, the Catholic Workers have long published a newspaper that is a catalyst for their social vision—fusing the stories of scripture, saints, and literature with the ubiquitous challenge to live faithfully in an age marked by greed and violence. In the words of Maurin, an essential part of their mission is to make “workers out of scholars and scholars out of workers.”

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Q&A: Marilynne Robinson on Guns, Gay Marriage, and Calvinism

Pulitzer-prize winning author Marilynne Robinson spoke at Union Seminary in March 2014. Photo by Kristen Scharold

Pulitzer-Prize winning author Marilynne Robinson draws a wide fan base that spans lovers of serious literature, including many conservative Christians. This fall, she will release “Lila,” a follow-up to her earlier novels “Gilead” (2004) and “Home” (2008) about a 1950s-era Iowa town that won her many accolades.

Robinson’s diverse fan base was described in The American Conservative as “Christian, not Conservative.” As the author noted, Robinson is far from holding up ideals put forward by the religious right. But that doesn’t stop conservative Christians from engaging with her writing.

Before giving an address at Union Theological Seminary this spring, Robinson spoke to Religion News Service about a variety of social issues. In the interview, Robinson explained why she thinks Christians are fearful, why she loves theologian John Calvin and whether she’ll join Twitter. 

Wendell Berry Earns Highest Humanities Award, Lectures on Economy and Imagination

Obama awards Wendell E. Berry the 2010 National Medal of Arts and Humanities. Ph
Obama awards Wendell E. Berry the 2010 National Medal of Arts and Humanities. Photo by Mark Wilson / Getty Images

On Monday evening Wendell Berry delivered the 41st annual Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, sponsored by the National Endowment of the Humanities, at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. According to the NEH, this is “the most prestigious honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.”

In front of hundreds, Berry took his place among former recipients (Walker Percy, Toni Morrison, Arthur Miller, John Updike, and many others) to deliver a resonating essay on the beauty of place, imagination, and pleasure, titled “It All Turns on Affection.” The title hinges on E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel Howards End, which Berry said, takes some of its thrust as a “manifesto against materialism.”

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