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Render unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life

Render unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life

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by Charles J. Chaput

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“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


“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 Denver.

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Advance Praise for Render unto Caesar

“Using arguments from history as well as the wisdom of the world’s greatest thinkers, Archbishop Chaput urges Catholics to live our faith without compromise and to use our faith as the foundation for renewing American society in the twenty-first century. His tone is one of ‘now or never,’ and his presentation is crisp, intelligent, and accessible to a wide audience. This is an important book for Catholics to read and consider if we are truly to make a difference in the public square. 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

“At a time when the ‘faith and values’ vote has never been more important, Archbishop Charles Chaput deftly explores the intersection of morality, reason, and politics. This isn’t just a book for Catholics, but for anyone who cares about the state of America’s soul —and how that concern might shape the 2008 elections.”
—John L. Allen Jr., NCR and CNN senior Vatican correspondent

Product Details

Crown Religion/Business/Forum
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Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

CHARLES J. CHAPUT, O.F.M. Cap., is the archbishop of Denver, a Capuchin Franciscan, and a former member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He lives in Denver, Colorado. He is the author, previously, of Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics.

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Render Unto Caesar 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Tunguz More than 1 year ago
Every two years or so, whenever the US electoral cycle gets back in full swing, there seems to be a renewed interest and controversy concerning the Catholic attitudes and positions in the electoral process. The media seems to be obsessing over the conflicts, real and imaginary, between Catholic politicians and their Church. The lay Catholics seem to be confused and torn between their support for a politician or a cause, and the official teaching of their Church. Various civil liberties groups decry the undue influence that religion has on the political process, and spend considerable time and effort at silencing those who dare to use their faith in the public square. It is partly this cacophony of voices that Charles Chaput, OFM Cap, the current Archbishop of Denver, has in mind when he chose to write "Render Unto Caesar." It is a book that had a particular relevance during the 2008 election season, but will continue to have significance for many years to come. Archbishop Chaput is very clear and exacting when it comes to stressing the importance of certain core Catholic moral beliefs in context of the political sphere, most importantly in case of value and dignity of human life. He is also a vocal defendant of the role of religion in public sphere, and supports his argument from both Christian beliefs and traditions, and from a purely secular point of view. He is also very careful to give a nuanced position on the response of bishops to catholic politicians who publicly defy the teachings of the Church and endorse and support policies that go clearly against those teachings. Overall, this is a very well written and informative book that would be invaluable to all Catholics in guiding them to form their own political positions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Chaput is an adroit thinker and an excellent writer. His grasp of American and Catholic history and today's political issues is strong, and his arguments are skillful. This is a very readable, and very persuasive, case for the role religious faith should play in public affairs.
EdC-TJTM More than 1 year ago
This is a refreshingly clear and simple book that lays out for Catholics how we are called to live the public dimension of our faith. In a world that is increasingly darkened by rampant secularism and a mentality of "keep your faith private," this book stands out as a light and a beacon of hope. Indeed, we are called to live our faith openly and without apology. Indeed, we are called to engage our full faculties of reason and faith in harmony with each other. Indeed, we are called to be publicly Catholic so as to contribute uniquely and positively to the public aspects of this world which we have been given by our Creator, to whom we are ultimately accountable. Archbishop Chaput's writings here are extremely useful. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All politicians need to read this book.
Rex_Pilger More than 1 year ago
If Christians take their faith seriously, they must manifest that faith in every aspect of their life -- even in voting. This is the fundamental assumption, as applied specifically to Catholic Christians, of Archbishop Chaput's latest book. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is to be lived in the fullness of the New Life the Christian receives in Him. The new life of Christ implies, does it not, that human life is of extraordinary value, as intended by God from the beginning. If our politics devalues life at any stage, are those secular beliefs consistent with the faith we profess? Catholics believe that all human life is indeed precious, from conception to natural death. Human rights have no value unless the essential right to life is recognized as the foundational human right. Catholics are obligated to vote and advocate for the right to life of the unborn, the weak, the elderly, the disabled, the poor, and the sick. Party cannot trump the right to life. Union membership cannot take priority over protection of the unborn.
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LDAJr More than 1 year ago
If Joseph Ratzinger was "God's Rottweiler" during his time in the Roman Curia under Pope John Paul II, I think he has hopes that Archbishop Charles Chaput will be his lap dog in Philadelphia. I hope not - we don't need a "mini-me" in this city. "Render unto Caesar" is one long convoluted lecture directed at the Catholic laity, especially in America for failing to live up to his standards for Roman Catholics. He has written off France and Italy, and probably all of Europe for their anti-clericalism, but I resent his treatment of Americans in his demeaning chapter "Men without chests". Chaput really unloads on Americans on pages 120-21, quoting a blistering analysis in 1947 by Rev. John Hugo, a theologian with Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker, and says that his words ring true today! Later, on pages 132-33 he delights in quoting writer David Brook's description of Americans as Bobos - short for bourgeois-bohemians. It is astonishing! The only relief in the entire book is his final thoughts in Chapter 12 - especially on the political dimension of the abortion issue - he offers some good advice. Unfortunately, he doesn't address the issue of ecclesiastical corruption in the church, but maybe the archbishop will write a sequel to this book called, "And to God, the things that are God's".