I have a new favorite book. Of course when it comes to books, like my children, I have many favorites. But I really, really do like Ross Douthat's new book Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.
I had the chance to meet Ross a couple of weeks ago at a retreat. He is a conservative columnist for The New York Times op-ed page and before that was a senior editor for The Atlantic. Obviously he is a bright guy and gifted writer, but he is also a very committed Christian and has written this book as both a prophetic lament about the current state of Christianity in the public square of America but also as a hopeful place to start dialogue on how to move forward.
The first part of the book is a narrative of the rise and fall of Christian influence in the public square (in the political sphere in particular). It is my favorite part of the book and is probably the clearest and best articulation of how we got to where we are that I can remember reading.
The second half of the book argues that unlike Europe, as America has become less Christian it has not become less religious. So, rather than becoming secular, America has scratched its religious itch with "bad religions." So Douthat takes time to analyze movements such as the health and wealth gospel or the religion of Oprah and "Eat, Pray, Love" and how they influence the culture at large. It is all really insightful stuff.
So if you get tired in the next couple of weeks watching the toxic scripted bi-partisan politics of the conventions, I recommend the thoughtful reflections of Ross Douthat as a helpful antidote.