Today's young adults, torn loose from their moorings by accelerated social change, rapid globalization, and the constant novelty of the entertainment culture, are searching for meaning and intimacy. Some of them wonder if the faith that worked for their parents' generation will work for them as well. And when they ask, parents rejoice.
In the summer of 1996, Jana Novak, daughter of Catholic lay theologian and political philosopher Michael Novak, faxed her father 14 religious questions, ranging from sex ("Is it really solely for procreation?") to science ("Can you be an evolutionist … and still be Christian?") and not forgetting the Bible, Buddhism, and birth control.
"A father dreams of this," Michael Novak writes; Jana "does not like to be told anything she can figure out for herself, which has sometimes left me out of it and not a little perplexed."
The result of Jana's inquiring mind and Michael's fatherly eagerness is Tell Me Why: A Father Answers His Daughter's Questions About God. While the elder Novak has written the preponderance of the book's words, its subtitle makes the exchange sound more one-sided than it actually is. Jana is a tough-minded inquisitor, and she does not hesitate to tell her father when he begins to use her questions as pretexts to pontificate on his favorite topics. (Kudos to both the authors and the editors for leaving intact some of the cheekier exchanges and for letting us glimpse a real father-daughter dialogue and not a prettified catechism.)
Michael Novak is a traditional Catholic—but he is not a narrow or uninformed one. His definition of what Catholic means in the phrase Catholic church illustrates his breadth: "always learning, always opening itself to other cultures, trying ...1