Skip to comments.Catholics and the Next America
Posted on 09/18/2010 8:26:32 PM PDT by markomalley
One of the key myths of the American Catholic imagination is this: After 200 years of fighting against public prejudice, Catholics finally broke through into Americas mainstream with the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy as president. Its a happy thought, and not without grounding. Next to Americas broad collection of evangelical churches, baptized Catholics now make up the biggest religious community in the United States. They serve in large numbers in Congress. They have a majority on the Supreme Court. They play commanding roles in the professions and in business leadership. Theyve climbed, at long last, the Mt. Zion of social acceptance.
So goes the tale. What this has actually meant for the direction of American life, however, is another matter. 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.
While both Barna Group and Pew Research Center data show that Americans remain a broadly Christian people, old religious loyalties are steadily softening. Overall, the number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation, about 16 percent, has doubled since 1990. One quarter of Americans aged 18-29 have no affiliation with any particular religion, and as the Barna Group noted in 2007, they exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations when they were at the same stage of life. In fact, in just a decade . . . the Christian image [has] shifted substantially downward, fueled in part by a growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people.
Catholic losses have been masked by Latino immigration. But while 31 percent of Americans say they were raised in the Catholic faith, fewer than 24 percent of Americans now describe themselves as Catholic.
These facts have weight because, traditionally, religious faith has provided the basis for Americans moral consensus. And that moral consensus has informed American social policy and law. What people believeor dont believeabout God, helps to shape what they believe about men and women. And what they believe about men and women creates the framework for a nations public life.
Or to put it more plainly: 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.
At first hearing, this scenario might sound implausible; and for good reason. The roots of the American experience are deeply Protestant. They go back a very long way, to well before the nations founding. Whatever one thinks of the early Puritan colonistsand Catholics have few reasons to remember them fondlyno reader can study Gov. John Winthrops great 1630 homily before embarking for New England without being moved by the zeal and candor of the faith that produced it. In A model of Christian charity, he told his fellow colonists:
We are a company professing ourselves fellow members of Christ . . . That which the most in their churches maintain as truth in profession only, we must bring into familiar and constant practice; as in this duty of love, we must love brotherly without dissimulation, we must love one another with pure heart fervently. We must bear one anothers burdens. We must look not only on our own things, but also on the things of our brethren . . . We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each; make others conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So we will keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
Not a bad summary of Christian discipleship, made urgent for Winthrop by the prospect of leading 700 souls on a hard, two-month voyage across the North Atlantic to an equally hard New World. What happened when they got there is a matter of historical record. And different agendas interpret the record differently.
The Puritan habits of hard work, industry and faith branded themselves on the American personality. While Puritan influence later diluted in waves of immigrants from other Protestant traditions, it clearly helped shape the political beliefs of John Adams and many of the other American Founders. Adams and his colleagues were men who, as Daniel Boorstin once suggested, had minds that were a miscellany and a museum; men who could blend the old and the new, an earnest Christian faith and Enlightenment ideas, without destroying either.
But beginning in the nineteenth century, riding a crest of scientific and industrial change, a different view of the Puritans began to emerge. In the language of their critics, the Puritans were seen as intolerant, sexually repressed, narrow-minded witch-hunters who masked material greed with a veneer of Calvinist virtue. Cast as religious fanatics, the Puritans stood accused of planting the seed of nationalist messianism by portraying America as a New Jerusalem, a city upon a hill (from Winthrops homily), with a globally redemptive mission. H.L. Menckenequally skilled as a writer, humorist and anti-religious bigotfamously described the Puritan as a man with the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
In recent years, scholars like Christian Smith have shown how the intellectual weakness and fierce internal divisions of Americas Protestant establishment allowed the secularization of modern public life as a kind of political revolution. Carried out mainly between 1870 and 1930, this rebel insurgency consisted of waves of networks of activists who were largely skeptical, freethinking, agnostic, atheist or theologically liberal; who were well educated and socially located mainly in the knowledge-production occupations, and who generally espoused materialism, naturalism, positivism and the privatization or extinction of religion.
This insurgency could be ignored, or at least contained, for a long time. Why? Because Americas social consensus supported the countrys unofficial Christian assumptions, traditions and religion-friendly habits of thought and behavior. But laweven a constitutional guaranteeis only as strong as the popular belief that sustains it. That traditional consensus is now 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.
Obviously many faith-friendly exceptions exist in each of these professional fields. And other culprits, not listed above, may also be responsible for our predicament. The late Christopher Lasch argued that modern consumer capitalism breeds and needs a culture of narcissismi.e., a citizenry of weak, self-absorbed, needy personalitiesin order to sustain itself. Christian Smith put it somewhat differently when he wrote that, in modern capitalism, labor is mobile as needed, consumers purchase what is promoted, workers perform as demanded, managers execute as expectedand profits flow. And what the Torah, or the Pope, or Jesus may say in opposition is not relevant, because those are private matters [emphasis in original].
My point here is neither to defend nor criticize our economic system. Others are much better equipped to do that than I am. My point is that I shop, therefore I am is not a good premise for life in a democratic society like the United States. Our country depends for its survival on an engaged, literate electorate gathered around commonly held ideals. But the practical, pastoral reality facing the Gospel in America today is a human landscape shaped by advertising, an industry Pascal Bruckner described so well as a smiling form of sorcery:
The buyers fantastic freedom of choice supposedly encourages each of us to take ourselves in hand, to be responsible, to diversify our conduct and our tastes; and most important, supposedly protects us forever from fanaticism and from being taken in. In other words, four centuries of emancipation from dogmas, gods and tyrants has led to nothing more nor less than to the marvelous possibility of choosing between several brands of dish detergent, TV channels or styles of jeans. Pushing our cart down the aisle in a supermarket or frantically wielding our remote control, these are supposed to be ways of consciously working for harmony and democracy. One could hardly come up with a more masterful misinterpretation: for we consume in order to stop being individuals and citizens; rather, to escape for a moment from the heavy burden of having to make fundamental choices.
Now, where do Catholics fit into this story?
The same Puritan worldview that informed John Winthrops homily so movingly, also reviled Popery, Catholic ritual and lingering Romish influences in Englands established Anglican Church. The Catholic Church was widely seen as Revelations Whore of Babylon. Time passed, and the American religious landscape became more diverse. But the nations many different Protestant sects shared a common, foreign ogre in their perceptions of the Holy Seeperceptions made worse by Romes distrust of democracy and religious liberty. As a result, Catholics in America faced harsh Protestant discrimination throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. This included occasional riots and even physical attacks on convents, churches and seminaries. Such is the history that made John F. Kennedys success seem so liberating.
The irony is that mainline American Protestantism had used up much of its moral and intellectual power by 1960. Secularizers had already crushed it in the war for the cultural high ground. In effect, after so many decades of struggle, 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. Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox, despite their many differences, share far more than divides them, beginning with Jesus Christ himself. They also share with Jews a belief in the God of Israel and a reverence for Gods Word in the Old Testament. But the gulf between belief and unbelief, or belief and disinterest, is vastly wider.
In the years since Kennedys election, Vatican II and the cultural upheavals of the 1960s, two generations of citizens have grown to maturity. The world is a different place. America is a different placeand in some ways, a far more troubling one. We cant change history, though we need to remember and understand it. But we can only blame outside factors for our present realities up to a point. As Catholics, like so many other American Christians, we have too often made our country what it is through our appetite for success, our self-delusion, our eagerness to fit in, our vanity, our compromises, our self-absorption and our tepid faith.
If government now pressures religious entities out of the public square, or promotes same-sex marriage, or acts in ways that undermine the integrity of the family, or compromises the sanctity of human life, or overrides the will of voters, or discourages certain forms of religious teaching as hate speech, or interferes with individual and communal rights of consciencewell, why not? In the name of tolerance and pluralism, we have forgotten why and how we began as nation; and we have undermined our ability to ground our arguments in anything higher than our own sectarian opinions.
The next America has been in its chrysalis a long time. Whether people will be happy when it fully emerges remains to be seen. But the future is not predestined. 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.
Charles J. Chaput is the archbishop of Denver.
Say it to St. Paul and St. James who said it. I just read what's written.
Especially to put something in quotes yet not ping the person being quoted. Not cricket.
“I think Protestant heresy is a damnable lie that endangered many souls, and continues to do so.”
Catholic declared Protestant heresy is a damnable lie, according to Catholic heretics who through their corruption of the single Church endangered many souls, including their own.
Meanwhile Protestants moved beyond Catholic heresy and worship as they believe they are called to worship, not how some men in opulent raiment, extracting alms collected around the would like them to.
So who are the heretics? I don’t think it’s an exclusive club, my friend. You just don’t want to believe you’re in it too.
James is talking about the KIND of faith one has
Yes, you can say that. You can say that true mature faith is one that is accompanied by good works. But what you cannot say, because on that passage alone, that we are saved by faith alone. We are saved by faith and by good works.
No we are not saved by Faith plus anything!
James is saying if effect, "You CLAIM to have faith? Yet you don't read your bible, you dont pray, you dont help the brethren. You are not showing the fruit of your FAITH. Your faith is not a Saving Faith. Those who have Saving Faith, produce WILL produce fruit. If your "faith" has not produced any Christian behavior you are not justified in SAYING you have Faith.
James affirms that it is not dead faith which justifies but only a faith that is productive of good works and that its genuineness is seen only by good works.
James 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend.
Rom 3:20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
This righteousness is from God alone.
22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.
We are Given Christ's righteousness as a Gift thru Faith.
He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
It is thru Faith alone that saves. Works are prepared for us to do because we ARE the elect, NOT to become the elect.
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.
Those who want to be saved by faith and works HAVE a basis for boasting!
29Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.
A difficult passage in James cannot overturn the multitude of verses that clearly explanation that it is by FAITH we are Saved.
No man has any right whatsoever to determine any church has exclusive rights to Salvation or the Salvation message. Jesus clearly taught this....”what is that to you, you follow Christ”. “What does it matter...but that Christ is preached everywhere”.
There are many pew sitters in every church....unsaved. There are equally many who take communion and or attend mass who are not saved. “having an appearance of” only, yet their hearts are far from Him.
Attending Mass never has saved an individual.....nor partaking in communion. Although if the Gospel message is preached there may be some who respond, but that is the work of the Holy Spirit. He decides and knows whose heart is willing....not man...not a Pope...not a Pastor...and certainly not by the action of taking Communion.
Salvation leads to a relationship with Christ. It does not depend on rites or for that matter even attending a church. The church has always been intended for “believers”...to hear the message, to fellowship with others of like minds, to build up and encourage the believers.
One can wear a dozen crucifixion emblems but that does not make them Christian...(gang members love them)...Another can attend Mass every day and that does not make them more than religious if they do not have Christ.
You are mistaken to be critical of missionaries and the message they carry. We are all called to be so....this is commonly understood...... A church has on the inside and over the door archway a sign which reads as you leave the church.....”You are now entering the Mission Field”.... The moment our feet leave the church we have indeed entered the Mission Field.
I should not express myself clearly? I think Protestant heresy is a damnable lie that endangered many souls, and continues to do so. This is a discussion forum. I discuss. The Gospel tells me to.
I thought the Pope said we are seperated brethren? :(
So, your job is to convert people to Rome even though they have already been converted by Christ?
“You are mistaken to be critical of missionaries and the message they carry”
I’m not critcal of missionaries.
I’m critical of your group CLAIMING THE CROWN OF PERSECUTION from their comfy-chair keyboards because Catholics won’t buy your interpretation of Scripture.
That, is what is disgusting.
This is not what Eph 2:8-10 say. It says that we are saved by grace alone; that grace is not from works but is a gift of God, therefore we should not boast of it; that both faith and our good works come from God as a result of faith. In short, we are saved by grace alone but not by faith alone. Grace produces both faith and good works for those who obey God. Nowhere does that passage say that we are saved first and then do works, even though your translation incorreclty uses past perfect tense for "σεσωσμενοι". Young's Literal Translation has it "ye are having been saved". King James has it "are ye saved". Salvation is a process that starts with the Cross and extends through the entirety of one's life.
Your exegesis is certainly unique. I think you confuse Justification and Sanctification. In Justification we are seen as perfectly acceptable to GOD thru Faith in Christ.
God sees us robbed in White(Christ's Rigteousness) upon conversion. Sanctification is a life process of being transformed to His likeness, IE, Babes in Christ, to Fathers in Christ.
Eph 2:8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9NOT AS A RESULT OF WORKS, so that no one may boast. 10For we are His workmanship, CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (NAS)
Not sure how it can be any clearer. Saved thru Faith, NOT of ourselves, Gift of GOD, NOT a result of works, can't boast, HIS workmanship, Created in Christ FOR good works (Horse/cart).
Rom. 4:5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,"
Rom. 5:1, "therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,"
Rom.9:30, "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith."
Rom.10:4, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."
Rom. 11:6, "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace." GRACE is unmerited FAVOR, not just sanctifying to enable you to cooperate to attain salvation.
Gal. 2:16, "nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified."
Gal. 2:21, I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.
Gal.3:5-6, "Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 6Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."
Gal. 3:24, "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith."
Eph. 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. 9 Not by works, lest any man should boast."
Phil. 3:9, "and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith."
Thanks, I pointed that out in post 465, and got no reply. Then in 488 metmom came on and said that dr. e. never said “ALL Catholics.”
It makes me wonder how far they will go to twist the truth.
Please take me off your ping list.
Perhaps you were not on that particular thread where a half dozen Roman Catholics agreed with the idea that Paul was not to be trusted as an apostle nor as an expositor of God's grace. I don't recall your name or your comments on that thread.
It's understandable that so many Roman Catholics dismiss Paul (to the point of calling Protestants "Paulists") because Paul contradicts Rome in so many ways. Where Paul sees "confidence" Rome teaches presumption. Where Paul declares "liberty of conscience" Rome preaches condemnation (Trent) to all who believe they have been saved by God's grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
But the fact so many Roman Catholics ridicule Paul begs the question -- either Roman Catholics have been "catechized correctly" or they haven't.
Apparently many of them haven't been.
I do not dismiss St. Paul, nor do I think he contradicts Rome. I think he was likely mentally unbalanced and I find him self-contradictory.
Where Paul sees "confidence" Rome teaches presumption. Where Paul declares "liberty of conscience" Rome preaches condemnation (Trent) to all who believe they have been saved by God's grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Please cite chapter and verse where St. Paul contradicts the Catholic Church you ridicule as "Rome."
Oh, and I forgot to mention, I don’t LIKE St. Paul.
LOLOL. Another winner! Thank you, Judith.
Popes are "infallible in matters of faith and religion" but the apostle Paul, who was personally confronted by God, was "mentally unbalanced."
How do we trust that Paul was chosen by God to preach the Gospel to all men in truth and light if he was "mentally unbalanced?"
No wonder Roman Catholics don't have faith in the word of God. They believe it was written by knuckleheads with emotional problems.
More hot coals, eh, Judith?
Well the sola scriptura crowd gives plenty of examples of the word of God thrown around the forum by knuckleheads with emotional problems. So I don't see the problem here.
And I have plenty of faith in the Word of God. Christ is the Word, St. John 1:1. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." St. Paul, on the other hand, was likely a mystic with a few loose screws, who had a megalomaniac's inflated sense of his own importance.
Sorry Dr. E. I had to go back and read the original post before I believed it. We all make mistakes may be this one of those times, or it's just another example of how much RC's hate non-RC's.
What is the big deal about my opinion? I am nobody. Get over it.
Thank you for those wonderful, hope endowing verses from Scripture. The passages in James, though few, are used as proof texts by those who desire to boast in their own merits and good works in attaining salvation. But we can know from the hundreds of other God-inspired Scriptures that the real "good news" is that man does not and cannot ever contribute anything to the payment of the penalty of his sin. It is only through the sacrifice of Christ in our place - his shed blood for the propitiation of our sins - that we can receive the gift of eternal life with him in Heaven. James, read in this context, then becomes perfectly clear and those who want to twist it to mean they have anything to boast of are proven incorrect. It confirms the Gospel of grace and does not contradict it.
I praise God that he has given me eternal life by grace through faith and this knowledge has changed me intrinsically. I am not the same person I was before. I have grown in the faith. I have grown closer to the Lord with each passing year and this is how our Heavenly Father works within us. I do not presume to judge another's faith or walk with Christ based upon the labels they use to identify themselves.
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