Dear friends and fellow European Christians,
The following is a summary of a chapter entitled “Living Within the Truth: Christian Mission in the New Order of the World” by Archbishop Charles Chaput from the book „Exiting a Dead End Road. A GPS for Christians in Public Discourse“ published by Kairos Publications in Vienna.
In his contribution to the book, the Archbishop of Denver explains why separation between church and state does not mean to radically secularize public life.
Find below a summary of his article and download the entire paper here.
Thank you for standing up for a Christian Europe and for praying with us!
Your Europe for Christ! – Team
Democracy vs. Relativism: Why is radical secularism a threat to our society?
by Archbishop Charles Chaput
Two of the biggest lies in the world today are that Christianity has been of relatively minor importance in the development of the West and that Western values and institutions can be sustained without grounding in Christian moral principles. Western civilization cannot be understood without the 20 centuries of Christian context in which it developed. A people that does not know its history, does not know itself. People who forget who they are can be easily manipulated. Our societies are Christian by birth, and their survival depends on the endurance of Christian values. Our core principles and political institutions are based, in large measure, on the morality of the Gospel, the Christian vision of man and government and the dignity of the human person. Take away Christ and you remove the only reliable foundation for our values, institutions, and way of life. Today, the history of the Church and the legacy of Western Christianity are being pushed away. But to be indifferent to our Christian past does not contribute to defending our values and institutions in the present.
Relativism is now the civil religion and public philosophy of the West. Given the pluralism of the modern world, societies want to affirm that no one individual or group has a monopoly on truth and that all cultures and religions should be respected as equally valid. In practice, however, we see that without a belief in fixed moral principles and transcendent truths, our political institutions and language become instruments in the service of a new barbarism. In the name of tolerance we come to tolerate the cruelest intolerance. Respect for other cultures comes to dictate disparagement of our own. The teaching of “live and let live” justifies that the strong live at the expense of the weak. Abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, embryonic research and eugenic temptations aim at eliminating the weak, the disabled and the infirm elderly. Without grounding in God or a higher truth, our democratic institutions can very easily become weapons against the weak and against our own human dignity. Human rights come from God and the state should exist to defend the rights of man and to promote his flourishing, but it can never be the source of those rights. If the state arrogates to itself that power, even a democracy can become totalitarian when the will of the powerful and strong shapes the law to eliminate the weak.
The Christian beliefs that most deeply irritate the secular West are those concerning abortion, sexuality and the marriage of man and woman. These beliefs express the truth about human fertility, meaning and destiny. These truths are subversive in a world that would have us believe that God is not necessary and that human life has no inherent nature or purpose. This is the culture of death. Thus the Church must be attacked and punished because it supports life, and it is seen as the most compelling and dangerous heretic of the new world new order. The Church is called to be a believing community of resistance. We need to call things by their true names. We need to fight the evils we see. We need to really believe what we say we believe. Then we need to prove it by the witness of our lives. Convinced of the truths of the Creed, we should be on fire to live by these truths, to love by these truths, and to defend these truths, even to the point of our own discomfort and suffering. The lesson of the 20th century is that there is no cheap grace. This God whom we believe in loved the world so much that He sent His only Son to suffer and die for it, and He demands that we live the same bold, sacrificial pattern of life shown to us by Jesus Christ.
Free people, as Christians indeed are, cannot remain free without religious faith and the virtues that it fosters. Separation between church and state does not mean to radically secularize public life. The phrase “freedom of worship” is a quite restrictive idea that is often used nowadays. But our founders had no intent to lock religion away from public affairs. They wanted to guarantee citizens the freedom to live their faith publicly and vigorously, and to bring their religious convictions to bear on the building of a just society. Religious freedom includes the right to preach, teach, assemble, organize, and to engage society and its issues publicly, both as individuals and joined together as communities of faith. This is “free exercise” of religion.
Find here the full text.
Archbishop Chaputs text is a contribution to the publication „Exiting a Dead End Road. A GPS for Christians in Public Discourse“ (2011, Kairos Publications, edited by Gudrun and Martin Kugler). You can buy the entire book as e-Book or hard copy – please find the description and the conditions here.