One of the great defenders of religious liberty in the U.S. is the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput. His latest book, "Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World," serves as an excellent guide for perplexed Christians struggling to have their voices heard in the public square.
Fearless in promoting church teachings, during the 2004 presidential election, for instance, when the pro-abortion John Kerry — a baptized Catholic — was the Democratic Party nominee, Chaput told The New York Times: "You know the fact that Catholics have been overwhelmingly Democratic and have had no impact on the Democratic platform on [abortion] for the last 20 years is horrible. . . . You know I think we’ve been hoping that some kind of reasoned discourse would turn our country around and it hasn’t because the other side doesn’t reason. They are ruthless . . . in their [abortion] position.
"It seems that Catholics should be just as ruthless in their pro-life positions as the pro-choice are ruthless in theirs. And I use 'ruthless' . . . that word . . . I don’t mean that in an unkindly way. I mean just be determined and stubborn . . . persistent."
He went on to argue that if U.S. Catholics banned together and gave "a grand refusal to vote for anybody who is pro-choice . . . we would change things quite drastically, quite quickly. . . ."
Chaput built on the themes he expressed to the Times in his 2009 book, "Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life." He stressed that for Catholics, "the common good can never mean muting themselves in public debate on foundational issues of human dignity" and he rejected the radical secularist position that reduces one’s faith "to private idiosyncrasy on a set of opinions that we can indulge at home but need to be quiet about in public."
In "Strangers in a Strange Land," Chaput explains how Catholics can live their faith in a secular nation.
Having lost the U.S. culture wars because they were not "ruthless" enough, Christians are now looked upon by radical secularists and leftists as "irredeemable deplorables." Christians are condemned as fear mongering bigots, homophobes, misogynists and racists. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton, at the sixth annual Women in the World Summit, warned Christians that their "deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed."
For Chaput, there has been a great leap toward irreligiosity since the 1960s because democracy has become "an expression of consumer preference shaped and led by a technology-competent managerial class" that "has very little space for appeals to higher moral authority or shared meaning."
This phenomenon has been compounded by the fact that many of the Catholic children and grandchildren of America’s World War II "greatest generation" no longer practice or even respect the moral teachings of the church. By the end of the 20th century, many Catholic yuppies found Church doctrine embarrassing, and to be accepted by the "beautiful people," who dominated America’s urban enclaves, had become "cafeteria" Catholics — keeping the Catholic doctrines they like and rejecting those they find inconvenient. Although this milieu may cause us to feel that we are "strangers in our own land," Exodus2:22, Chaput contends that we cannot withdraw from public affairs.
To explain our plight, he turns to Saint Augustine (354-430) whose magnus opus "The City of God," defended Christians accused of being responsible for the collapse of the Roman empire.
For Saint Augustine, man belongs to two cities that co-mingle together; the city of distracted and confused men and the city of God’s pilgrims on earth. "The two cities," Augustine declared, "have been formed by two loves; the earthly city by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self.
"The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience."
Because human nature and the human condition have remained unchanged, St. Augustine’s city is still with us. Hence, to continue "fighting the good fight," Chaput believes we should look to Augustine as our model "because he lived at a hard time similar to our own. He never lost his sense of joy. . . . He didn’t hide from persecution or conflict. . . . Most of all, he showed, with the example of his own witness, that actually living the Gospel, even in a hostile or indifferent world, was possible."
To reach the gates of the city of God, we must first traverse the city of man. In "Strangers in a Strange Land," Archbishop Chaput gives us the road map to achieve that end.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact." He also is a columnist for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read more reports from George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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