Books

‘Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America
Oxford University Press, 2013, 248 pages

Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming AmericaIn the last decade, 45% of all marriages in the U.S. were between people of different faiths. The rapidly growing number of mixed-faith families has become a source of hope, encouraging openness and tolerance among religious communities that historically have been insular and suspicious of other faiths.

Yet as Naomi Schaefer Riley demonstrates in ‘Til Faith Do Us Part, what is good for society as a whole often proves difficult for individual families: interfaith couples, Riley shows, are less happy than others and certain combinations of religions are more likely to lead to divorce. Drawing on in-depth interviews with married and once-married couples, clergy, counselors, sociologists, and others, Riley shows that many people enter into interfaith marriages without much consideration of the fundamental spiritual, doctrinal, and practical issues that divide them. Couples tend to marry in their twenties and thirties, a time when religion diminishes in importance, only to return to faith as they grow older and raise children, suffer the loss of a parent, or experience other major life challenges. Riley suggests that a devotion to diversity as well as to a romantic ideal blinds many interfaith couples to potential future problems. Even when they recognize deeply held differences, couples believe that love conquers all. As a result, they fail to ask the necessary questions about how they will reconcile their divergent worldviews-about raising children, celebrating holidays, interacting with extended families, and more. An obsession with tolerance at all costs, Riley argues, has made discussing the problems of interfaith marriage taboo.

‘Til Faith Do Us Part is a fascinating exploration of the promise and peril of interfaith marriage today. It will be required reading not only for interfaith couples or anyone considering interfaith marriage, but for all those interested in learning more about this significant, yet understudied phenomenon and the impact it is having on America.


Acculturated: 23 Savvy Writers Find Hidden Virtue in Reality TV, Chic Lit, Video Games, and Other Pillars of Pop Culture
Templeton Foundation Press, 2011, 256 pages

Contemporary popular culture, from books to film to television to music to the deepest corners of the internet, has provoked a great deal of criticism, some of it well deserved. Yet for many Americans, and particularly for younger Americans, popular culture is culture. It is the only kind of cultural experience they seek and the currency in which they trade.

In Acculturated, twenty-three thinkers examine the rituals, the myths, the tropes, the peculiar habits, practices, and neuroses of our modern era. Every culture finds a way for people to tell stories about ourselves. We rely on these stories to teach us why we do the things we do, to test the limits of our experience, to reaffirm deeply felt truths about human nature, and to teach younger generations about vice and virtue, honor and shame, and a great deal more. A phenomenon like the current crop of reality television shows, for example, with their bevy of “real” housewives, super-size families, and toddler beauty-pageant candidates, seems an unlikely place to find truths about human nature or examples of virtue. And yet on these shows, and in much else of what passes for popular culture these days, a surprising theme emerges: Move beyond the visual excess and hyperbole, and you will find the makings of classic morality tales.

As the title suggests, readers will find in these pages “A Culture Rated.” This lively roundtable of “raters” includes not only renowned cultural critics like Caitlin Flannigan and Chuck Colson, but also celebrated culture creators like the producers of the hit ABC comedy Modern Family and the hostess of TLC’s What Not to Wear. Editors Christine Rosen and Naomi Schaefer Riley have tasked these contributors–both the critics and the insiders–with taking a step or two back from the unceasing din of popular culture so that they might better judge its value and its values and help readers think more deeply about the meaning of the narratives with which they are bombarded every waking minute. In doing so, the editors hope to foster a wide-reaching public conversation–one that will help all of us to think more clearly about our culture.


The Faculty Lounges: And Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get The College Education You Pay For
Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2011, 144 pages

Threats to FreedomVeteran journalist Naomi Schaefer Riley contends that tenure–the jobs-for-life entitlement that comes with a university position–is at the heart of so many problems with higher education today. She explores how tenure–with the job security, mediocre salaries, and low levels of accountability it entails–may be attracting the least innovative and interesting members of our society into teaching.

 

 


God on the Quad
St. Martin’s Press, 2004, 288 pages

God On The Quad

In GOD ON THE QUAD, Riley takes readers to the halls of Brigham Young, where surprisingly with-it young Mormons compete in a raucous marriage market and prepare for careers in public service. To the infamous Bob Jones, post interracial dating ban, where zealous fundamentalists are studying fine art and great literature to help them assimilate into the nation’s cultural centers. To Thomas Aquinas College, where graduates homeschool large families and hope to return the American Catholic Church to its former glory. To Yeshiva, Wheaton, Notre Dame, and more than a dozen other schools, big and small, rich and poor, new and old, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Mormon, and even Buddhist, all training grounds for the new Missionary Generation.

With a critical yet sympathetic eye, Riley, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Weekly Standard, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, studies these campuses and the debates that shape them and distinguish them from their secular counterparts in a post-9/11 world where the division between secular and religious has never been sharper. What does the missionary generation think about political activism, feminism, academic freedom, dating, race relations, homosexuality, and religious tolerance-and what effect will these young men and women have on the United States and the world?

Endorsements | Reviews


New Threats to Freedom
Templeton Press, 2010, 304 pages

Threats to FreedomIn the twentieth century, free people faced a number of mortal threats, ranging from despotism, fascism, and communism to the looming menace of global terrorism. While the struggle against some of these overt dangers continues, some insidious new threats seem to have slipped past our intellectual defenses. These new threats are quietly eroding our hard-won freedoms, often unchallenged and, in some cases, widely accepted as beneficial.

In New Threats to Freedom, editor and author Adam Bellow has assembled an all-star line up of innovative thinkers to challenge these insidious new threats. Some leap into already raging debates on issues such as Sharia law in the West, the rise of transnationalism, and the regulatory state. Others turn their attention to less obvious threats, such as the dogma of fairness, the failed promises of the blogosphere, and the triumph of behavioral psychology. These threats are very real and very urgent, yet this collection avoids projecting an air of doom and gloom. Rather, it provides a blueprint for intellectual resistance so that modern defenders of liberty may better understand their enemies, more effectively fight to preserve the meaning of freedom, and more surely carry its light to a new generation.


Accountability in American Higher Education
Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, 320 pages

Three years after U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spelling’s national commission on higher education and nearly a decade after No Child Left Behind revolutionized k-12 accountability, there is little agreement on what accountability in higher education should look like. While more students are enrolling in (and failing to complete) postsecondary education than ever before, scholars and policymakers have paid far less attention to questions of how well colleges are teaching students and helping them earn degrees while simultaneously contributing new research and scholarship. In Accountability in American Higher Education prominent academics, entrepreneurs, and journalists assess the obstacles to, and potential opportunities for, accountability in higher education in America. Key issues include new measures of college student learning, power education data systems, implications for faculty tenure, accreditation, for-profit higher education, community colleges, and the political dynamics of reform. This volume provides insightful analysis that legislators, administrators, and consumers can use to engage institutions of higher education in the difficult but necessary conversation of accountability.

American Philanthropic Diversity: What it means, why it matters
The Philanthropy Roundtable,
2009, 23 pages