Changing the culture

James Davison Hunter, the University of Virginia social theorist known for his books on the culture wars, has written a new book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford). It questions, to put it mildly,the ways that many Christiansthink about changing the culture. I haven't read the book, but this brief summary and interview with Hunter from the May issue of Christianity Today are certainly thought provoking: Hunter's intellectuallandscape, evangelical Protestant Christianity has always loomed larger than Catholic Christianity, so Catholics reading this have to make some adjustments.Hisviews also seem to reflect the common assumptions of (a) those of us burdened with a good bit of academic social theory, and (b) those of us situated in universities or other outposts of eliteculture.Finally, I'muncertain, as were a number of his Christianity Today readers, about what concretelyhe means by some terms. For all that, this is a stimulating interview, both altogether and in its parts.

Peter Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal and religion writer for the New York Times, is a University Professor Emeritus at Fordham University and author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.

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