At a time when religious conservatives claim a mandate and the best-selling Left Behind novels gleefully contemplate the destruction of all but a small remnant of humanity, the works of the Cambridge Platonists speak with particular resonance. These 17th-century rational theologians also lived in a remarkably fractious age.
If you know about Jane Addams, you probably know the Jane Addams of Hull House, the Addams who worked for social justice, women’s suffrage and world peace and whose settlement house was a place where people met across racial, ethnic and class lines. Becoming this Jane Addams was an arduous process, as Louise W.
Toward the end of Zadie Smith’s shrewd and entertaining novel, Kiki Simmonds gets into an argument with her husband, Howard Belsey: “All you ever do is rip into everybody else,” she tells him. “You don’t have any beliefs—that’s why you’re scared of people with beliefs.”