December 7, 2023 — Sometimes, people wonder how we pick guests for the show. We tell them the Jesuit network is so huge that we’ll never run out of interesting conversation partners. Sometimes, though, we come across someone outside of a Jesuit context whose work we love and who we wish we could ask on the show. If only they had a Jesuit connection! But then in some rare occasions, when we look into this great person who’s not connected to the Jesuits, we discover they do indeed have a connection! That was the case with today’s guest, the author and University of Michigan professor Phil Christman. Phil is the author of two great books of essays, which are titled “How to Be Normal” and “Midwestern Futures.” He also writes a Substack newsletter called “The Tourist” and contributes frequently to “Commonweal.” And, we just found out that he got his master’s degree at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There’s the Jesuit connection we needed!
Phil’s essays are funny, sharp, clear, complex and always original. He weaves together elements of memoir, theology, pop culture and literary criticism and more. Host Mike Jordan Laskey’s most common reaction when reading Phil Christman, beyond marveling at his curiosity and his mastery of the essay form, is to sit back and think, “Well, I’ve never thought about that topic in that way before.”
One of Mike’s favorite essays of Phil’s is from his book “How to Be Normal,” and it’s titled “How to Be Religious.” An observant Christian in a largely secular milieu, Phil writes about faith in an incredibly compelling way. Phil and Mike talked about the essay and the nature of religious faith. They also discussed teaching English composition in the age of ChatGPT, and why Phil left Twitter after years of being an active user.
AMDG is a production of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.