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On the Road to Emmaus

The Catholic Dialogue with America and Modernity

Glenn W. Olsen

Publication Year: 2012

In distinctive voice and tone, cultural commentator Glenn W. Olsen presents his latest work on the place of Catholicism in American history. Here he clarifies the meaning of American modernity for Catholics and shows the conflicts and tensions confronting the religious person today.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-16

In 2010 I published The Turn to Transcendence: The Role of Religion in the Twenty-First Century.1 Though this was a large volume, there were many points touched on in it, especially in regard to politics and social thought, that I could not fully develop. ...

Part 1. Catholic Incarnational Humanism

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1. The “Catholic Moment” and the Question of Inculturation

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pp. 19-50

In 1987 the then Lutheran, but soon to become Catholic, writer Richard John Neuhaus published a book, The Catholic Moment: The Paradox of the Church in the Postmodern World (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987), which received considerable discussion. I was asked to write a review article on the book, ...

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2. The Investiture Contest

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pp. 51-71

The investiture contest was a struggle over what the respective positions of the royal and priestly powers should be in a Christian society. Although the most visible aspect of this contest was the struggle over lay investiture between Pope Gregory VII (1073–85) and the German emperor Henry IV (1056–1106), ...

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3. Lay Spirituality ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

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pp. 72-80

Contemporary Christianity, as an expression of the contemporary world, bears some resemblance to a great carnival midway. From all sides barkers urge their goods. “Have you tried Marriage Encounter?” “Come to the Latin Mass this Sunday.” “I didn’t know what Christianity was about until I joined the Charismatics!” ...

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4. Christian Faith in a Neo-Pagan Society

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pp. 81-100

I think it was C. S. Lewis who somewhere, in response to the lament of a friend over having to live surrounded by pagans, replied to the effect, “That it were so.” Lewis, who liked to describe himself as a converted pagan living among apostate Puritans, meant by his exclamation that some of the pagans had had a regard for the life of the mind, ...

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5. Thy Kingdom Come on Earth as in Heaven: The Place of the Family in Creation

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pp. 101-122

The idea of the kingdom or reign of God was variously understood in Judaism and early Christianity. Walter Kasper has argued that Origen pierced through all this variety to see the essential point: the Kingdom is Christ and his message.1 The kingdom is a name for doing the will of God. ...

Part 2. The Encounter with American Political Culture

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6. Separating Church and State

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pp. 125-144

The distinguished Hungarian-American historian John Lukacs recounts the outcome of the poll of Catholic college women he remembers Will Herberg to have reported in the 1950s.1 They simply were asked whether they thought of themselves first as Americans or as Catholics. ...

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7. Religion, Politics, and America at the Millennium

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pp. 145-173

In this chapter I would like to reflect on the role of pluralism, especially religious pluralism, in what I take to be the failure of the American experiment in ordered liberty. My argument is that, examined from the vantage point of the turn of the millennium, American claims to exceptionalism and superiority, ...

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8. America as an Enlightenment Culture

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pp. 174-187

The United States remains a puzzle to itself and to others. On the one hand, no country, not France itself, is so obviously the offspring of the Enlightenment and the revolutionary ideals of the late eighteenth century. On the other hand, America has not inaptly been described as “a nation with the soul of a church,” ...

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9. John Rawls and the Flight from Authority: The Quest for Equality as an Exercisein Primitivism

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pp. 188-210

John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice has been at the center of discussion of justice in the United States for more than three decades, and has had a not negligible influence elsewhere. The book, along with Rawls’ many second thoughts about its arguments, stands in a dominant stream of political theory, ...

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10. The Quest for a Public Philosophy in Twentieth-Century American Political Thought

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pp. 211-236

Though the subject is the United States, the background is France, Alexis de Tocqueville, and the late François Furet, de Tocqueville’s most influential recent interpreter. The one thing Furet thought de Tocqueville had missed in his analysis of The Old Regime and the French Revolution was the Revolution’s dynamic. ...

Part 3. The Encounter with Europe, Native Americans, and Modernity

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11. Unity, Plurality, and Subsidiarity in Twentieth-Century Context

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pp. 239-253

Adebate about the relationship between unity, plurality, and subsidiarity runs through European culture and history. “Unity” indicates the degree to which any culture possesses or forms a consensus and has shared values or a common world view. “Plurality” marks the existence, persistence, or development of subcultures within a culture, ...

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12. The Ethics of Conquest: The European Background of Spain’s Mission in the New World

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pp. 254-270

Christopher Columbus was no Spaniard, but rather brought to the employ of the Catholic monarchs a specifically Italian experience of the larger world. An avid reader of Marco Polo, who had traveled many of the shipping routes used by Europeans, Columbus, like any Italian merchant, knew the implications of the conquest of the Byzantine Empire ...


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pp. 271-304


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pp. 305-316

E-ISBN-13: 9780813219554
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813219547

Page Count: 323
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1

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Subject Headings

  • Christianity and culture -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • Church and state -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • Christianity and politics -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • Catholic Church -- Doctrines.
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