The younger Pryor’s polemic technique centers on scripture, Catholic tradition (especially the Didache catechism), occasional appeals to the wisdom of the founding fathers or the clarity of Webster’s, and a talent for the pungent kicker: “Lucky for Obama he wasn’t one of those infants left to die on a cold hospital tray after sneaking past the abortion doctor’s knife,” he wrote to The Express-Times of Easton, Pennsylvania, in November of 2016. In a preface, Pryor describes himself and like-minded Catholics as applying the millennia-old teachings of Jesus’s New Covenant “to our everyday lives regardless of the opinion of the evolving society.”
This mission finds him taking issue with Dear Abby’s advice to a college student about sex before marriage (“Dear Abby needs to consult a priest about moral advice according to God’s law which will supersede any civil law that is contrary to God’s law”) and frequently alerting readers to scripture that condemns homosexuality. The approach might resonate with an audience of believers, but readers who have not already accepted the premise that Christ’s teachings “are timeless and [do] not evolve for any reason” will likely remain unpersuaded.
Takeaway: A Catholic father and son’s impassioned letters to newspapers offer scriptural condemnations of abortion and more.
Great for fans of: Austin Ruse’s Under Siege, William E. May’s Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+
Clarion Rating: 3 out of 5
These letter's provide a nice snapshot of a pivotal time in American public discourse.
Dan Arthur Pryor's collection, Bible Letters to the Public Editor, imparts a conservative Catholic perspective on contemporary events.
The book includes dozens of letters written by the author and his father that were submitted to various newspapers over a roughly thirty-year period. They reflect a range of issues; including abortion, gay marriage, bishops, priests and martyrs. Most serve as a call to action for "slack" Catholics - those who are regarded as needing to return to the church, and who the letters say should fix their lapsed morality.
The running perspective is that contemporary America suffers from a number of moral failings, as reflected every day in the pages of the local newspapers. The letters address such failings by using biblical citations, theological arguments and staunch defenses of traditional Catholic teachings.
Some letters are more convincing than others. The Bible's prophetic books are used to strong effect in their argument against abortion. Letters are less compelling around issues like homosexuality, where they reference texts that are much more open to interpretation than their blunt statements suggest.
The arguments ultimately prove to be too context-dependent to offer much insight to outsiders. Even as collected here, the letters refer to articles and editorials that won't be familiar to those not in conversation with the addressed newspapers. The letters maintain their controversial nature, but do so without sufficent context.
Writing is clear and journalistic in tone. Each letter is brief, relying on a mixture of reasoned arguments, metaphors and occasionaly cliches and parables to make their points, such as that of a frog slowly boiling as water is heated up. Biblical references are a constant.
A brief section offers suggestions to the audience for getting letters to the editor published, including e-mailing, following up, and discussions with editors regarding how to improve letters. It is generally good advice, though it evades exploring how a writer might tie each letter to a current event or story, something that the collection's letters do well.
Taken as a whole, these pieces show how much the cultural environment has changed. Earlier letters are concerned with modernism, but subject matter changes over time, and letters become more and more anti-liberal and biting in tone. At one point, the book suggests that the liberals' moral virtues are "questionably worthless." The opinions provide a nice snapshot of a pivotal time in American public discourse, raising faith issues that are not often included in traditional news reports.
Revieved by Jeremiah Rood June 14, 2018