An optimistic account of the church’s future in the midst of a secular age.



What are American Catholics to do in today’s troubled world?

Chaput (Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, 2008, etc.), the archbishop of Philadelphia, urges Christians, and Catholics in particular, to be hopeful in the midst of a changing culture. Honing in on Western and especially American society, the author posits that irreparable changes have occurred in recent decades that change how the church must view its role; though times are more difficult for the Christian faith and for the institution of the church, believers can still live with hope. Chaput begins with a healthy dose of doom and gloom, describing social ills and a general drift away from faith or even from shared value systems. He writes at length about the sea change in sexual ethics, from the advent of the birth control pill to issues surrounding gender fluidity. These changes, he asserts, have challenged society at its very core. “Ultimately,” he writes, sexual freedom “leads to questions about who a person is and what it means to be human.” Likewise, excessive relativism in our education system means that “moral truths accessible to human reason, such as those in the Ten Commandments, don’t really qualify as true.” However, “for Christians, of course, truth is a Person,” Jesus Christ, and this is what separates believers from the secular world surrounding them. Chaput goes on to encourage readers to embrace hope as a worldview and as a lifestyle. He points to the Beatitudes as a set of rules Christians can and should follow in a world that is ambivalent or even hostile to their beliefs. Finally, he encourages believers to pass on their faith in confidence and with purpose. Chaput is an erudite writer, and his work includes a wide array of quotations and allusions. His observations on Western culture are keen, and while secular-minded readers will find plenty to argue with, his writing will appeal to a wide Christian audience.

An optimistic account of the church’s future in the midst of a secular age.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-674-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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