Skip to comments.Living the Christian faith today is a ‘revolutionary act,’ Archbishop Chaput writes
Posted on 09/18/2010 9:14:24 AM PDT by NYer
.- In upcoming years Catholics will likely find it harder to influence the course of American culture or to live their faith authentically, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has written. A social consensus which once supported Christian assumptions in the U.S. is much weakened to the point that there is no more revolutionary act than to live Christian faith with integrity, he said.
Writing in an essay titled Catholics and the Next America at the First Things website, the Archbishop of Denver noted a central myth of American Catholicism: the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy as president helped U.S. Catholics break through into the mainstream.
This is not entirely unfounded, he explained, because baptized Catholics make up the largest religious community in the U.S., serve in Congress and on the Supreme Court, while also having leading roles in the business world.
However, the direction of the country is less reassuring than these apparent signs of progress.
Catholic statistics once seemed impressive. They filled many of us with tribal pride. But they didnt stop a new and quite alien national landscape, a next America, from emerging right under our noses, the archbishop commented.
He cited reports that the number of Americans with no religious affiliation is at about 16 percent, double the percentage in 1990. One quarter of young Americans have no religious affiliation and show greater criticism towards Christianity. Catholic losses have been masked by Latino immigration, and less than 24 percent of Americans self-describe as Catholic even though 31 percent say they were raised Catholic.
These facts have weight because, traditionally, religious faith has provided the basis for Americans moral consensus, Archbishop Chaput explained, describing this consensus about God and man as the framework for public life.
In the coming decades Catholics will likely find it harder, not easier, to influence the course of American culture, or even to live their faith authentically. And the big difference between the next America and the old one will be that plenty of other committed religious believers may find themselves in the same unpleasant jam as their Catholic cousins, he wrote.
The archbishop then turned to American history, describing the deeply Protestant roots of the American experience, noting Gov. John Winthrops 1630 homily exhorting early English colonists to live Christian lives. Later, John Adams and many other American Founders were men who could blend an earnest Christian faith and Enlightenment ideas without destroying either.
Later criticisms of the Puritan colonists began to depict them as intolerant, sexually repressed, narrow-minded witch-hunters. Intellectual weakness and internal divisions among the American Protestant establishment, Archbishop Chaput said, allowed the secularization of American life mainly from 1870 to 1930.
This insurgency could be ignored, or at least contained, for a long time because Americas social consensus supported the countrys unofficial Christian assumptions, traditions and religion-friendly habits of thought and behavior, Archbishop Chaput contended. However, law is only as strong as popular belief and the traditional consensus is much weakened.
Seventy years of soft atheism trickling down in a steady catechesis from our universities, social-science helping professions, and entertainment and news media, have eroded it, the archbishop wrote in First Things.
In addition, modern consumer capitalism creates a citizenry of weak, self-absorbed, needy personalities to whom religious beliefs are depicted as private and not relevant.
I shop, therefore I am is not a good premise for life in a democratic society like the United States, he explained, claiming that the pastoral reality facing the Gospel today is a human landscape shaped by advertising.
Catholics and Secularization
The archbishop then considered the place of Catholics in this history. While Protestants had discriminated against Catholics, by 1960 mainline Protestantism had exhausted itself in the face of secularism.
Catholics arrived on Americas center stage just as management of the theater had changed hands -- with the new owners even less friendly, but far shrewder and much more ambitious in their social and political goals, than the old ones, Chaput wrote.
While Christian believers share unity in Jesus Christ and share with Jews a belief in the God of Israel, the gulf between belief and unbelief or disinterest is vastly wider.
The world is a different place. America is a different placeand in some ways, a far more troubling one, he commented, saying that Catholics helped make the countrys present flaws because of a desire for success, self-delusion, vanity, compromise and our tepid faith.
This leaves Catholics defenseless in the face of government pressures to push religious entities out of the public square, to promote same-sex marriage, and to undermine the family and the sanctity of human life.
But the future is not predestined, Archbishop Chaput said in closing his First Things essay. We create it with our choices. And the most important choice we can make is both terribly simple and terribly hard: to actually live what the Church teaches, to win the hearts of others by our witness, and to renew the soul of our country with the courage of our own Christian faith and integrity. There is no more revolutionary act.
Indeed, it is...
I wish the modern Catholic and Vhristian churches would have more of a backbone these days.
Yes they also need to take responsibility for the abuses that have happened under their watch and they should make every effort to get rid of all those pedophile and homosexual priests.
I would like to see thius Pope travel a lot more especially to places like Mexico, South America and the United States (from coast to coast).
I like the title and am going to steal it as part of a message I’m giving to junior high kids tomorrow.
I think Catholic and Christian churches should stand up more and defend their basic founding principles as ascribed in the Holy Bible.
I think that you either live the faith that you claim, whatever it is, live it entirely or else it means nothing to you and you are just giving lip service to your God.
I’ve often wondered if the advent of electricity wasn’t the advent of humanity’s fall from religiosity to self-indulgent empty pursuits (as I type away on the internet).
Prior to electricity, the day controlled day, the night controlled night, and while a streetlamp or whatever made things a bit more safe and secure at night, it certainly didn’t allow one to forget the difference. There was very much the reminder that man did not control the world.
Gradually, as technology has advanced, man has put aside faith, books, or anything that required much of an attention span and has moved to a culture of daliance.
Whereas previously a church service might be the grandest display of music in a town, now kids the world over stuff the world away in an ipod.
That and the the whole “I was raised Catholic” should be met with, “So you’re not Catholic, then.”
When you look at the sacrifices of Christ, and all one can squeeze out it, “I was raised...,” it’s just irritating and frankly disheartening.
If one espouses abortion and supports it, they cannot also be a Christian.
Ditto .... glad I am not the only one who feels that way. Reading through scripture, we gain insight into the power of light. Its symbolism is used in the form of oil lamps et al. Christ proclaimed that He was the "Light of the World". Light eradicates our fears ... until the lights go out.
Electricity, as you pointed out, can be used for positive purposes, yes, even using the internet. The same is true for television - I am watching live coverage of the Holy Father's visit to the UK. Like so many other things in life, electricity has opened avenues of temptation that were unknown before its invention.
No doubt he would also like to travel to more countries. Unfortunately, each country he visits, must spend a lot of money on security and traffic control, to name only a few of the problems associated by the visit of a pope.
Pope Benedict XVI visited the US only recently. Hope you had the opportunity to watch the live coverage on EWTN, much like I am doing right now with his visit to the UK.
great. now maybe they can just send us straight to the gallows.
Well, the election of Barack Obama has certainly brought the pro-abortion marxist Catholics of the Chicago School to the "mainstream." Well, at least to the ruling class.