Designs for Christian Living
Publication Date: July 27, 2020
From the Foreword:
In Designs for Christian Living, Carol Jackson Robinson practices what she preaches. Designs is not primarily a theological work but an essay into what Catholics can do in the here and now to begin the transformation of society. Interestingly, Robinson does not propose the formation of Catholic political parties or movements; she avoids the fallacy of urging the erection of a political house on the foundation of a cultural morass. Rather, she asks us to examine how we might transform what we do in everyday life so that it may better reflect Christian mores and ideas. She asks us to imagine how we may rebuild the structure of a Christian society one brick at a time.
Written in an engaging journalistic style, Designs for Christian Living offers various scenarios or stories of imaginary Catholics doing unimaginable things. To counter the influence of bad books, one group of Catholics opens a Catholic library or reading room. As an alternative to unhealthy and bland food, another Catholic opens a restaurant called the Refectory, which not only nourishes the body and satisfies the taste buds but feeds the spirit with good culture and real human fellowship. Another apostolic soul, seeking to address economic injustice and a system based on avarice, opens a grocery store that operates on the principles of solidarity with customers and producers, pays just wages, and charges just prices. A Catholic radio station broadcasts not only religious but cultural programming that inculcates good culture and addresses economic and social problems from the perspective of Catholic social teaching not secularist political partisanship. Other scenarios imagine what would happen if Catholics addressed the problems of immodest dress, agnostic education, access to affordable and good medical care, immoral and shallow films, mental health, and charity.
In none of these scenarios does Robinson provide a blueprint for would-be reformers. Designs in Christian Living is not a political or social program, but a kind of vade mecum for those Christians, who like Robinson, want to fulfill Our Lord's Great Commission. Indeed, one may find some of her suggestions anachronistic or, at least in our time, impractical. One may disagree, too, with some of both her prescriptions and proscriptions. The point of Designs is not to tell us what exactly to do but to challenge us to throw off our lethargy, to engage our minds and our imaginations to explore how we may begin the task of extending God's eternal reign through a renewal of the temporal order.
Designs in Christian Living suggests the kind of small, mustard-seed endeavors that could, with God's rain and sun, germinate in the soil of the world and provide oases of shade for men weary of secularism. They are mere beginnings, but one must begin somewhere; and beginnings, by their nature, are small. God's own beginning was the infant offspring of a poor, working-class family who lived in a backwater town in an insignificant province of the great Roman Empire; but that child lit a small blaze that eventually set that empire and the entire world on fire. May Robinson's book be the spark that kindles that same fire in us— the desire and resolve to work, once again, to restore all things in Christ.