Tag Archives: faith

“Renewable – One Woman’s Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope” by Eileen Flanagan

I’m surprised I’ve never met or even heard of Eileen Flanagan, because we move in circles that overlap. I said the same about Judy Wicks, author of Good Morning, Beautiful Business (see my blog entry of April 8, 2015). Flanagan is a decade or so younger than Wicks and I. Wicks and Flanagan both reside in Philadelphia.

Renewable begins with Flanagan’s recent act of chaining herself to the White House fence during a climate change protest. Then she circles back to recount how she came to that moment.

A major factor in her personal and spiritual growth was her Peace Corps service. She joined in 1984 and was sent to Botswana, a country known to me only through the writing of Alexander McCall Smith, who created the delightful No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, set in Botswana. Flanagan’s reflections on Botswana are enhanced by her analysis of the comparative impacts of colonialism on Africa and Ireland, her ancestral home.

Upon her return from the Peace Corps, Flanagan went to graduate school at Yale to earn a Master’s degree in African studies. Then she faced the complications of seeking simplicity while raising children in urban America. Familiar territory!

Interestingly, one of Flanagan’s companions in the White House protest described above was civil rights activist Julian Bond, who died this week.

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Religion and Family Life

‘Til Faith Do Us Part – How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America by Naomi Schaefer Riley, 2013.

I grabbed this from the “new arrivals” shelf. The author is a newspaper writer who was able to commission the extensive survey on which this book was based. She is very careful to ground her assertions within the data.

Riley says that Americans are not, by and large, “intentional” about marriage. We plan and work towards our careers. We may place a priority on living in a specific city or state. But we don’t PLAN marriage. I “came of age” in the sixties, when talking about what we wanted or expected from marriage became almost taboo. Young women were told to plan on self sufficient independence and if love, relationship and marriage happened, that was “nice”. What were young men being told? No idea…

Religion is important to many Americans, but most of us take a “break” from religious practice from the end of high school until some time perhaps a decade down the road. And so many important things happen in that decade! Very few people invest that time in deciding about matters of faith.

Riley takes a careful look at our attitudes towards diversity. It is widely accepted as a good thing. Riley’s conclusion: “Religion is not race and marriage is not a public school.” Intermarriage is harder (judged by divorce rates) than marriage within one’s faith, so looking for a religiously compatible spouse in not necessarily being prejudiced. Diversity within a family can have good impacts, but it also makes marriage difficult.

Maybe you caught the recent kerfuffle caused by a woman who said she now wished she had found a husband while at Princeton. She was roundly scolded for being “conniving”, but replied that the pool of really bright, interesting men is limited, and her critics were being unrealistic.

Riley thinks young adults should talk much more about religion, family life and community as they are courting and marrying. The relative “vacuum” (freedom?) of our twenties doesn’t last. We live our lives among webs of interconnection.

I particularly recommend this book to people who work with young adults, whether as teachers, counselors or religious leaders.