Charting Our Future in a Pandemic Year
by Mark Noll, N. T. Wright, Gracy Olmstead, Jennifer Frey, Michael Wear, Danté Stewart, Marilynne Robinson, and many others
Pub Date 04 Jan 2022 | Archive Date 04 Jan 2022
Plough Publishing, Plough Publishing House
A public health and economic crisis provoked by Covid-19. A social crisis cracked open by the filmed murder of George Floyd. A leadership crisis laid bare as the gravity of a global pandemic met a country suffocating in political polarization and idolatry.
In the spring of 2020, Comment magazine created a publishing project to tap the resources of a Christian humanist tradition to respond collaboratively and imaginatively to these crises. Plough soon joined in the venture. So did seventeen other institutions. The web commons that resulted – Breaking Ground – became a one-of-a-kind space to probe society’s assumptions, interrogate our own hearts, and imagine what a better future might require.
This volume, written in real time during a year that revealed the depths of our society’s fissures, provides a wealth of reflections and proposals on what should come after. It is an anthology of different lenses of faith seeking to understand how best we can serve the broader society and renew our civilization.
Contributors include Anne Snyder, Susannah Black, Mark Noll, N. T. Wright, Gracy Olmstead, Doug Sikkema, Patrick Pierson, Jennifer Frey, J. L. Wall, Michael Wear, Dante Stewart, Joe Nail, Benya Kraus, Patrick Tomassi, Amy Julia Becker, Jeffrey Bilbro, Marilynne Robinson, Cherie Harder, Joel Halldorf, Irena Dragas Jansen, Katherine Boyle, L. M. Sacasas, Jake Meador, Joshua Bombino, Chelsea Langston Bombino, Aryana Petrosky Roberts, Stuart McAlpine, Heather C. Ohaneson, Oliver O’Donovan, W. Bradford Littlejohn, Anthony M. Barr, Michael Lamb, Shadi Hamid, Samuel Kimbriel, Christine Emba, Brandon McGinley, John Clair, Kurt Armstrong, Peter Wehner, Jonathan Haidt, Dhananjay Jagannathan, Phil Christman, Gregory Thompson, Duke Kwon, Carlo Lancellotti, Tara Isabella Burton, Charles C. Camosy, Joseph M. Keegin, Luke Bretherton, Tobias Cremer, and Elayne Allen.
“In a time of unprecedented human and planetary crisis, Plough and Comment magazines are showing how Christianity can once again seize the cultural high ground. But as their collaborative Breaking Ground anthology shows, this can only be brought about by not neglecting the low ground, since cultivation is an integral affair. If you despair of the future, the writers represented here offer real prophetic hope.”
—John Milbank, University of Nottingham
“I am going to recommend Breaking Ground to our book club. It offers an excellent opportunity to step back and, with the help of some wise observers, reflect on what we might learn from the memorable year we have just been through.”
—George M. Marsden, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus, University of Notre Dame
Launch event with panel discussion by contributors
Podcast tour by editors Anne Snyder and Susannah Black
Early review copies to publications
Announcement and promotion by all 30-plus contributors
Featured in Plough and Comment magazines
Promotion on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, amplified by contributors.
Announcement by 20 Breaking Ground partner organizations:
The Davenant Institute
The AND campaign
New York Encounter
Catholic Social Thought
Theos, Initiative on Faith and Public Life
Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
The Trinity Forum
Initiate on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life
The Center for Public Justice
The Institute for Human Ecology
The Awakening Project
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 4 members
“Breaking Ground” by Anne Synder and Susannah Black is true to its name. Its founding vision is highly significant in these deeply disoriented times, when life’s familiar rhythms fade away into a future of bleak oblivion. Change of such immense scope and magnitude has created a spectrum of moral opportunity in every society with a dynamic ecosystem of thinkers with the wisdom to discern it and the humility to accept it, and doers with the courage and determination to do something about it productively. This is an urgent clarion call for the fragmented body of Christ to unite together in humility and selfless service to humanity. The Church with all her scars, made resilient by long-standing struggle, is called to lead in service, sacrifice and solidarity. Particularly insightful moral leadership is the urgent need of the hour, in these extremely distressing times. Although the pandemic is a layered crisis that unfolds in stages, it also provides opportunities for brand new beginnings from the ashes of the past. Even in these extremely difficult times, hope is born anew in our hearts. God’s people are called to do whatever they can to help humankind rebuild themselves in their respective communities. A creative lens shines upon Christian social thought to illuminate it and provide inspiration to the world at large. As Christians filled with Christ’s love, let us orient our hope and direct our steps into a founding vision for the future, by selflessly seeking and striving to imbue weary people with fresh hope, to renew the world in an age of crisis. In the scary face of the pandemic and all its myriad consequences, layers of life as we knew it earlier, have been painfully peeled away, to reveal frightening landscapes. This is the staggering reality of the world today. Faith, hope and love overpowers despair, even in the pandemic. We have a moral call, a selfless duty to live in honest fellowship with our fellow human beings, by seeking to live in justice and equity. Be seeing eyes and listening ears to people around you. Bear their burdens in love. Do the little you can to alleviate the distress of people. Even one drop of rain in the ocean makes a huge difference. Never underestimate your God-given power to do good to the world around you. Share true communion with each other in your hearts, even in social distancing. There is always a way to reach out to others in distress, to shine your light into their dark corner. We are an integral part of each other’s lives, a social community of all the communities in this world. “No man is an island.” We need to give a wise response to these unprecedented times. We must take responsibility for this moment, to be a blessing to others. “Breaking Ground” does exactly that, in its own way. I highly recommend this groundbreaking book to all readers who wish to reach out a helping hand of fellowship to others and make an impact in today’s pandemic world.
One of the great things about Plough's books is they tend to be international, and that really helps here. You get a mix of perspectives on American culture in 2020, the history of evangelical culture and politics, from perspectives that go inside and outside of American evangelical culture. The result is refreshing and interesting even at the moments where you may disagree with the authors.
These essays are really directed more at public officials than the ordinary reader, I think. They mostly concern how governments handled the virus, and what should be the Christian approach to dealing with it. I liked the more spiritually oriented ones which didn't concentrate so much on public policy, such as James Matthew Wilson's beautiful article about contemplation, and the art of poetry, in which he analyses three poems. I will certainly look up his books! Jennifer Frey's contribution in which she criticises the hjypocrisy of experts, and writes about the importance of trust was also extremely interesting. I received this free ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.