Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life  -     By: Charles J. Chaput
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Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life

Image Entertainment / 2009 / Paperback

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Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 258
Vendor: Image Entertainment
Publication Date: 2009
Dimensions: 8.00 X 5.10 X 0.80 (inches)
ISBN: 0385522290
ISBN-13: 9780385522298

Publisher's Description

"People who take God seriously will not remain silent about their faith. They will often disagree about doctrine or policy, but they won’t be quiet. They can’t be. They’ll act on what they believe, sometimes at the cost of their reputations and careers. Obviously the common good demands a respect for other people with different beliefs and a willingness to compromise whenever possible. But for Catholics, the common good can never mean muting themselves in public debate on foundational issues of human dignity. Christian faith is always personal but never private. This is why any notion of tolerance that tries to reduce faith to private idiosyncrasy, or a set of opinions that we can indulge at home but need to be quiet about in public, will always fail."
—From the Introduction

Few topics in recent years have ignited as much public debate as the balance between religion and politics. Does religious thought have any place in political discourse? Do religious believers have the right to turn their values into political action? What does it truly mean to have a separation of church and state? The very heart of these important questions is here addressed by one of the leading voices on the topic, Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia.

While American society has ample room for believers and nonbelievers alike, Chaput argues, our public life must be considered within the context of its Christian roots. American democracy does not ask its citizens to put aside their deeply held moral and religious beliefs for the sake of public policy. In fact, it requires exactly the opposite.

As the nation’s founders knew very well, people are fallible. The majority of voters, as history has shown again and again, can be uninformed, misinformed, biased, or simply wrong. Thus, to survive, American democracy depends on an engaged citizenry —people of character, including religious believers, fighting for their beliefs in the public square—respectfully but vigorously, and without apology. Anything less is bad citizenship and a form of theft from the nation’s health. Or as the author suggests: Good manners are not an excuse for political cowardice.

American Catholics and other persons of goodwill are part of a struggle for our nation’s future, says Charles J. Chaput. Our choices, including our political choices, matter. Catholics need to take an active, vocal, and morally consistent role in public debate. We can’t claim to personally believe in the sanctity of the human person, and then act in our public policies as if we don’t. We can’t separate our private convictions from our public actions without diminishing both. In the words of the author, "How we act works backward on our convictions, making them stronger or smothering them under a snowfall of alibis."

Vivid, provocative, clear, and compelling, Render unto Caesar is a call to American Catholics to serve the highest ideals of their nation by first living their Catholic faith deeply, authentically.

Author Bio

CHARLES J. CHAPUT, O.F.M, is archbishop of Philadelphia. Raised in a Native American and French-Canadian household in a small town on the plains of Kansas, he has moved beyond his humble origins to become one of the American Catholic hierarchy's most visible and outspoken leaders. Archbishop Chaput consistently involves himself in the great moral debates of the nation, from abortion to the war in Iraq. Archbishop Chaput belongs to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. He is the author of Render Unto Caesar and A Heart on Fire.

Editorial Reviews

“Archbishop Chaput has made a unique and significant contribution to the Church and the nation at a time when voices like his are needed to be raised and heard.”
–Very Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M., president, the Catholic University of America

“This isn’t just a book for Catholics; it’s for anyone who cares about the state of America’s soul.”
–John L. Allen Jr., NCR and CNN senior Vatican correspondent

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    4 Stars Out Of 5
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    September 6, 2012
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    Can a Christian politician—or voter—make his faith a private matter, not influencing his politics? "Christian faith is always personal but never private. . . . It's like asking a married man to act single in public. He can certainly do that—but he won't stay married for long." Gems like these are sprinkled throughout this well-written consideration of what it means for Christians to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's," that is, what they owe (if anything) to their government. As you can see from the quote, Chaput (the Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia) definitely does think it's desirable for a Christian to apply his faith when engaging in politics—although he cites some notable cases (Mario Cuomo, some of the Supreme Court justices) who might as well be atheists, so little does their faith influence their decisions. There have been and always will be "in name only" Christians who find it useful to have a church connection, but they let themselves be guided by the culture, not by their faith. As Chaput phrases it, "The truth will make us free (John 8:32)—not comfortable, not respected, but free in the real sense of the word: able to see and do what's right." He offers this advice to people sizing up the candidates: "`You shall know them by their fruits' (Matthew 7:20). That's the first and best voter guide ever written."

    I should mention that I am not Catholic, and while reading Chaput's book I had to mentally substitute "Christian" where he had "Catholic." There are a handful of deep thinkers in the Catholic church, and it would be foolish to avoid fine books like this just because the authors are Catholic. Chaput's writing reminds me of C. S. Lewis—concise, logical, one thought flowing smoothly into another—no fat, no fluff, no pandering to a softminded reader's need to have her self-esteem boosted. Here there are a lot of "hard sayings" that, like the hard sayings of Jesus, call us to be better and strive harder. Chaput leaves the reader aware that it is hard to live the Christian life, also hard to buck the secular culture and bring out faith into the public forum. But he makes the challenge appealing—not a pat on the head, but a far more life-enriching "Get in there and fight, son!" Or, to quote a hymn that several denominations have foolishly dropped from their hymnals, "Onward, Christian soldiers."
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