For too long, religion has been a political plaything of the right-wing in this country. American churches seem more concerned with what people do with their bodies than with their souls. Now, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend issues a spiritual call to arms to those who feel like her that today's churches--Catholic and Protestant alike--are failing to promote the welfare of those who depend upon them. After recounting her personal story in one of the most prominent Catholic families in America, she shows how America's neediest are now forgotten while their churches fight political battles against abortion rights and homosexual marriages. She provides hope through powerful examples of individuals effecting change, from obscure social workers to The Purpose-DrivenÂ® Life's Rick Warren, and maintains that our individual actions can return our churches to their traditional role as shepherds to their flock.
Jean G. (gianna) reviewed Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches Are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way on
Helpful Score: 1
Fighting for the neediest is what the Catholic Church is doing in standing up for the unborn and offering help to their moms. It is not politically expedient or popular, but it is just and charitable.
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Catholic dissidents tend to be mentally frozen in the decade of their rebellion against the Church. This phenomenon can be seen in the person of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who has turned into a virtual pillar of salt by gazing back at the sexual revolution of the 1970s. In this, her first book, the eldest daughter of Robert Kennedy claims that the Church "betrayed" her generation and went into "decline" by failing to change its teachings about contraception, abortion, and sodomy.
Townsend, who is on the board of the National Catholic Reporter, says her faith taught her "humility about one's own righteousness" and the humility to know there is "always more to learn." This is odd because there's not a trace of humility to be found in her entire book. She's unflinchingly self-righteous in her support of abortion. Another oddity is her claim that "moral discomfort" is one of the "most important things about Catholic life." Yet she's perfectly comfortable with the violent deaths of 50 million American babies surgically ripped from the womb since 1973. Like Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, Townsend comes from a very large family but strongly opposes "massive" families. She supports social programs for the poor, but defends the abortion juggernaut that targets the poor for elimination before they can be born. She uses terms like broad, expansive, and inclusive to describe the morality she approves of, and narrow for Church teachings. But she herself is narrow in her application of terms like justice, mercy, neighbor, and the least of these all of which she obstinately refuses to extend to babies in the womb.
In part policy document, and in part memoir, this was a very compelling, surprisingly quick (I finished it in one day!), and thought provoking read. Townsend both outlines her issues with the current Christianity's (mainstream Protestant, evangelical, and her own Catholic church)general focus on personal religion to the detriment of a broader world view and the gospels' emphasis on loving the sinner and doing good by the less-fortunate.
Intermixed with that are some of Townsend's more personal issues with Catholicism, especially when it comes to issues of women and the questions related to abortion or birth control. She reminds readers that nowhere in the gospels is abortion directly addressed, and raises the question of how a church that would allow married couples to be driven into poverty by having more children than they can care for or simply not have sex is in line with the broader Christian principle of loving the poor.
What I found most interesting was to discover that neither the Catholic church's position on birth control nor their position on abortion are as long-standing as I'd believed, and the history she outlines of both of their policies is something that I'm going to be interested to learn more about.
My only quarrel with this book is that while Townsend eloquently and skillfully draws up a compelling argument (in part, I'm sure, because it's a position that I've long held), she is less adept at addressing any solution to this very real problem.
Though the final chapters can be read as a call to action, (and in fact, if churches are to be considered as being comprised of the people in them rather than the building, it's going to take more than just the few bold and noble individuals she profiled to effect any real change.
So, to that end I found the book both frustrating and refreshing, and it's one that's going to resonate and on which I'm going to think for quite a while.