Photos by Sherry Yang
American politics are riddled with anxiety and Christianity can do something about it according to the new book, “This American Moment: A Feminist Christian Realist Intervention.” The author, Dr. Caron Gentry, discussed her new book with the Pepperdine community on Monday, Sept. 24, packing the Surfboard room with students and faculty.
Gentry’s book, published by Oxford University Press, looks at major political and social issues in America as a response to national anxiety and discusses responding to conflict with a Christian realist approach. Students and faculty filled the Surfboard room to hear Gentry discuss her book. Following Dr. Gentry’s lecture, attendees asked questions about her book and her research.
“This book talks about my approach, my reformulation of Christian realism in International Relations that’s a feminist Christian realism and my desire to see the church in America do better,” Gentry said.
Gentry is a senior lecturer at the University of St. Andrews in the School of International Relations. She is also the co-author of “Mothers, Monsters, Whores: Women’s Violence in Global Politics.”
Pepperdine Political Science professor, Dr. Robert Williams, introduced Gentry and “This American Moment” to the audience.
“[The book is] a very interesting, very provocative blend of politics and international relations and theology,” Williams said.
“This American Moment” focuses on three major topics: police brutality (specifically within Black, American communities), gender inequality and the rise of fascism in America. Gentry looks specifically at the fatal shooting of John Crawford in an Ohio Walmart by local police. She also wrote about the politics surrounding women’s reproductive rights and unequal pay in the workforce.
“I believe what America is going through currently is a particular moment but it is a moment that stems of longstanding, historical visions,” Gentry said.
Sophomore Erin Miller attended Gentry’s lecture. Miller says she liked how Gentry connected current events to historical themes.
“Everything is connected and we have to treat the issues as such if we want to make progress,” Miller said.
Gentry said she believes that these current American issues are the result of a widespread anxiety because of constant change in the world.
“Anxiety cannot tolerate difference,” Gentry said. “It expects people to act and think alike. So when they begin to demonstrate difference, the anxious group will turn on you.”
Gentry said when people are anxious, their ability to respond reasonably diminishes.
“Anxiety shuts us down,” Gentry said. “We cannot hear well, we cannot think well and we certainly cannot act well when we’re anxious.”
In both her lecture and her book, Gentry builds upon on the words of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, reiterating his idea that people respond to anxiety either with destruction or with creativity. She urges the audience to choose creativity.
“So instead of clinging to power to protect the power structure this country is rooted in, I think it is time to think and act in a different way,” Gentry said. “The previous responses to the challenges to this system are both defensive and a destructive response. It is time for us to think creatively.”
Gentry says that people can respond to political tension creatively by acting on the Christian values of grace and love.
“We are called to be in communion with the creator and other humans,” Gentry said. “And God doesn’t let us pick which humans we’d rather be in relationship with. It’s far more simple than that and it’s far harder than that. We are called to be in relationship with all of creation and all of humanity no matter race, sex, gender or religious beliefs.”
When asked how someone should respond to “anxiety politics” and engage in political discourse, Gentry’s answer was simple.
“I also think that it’s time to hold people accountable,” Gentry said. “You can say things with respect, I think you can say things with love, you can be patient. But I think that if they chose to react to your words, it’s also their choice.”
“This American Moment: A Feminist Christian Realist Intervention” can be purchased now on Amazon.com.
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