What we’re reading this month: March 2023

The books U.S. Catholic writers have enjoyed this month, including “A Theology of Migration” and “Christianity’s American Fate.”
Arts & Culture

A Theology of Migration

By Daniel G. Groody (Orbis Books, 2022)

A Theology of Migration: The Bodies of Refugees and the Body of Christ achieves a balance that is uncommon: a scholarly theology text that remains firmly rooted in lived reality. Holy Cross Father Daniel Groody writes about his experiences as a pastor of a Spanish-speaking immigrant parish; this book builds and expands upon his previously published work. While Groody extensively addresses the humanitarian crisis along the U.S.–Mexico border, he also explores migration in other parts of the world, including Syria, Rwanda and Burundi, and Lampedusa.

Most compelling are the chapters where Groody explores the Hebrew and Christian scriptures through the lens of migration. Genesis’ story of Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers, guides contemporary reflection on human trafficking. Ruth, a foreigner who proclaims her commitment to Israel’s God, is “a biblical prototype for human solidarity.” The range of emotion expressed in the psalms is interpreted by a Syrian refugee survivor of torture in his journey of healing. And the incarnation is seen as the “divine migration” of God crossing the border to assume human flesh. Preachers and readers will find rich material for reflection in these chapters.

Groody explores both the “outer journey of migrants and the inner journey of faith,” framed by the eucharistic liturgy. He moves fluidly between the painful realities that migrants and refugees experience—hunger, thirst, violence, incarceration, rejection—and the body of Christ present at Mass, creating a “Eucharistic hermeneutic of migration directed toward the redemption of the world.” His description of the Mass Pope Francis celebrated in Lampedusa reveals parallels between the broken bodies of migrants and the Eucharist.

This book serves as a powerful companion in understanding migration through the eyes of faith.


—Rhonda Miska

Christianity’s American Fate

By David A. Hollinger (Princeton University Press, 2022)

Raised in the Anabaptist tradition, retired Berkeley historian David A. Hollinger is an atheist descended from a long line of ministers. After a career spent exploring the intersections of American religiosity and secularization, Hollinger pulls together several strands of thought from previous books into a fresh analysis of the growing divide between American evangelicalism and secularism.

“When non-Christians learn of disputes between different groups of Christians,” Hollinger writes, “they may remark, ‘I don’t have a dog in that fight.’ ” Hollinger believes they do, considering the influence evangelicals wield in politics and culture. American Catholics “have a dog in this fight,” too. The church in the United States has seen an influx of converts from evangelical traditions who are attracted by the very religious authority their forebears once rejected. Initially fleeing mainline Protestant churches that were softening their stances on sexual morality and opening pathways to women in ministry, these converts influence the growing conservatism of American Catholic clergy.

The crux of the problem for Hollinger is that the United States has become “an increasingly secular society . . . saddled with an increasingly religious politics.” Nearly a third of Americans no longer identify as religious but live and work within a society in which conservative evangelicals and their Catholic allies have an outsized influence on American politics. For Christians, Hollinger argues, the problem is the tension between the apostle Paul and philosopher Immanuel Kant. Do they choose the smaller, doctrinally pure Pauline tradition or Kant’s vision of “universal moral and epistemic solidarity”?


Americans are at a crossroads right now. Time will tell which path will be taken. Hollinger’s book is a helpful map showing how we reached this point in the journey.

—Michelle Arnold

Briefly noted:

The Girl I Am, Was, and Never Will Be

By Shannon Gibney (Penguin Random House, 2023)

Gibney tells her true story of growing up as a transracial adoptee in this part memoir, part speculative fiction novel.

God is Just Like Me

By Karen Valentin (Beaming Books, 2023)

One young Puerto Rican girl in New York City finds evidence that she is made in God’s image everywhere she looks in this illustrated children’s book.


My Body and Other Crumbling Empires: Lessons for Healing in a World that is Sick

By Lyndsey Medford (Broadleaf Books, 2023)

Medford draws on her experiences with a rare autoimmune disease to illuminate the interconnected nature of individual and public health and the wisdom we gain living with our particular bodies.

This article also appears in the March 2023 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 88, No. 3, page 39). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

About the author

Rhonda Miska

Rhonda Miska is a preacher, writer, spiritual director, and lay ecclesial minister currently based in Minneapolis. Read more of her work at rhondamiskaop.com.

About the author

Michelle Arnold

Michelle Arnold is a freelance writer and editor, who blogs for Patheos.com. She lives near San Diego, California.

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