Struggling for the Soul of Our Country

Struggling for the Soul of Our Country

by Preston M. Jr. Browning


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Struggling for the Soul of Our Country is a book in search of answers: what does it mean to struggle for the soul of a country and how does the life of citizenship influence our common future? While discussing major cultural and political issues, Browning addresses the deeper questions haunting many of our citizens and reflects upon the spiritual dimension of the crises America faces today. With titles such as "American Global Hegemony vs. the Quest for a New Humanity," "Why I Am a Christian Socialist," and "American Dystopia" these essays examine aspects of American political and cultural life in an effort to shed light on the pathologies that Browning claims undermine the health of the country's soul. This book invites the reader to examine the development of America as a militaristic empire, initiating multiple wars abroad, including a disastrous war in Iraq, and fostering at home a culture of violence that led to the assassination of an American president, John F. Kennedy, by agents of the US government.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781498209946
Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Publication date: 05/20/2016
Pages: 338
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Preston M. Browning Jr. holds a BA in history from W&L, an MA in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a PhD in Religion and Literature from the University of Chicago. While a member of the English Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago for thirty years, he was a Fulbright lecturer in Yugoslavia. He is the author of Flannery O'Connor: The Coincidence of the Holy and the Demonic in O'Connor's Fiction and Affection and Estrangement: A Southern Family Memoir. He operates Wellspring House, a retreat for writers in western Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

In Memoriam xiii

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 American Global Hegemony vs. the Quest for a New Humanity 15

Chapter 2 American Pathologies and the Response of Faith 29

Chapter 3 Why I Am a Christian Socialist 41

Chapter 4 Letter to My Grandchildren 93

Chapter 5 Struggling for the Soul of America 98

Chapter 6 Religionless Christianity in an Age of Spectacle 148

Chapter 7 America's Forgotten Wars 189

Chapter 8 American Dystopia: Cold War, the CIA, and John F. Kennedy as Sacrificial Victim 216

Chapter 9 Climate Change & Our Shared Earth 256

Chapter 10 The Plague: Money in Politics 272

Appendix 1 Israel's Heartlessness: We See It in the Treatment of Palestinians 285

Appendix 2 Religion for the Downtrodden and Forgotten 288

Appendix 3 Anger and Hope 291

Bibliography 297

Index 307

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"These essays are elegant and interesting accounts of what it might mean to view America, Christianity, and other fundamental topics from a slightly different angle, one that offers new insights."

—Bill McKibben, Author; Activist; Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College

"Browning's lovely essay collection on America—all that it is, all that it could be—manages to be a poetics of outrage and an exaltation of the possible at the same time. It offers a fierce indictment of the tyranny of capitalism, the pathology of war, and our ruptured relation to nature. Yet this is a book of hope: that yes, America's soul is worth the struggle and transformation is within our grasp."

—Kate Doyle, Senior Analyst of U.S. Policy in Latin America, National Security Archive

"Browning's book constitutes a profound and prophetic wake-up call to our nation. He urges the citizens of America toward a level of social consciousness and interdependence that flies in the face of our current focus on individualism. Is his analysis accurate? One can only answer that question with integrity once the book has been read."

—John Shelby Spong, retired Bishop Diocese of Newark, Author of Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy

"These essays burst as blossoms of radical wisdom, growing right out of the deep place of our shared history—that past-present where possibility betrayed lives and festers. In his voice it remains possible and calls to us still. In beautifully accessible prose, standing at the cutting edge of this historic moment, Browning voices the call to a socially real democracy, beyond imperial aggression and ecological self-destruction. He has offered us all a work of revolutionary soulfulness."

—Catherine Keller, Author; George T. Cobb Professor of Constructive Theology, Drew Theological School

"In this timely, wise, and passionately argued study, Browning has given new credibility and relevance to the position of a Christian socialist. Placing itself in a long and distinguished tradition of moral criticism in the United States, this book sets forth a challenge to America that it dare not dismiss without risk to its very nature."

—Giles Gunn, Author; Professor of Global Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Timid readers may be offended by Preston Browning's expose of the brutal efforts by our country to 'make the world safe for democracy.' But if they share his concern for the soul of our country, they will see the urgent need for this well-informed book."

—Maynard Kaufman, Author; former Professor of Religion and Environmental Studies, Western Michigan University

"A refreshing commentary on US domestic and foreign policy, past and present, from a left Christian perspective. Browning's prose is sharp, clear, often witty, and especially welcome in a turbulent political year. We need more discussions like this."

—Nancy R. Cirillo, Associate Professor Emerita of English, University of Illinois Chicago; Faculty Liaison to the Atlantic Slavery Collections

"In this book, the octogenerian writer Preston Browning—poet, critic, activist, and author of Affection and Estrangement, A Southern Family Memoir, and Flannery O'Connor—makes the reader his companion for an intensely critical and very personal religious journey, from the constrained and life-denying 'sado-masochistic' southern Protestant culture of his early years, to the realm of a life-affirming faith that embraces the larger Christian vision of Bishop John Shelby Spong, Harvey Cox, Marilynne Robinson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas Berry, and Ernest Becker. The special power of this book comes from the way in which Browning presents his faith journey as intertwined with, and driven by, a passionate critique of American global politics and capitalism, from the Vietnam and central American wars to the current global climate crisis. There are powerful chapters tracing American political and social history as they were shaped by the country's failed imperial adventures. Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Chris Hedges are his companions in painting a grim picture of contemporary America; but he is saved from despair by the examples of the heroism of the Catholic resistance in central America, the activism of the young people of Occupy Wall Street, the testimony of activists and poets like Hedges and Carolyn Forche, ("Through these two fellow citizens, I, at any rate, feel connected to a love that transcends national boundaries and even global boundaries.") as well as his hopes for a better world for his grandchildren. Preston Browning's concluding hopefulness is all the more inspiring for the dark and painful political and religious passages through which it has been won."

—John Ratte, Author; retired Professor of Modern History at Amherst College

"Browning, an octogenarian, a professor of the humanities, and a decades-long social activist, struggles for the soul of America. He sees a nation spellbound by violence, immediate gratification, and capitalism that breeds sick individuals and is unable to face up to climate change and other unprecedented problems of our age. Being the primary threat to world order through its militarism, economic imperialism and patterns of consumption, it deprives people, within and outside of the United States, of their land, resources, ways of life, and prospects. Browning recounts his life-long journey of deciphering this spell and discovering antidotes. Caught between anger and hope he refuses to recognize existing social structures as realistically necessary. While recognizing that alternatives such as Christian socialism may be viewed as Utopian, he views adherence to the status quo to be more fantastic and dangerous by far. Browning's critiques are insightful, but more impressive are the ways he constructively offers the wisdom of the great thinkers of his time, such as Thomas Berry, Martha Nussbaum, E. Maynard Adams, Pope Francis, David Korten, Robert Bellow, Paul Tillich, Richard Rorty, and others, as well as his own thought, to recovery of the soul of a nation. This book will be particularly meaningful to progressive Christians and Jews who seek to understand the social relevance and imperatives of their traditions in a secular age."

—Herman F. Greene, President, Center for Ecozoic Societies

"A passionate concern for the spiritual health of America infuses Browning's work. This bold and provocative cultural critique grows out of a lifetime of commitment to politics, ideas, and social justice."

—Richard Todd, Author

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