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Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life [Hardcover]

By Charles J. Chaput (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   272
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.6" Width: 5.3" Height: 1"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Aug 12, 2008
Publisher   Doubleday Religion
ISBN  0385522282  
EAN  9780385522281  

Availability  0 units.

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Hardcover $ 21.96 $ 18.67 423377
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Item Description...
Examines some of the moral issues that divide modern-day society, redefines the link between personal morality and the public sphere, and argues that a dual commitment to faith and democracy holds the key to revitalizing the United States.

Publishers 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 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.

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

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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More About Charles J. Chaput

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! 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.

Charles J. Chaput currently resides in Denver, in the state of Colorado.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Somewhat muddy call to arms (sort of) for Catholics  Dec 2, 2009
In recent times, we have seen attacks on the rights of Christians to speak on political issues. We have seen books published, saying that radical Christians are seeking to impose a theocracy on America reminiscent of the Taliban. We have often heard the argument that, if Christians defend their own beliefs by (for example) defending the right to life or traditional marriage, that we are crossing the border line between Church and State and "seeking to impose" our beliefs on others.

In this book, Bishop Charles J. Chaput responds to these attacks, and sets out some thoughts on what constitutes proper political behavior for Catholics. The book covers a fair amount of ground, most of which I found interesting but which (for me) did not really add up to a coherent and cogent argument.

First, he argues for what ought to be common sense. Christians have the right to speak on political issues. They are not seeking to impose their morality on other people, when they try to persuade the voters voluntarily not to reject long-standing laws and to create new "rights" which are inconsistent with Biblical teaching. Separation of Church and State does not require Christians to shut up and leave political life to the foes of religion. It is an unacceptable double standard for people to argue that, when secular people express their morality in the political arena, by (for example, advocating for the "right" to kill fetuses and the "right" for gay marriage) this is grand, wonderful and idealistic, but when Christians express their morality on the same issues, this is scary and threatening. To the ACLU, perhaps, these are fighting words and a militant agenda. To more sane people, I hope, this a fairly tepid and noncontroversial thing to say. For most of us, I hope, it is common sense that every American has a right to express their sincerely held views, and that the proper way to resolve these conflicts is through our democratic system, moderated by the courts. Nothing very radical in that view, although it has been under attack by some.

Second, Bishop Chaput tries to define the proper Catholic approach to American politics. In a long discussion, he relates a good deal of Church history and American Church history, which I thought was interesting and informative. He covered a lot of subjects, but, in my opinion, it did not add up as much as it might have.

(a) He discusses the much-vexed question of the Catholic place in what was, for a long time, a militantly Protestant nation. This is a big subject. Bishop Chaput talks about former Protestant bigotry toward Catholics and how it has morphed into secular bigotry against all religions, but particularly Rome. In my view, to really understand this subject, you would need to discuss the larger relationship of the Catholic Church and the reformed Churches, both during the Reformation and since Vatican II. Bishop Chaput is correct not to go into all of that, which would have taken the book too far afield, but the result is that the discussion of this subject is somewhat truncated.

(b) The issue that he kept coming back to, of course, was abortion. Bishop Chaput does not want to put it this way, but he basically makes abortion a litmus test for Catholic politicians. If you are pro-abortion, you are not in communion with the Church. I personally agree with that position, and I would like it stated more bluntly and directly. I also would have liked to see a bit more discussion of those in the American Church who clearly disagree. How much dissent on this issue is acceptable? We are, after all, a religion with a hierarchy and the ability to enforce some level of conformity. Should the Church enforce conformity on this issue? If so, why has it not done so? I would like a bit more clarity on these questions from our bishops.

(c) The Church has a long-standing interest in social justice issues. This tends to make the Church liberal, in American political terms. Bishop Chaput does not say it this way, but this is why Catholics are so conflicted on American politics. Their pro-life postion (for those who have it) tends to make them conservative and Republicans. Their pro-social justice position tends to make them liberals and Democrats. Bishop Chaput says a good deal about how you cannot trust either party, but he does not acknowledge this very basic dichotomy. Along these lines, I would personally like to see a refinement of Catholic social justice teaching. The Church should advocate for the poor and the weak. That is part of its core mission. It should not, however, advocate for a particular political program to get there. The Church's competence is morality, not economics. I welcome bishops telling us to care for the poor and the downtrodden. I am tired of hearing the Bishops tell us to support Big Government programs, which demonstrably have failed to help the poor. I understand that this is a tough line to draw, in practice. I think the correct answer, however, for the Church is to be supportive of both sides, as long as they are trying to help the disadvantaged. I, personally, may happen to think that Teddy Kennedy was deeply misguided in his zeal for Big Government, but I think the proper Christian position is to respect the fact that Kennedy's views were motivated by a sincere concern for the poor. I would like to see liberals extending the same respect to conservatives. The fact that we differ on the way to better society should not distract from the fact that, as Christians, we would all like a better society, in which no child was ever hungry. I would like to see the two parties compete for the Christian vote, by arguing about why their approach was the better way to help the poor.

(d) To what degree are Catholics at war with the larger culture? Bishop Chaput seems to me to waffle on this issue. He often says that we have grown too accomodating of the larger culture, and its many evils. He often seems to be on the edge of issuing a call to arms to be militantly counter-cultural. But, then he pulls back. He does not want to go to war with anyone. He wants the Church to be non-partisan. I understand the reasons he takes this position, but it results in a less than crystal clear message.
Render Unto God and there's none left for politics  Sep 4, 2009
I read this short book, and saw the good bishop speak too. Although some will derive pleasure from his positioning, there was far too much divisive worldly politics in his view of Catholicism compared to what we were taught about the Magisterium. Many of us long for a book by a Catholic holy man who has love, like Jesus, for all. This book isnt it... it conveys speech, and a political point of view found on most talk shows, but not love.

It is written articulately, like an academic thesis, not like a saintly letter, and could have used quite a bit more tight editing for repetitions. It is a book seeming by a church administrator, one who appears to want to lead only one section of the one holy, Catholic, and Universal church. That's alright. There are a lot of different kind of Bishops out there.

But Pope Benedict says these very same things, in fact, said them first, and developed these same ideas far more deeply over his years on earth... and in far better ways with far broader reach.... and with far more tenderness toward others.

In that sense, this book is a pale derivative. I'd recommend most any of the Pope's books over this one... they are far more feeling, and factual (the Pope has a scientifically trained mind) and the Pope touches not on the cultural outrage in people, but to the divine love in people, and is thereby far more uniting of souls.
A defense of Catholic positions in political sphere.  Jul 15, 2009
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.
You must read this book!  Jun 18, 2009
This book is a very insightful way of looking at the catholic church's perspective on modern times...a must read!
Chaput is a man of courage  May 21, 2009
Archbishop Chaput is one of the true gems in the American Catholic Church today. If more bishops of the past 50 years had half as much courage as him, our country would be a different and better place today.

He does a marvelous job of presenting in rational terms the necessity of actually living out what one holds to be true without compromise. The martyr today looks different than she or he did in the early days of the Church, but we are called to be faithful in the same way.

He is the perfect mirror opposite of someone like the late Fr. Robert Drinan, SJ, who was a member of the House of Representatives (D-MA). Although Drinan believed abortion to be "virtual infanticide," he was still an outspoken supporter of abortion rights. Shockingly, Drinan spoke out in support of President Bill Clinton's veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 1996.

Archbishop Chaput, unlike the contemporary Drinans (Fr. Jenkins of Notre Dame?), is serious about what he believes whether it is popular or not. That is why I loved his book and respect him as a courageous man.

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