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Bottum on Anxious America

Feb 24, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 23 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Hazel Motes, the hyperanxious protagonist of Flannery O’Connor’s great novella Wise Blood, finds himself so bedeviled by the demands of religious belief that he rebels by founding a religion of his own: The Holy Church of Christ Without Christ. The mainline Protestant churches of the twentieth century, says our contributing editor Joseph Bottum, did something similar when the challenges of the secular world proved too much: They abandoned the inconveniences and discomforts of faith and became, instead, secular liberals.

Bottum Book

So argues Bottum in his dazzling new book, just out from Image Books, ">An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America. The notion of contemporary liberalism as displaced religious faith—with its puritanical moralism, its iron insistence on its own rectitude—isn’t entirely new, but Bottum’s treatment of it is. “An Anxious Age,” says the theologian Michael Novak, “is bound to be viewed as a classic of American sociology.” 

We’ll go further: Chances are good that it will someday be viewed as a classic of American letters, too. Readers of these pages will be familiar with Bottum’s original turn of mind, his gift for the unexpected insight and the sumptuous phrase, and they will be delighted to find them in such abundance between hard covers (or downloaded to their preferred mobile device!). A bargain at any price, but a ">steal at $25.

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