What are American Catholics to do in today’s troubled world?
Chaput (Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, 2008, etc.), the archbishop of Philadelphia, urges Christians, and Catholics in particular, to be hopeful in the midst of a changing culture. Honing in on Western and especially American society, the author posits that irreparable changes have occurred in recent decades that change how the church must view its role; though times are more difficult for the Christian faith and for the institution of the church, believers can still live with hope. Chaput begins with a healthy dose of doom and gloom, describing social ills and a general drift away from faith or even from shared value systems. He writes at length about the sea change in sexual ethics, from the advent of the birth control pill to issues surrounding gender fluidity. These changes, he asserts, have challenged society at its very core. “Ultimately,” he writes, sexual freedom “leads to questions about who a person is and what it means to be human.” Likewise, excessive relativism in our education system means that “moral truths accessible to human reason, such as those in the Ten Commandments, don’t really qualify as true.” However, “for Christians, of course, truth is a Person,” Jesus Christ, and this is what separates believers from the secular world surrounding them. Chaput goes on to encourage readers to embrace hope as a worldview and as a lifestyle. He points to the Beatitudes as a set of rules Christians can and should follow in a world that is ambivalent or even hostile to their beliefs. Finally, he encourages believers to pass on their faith in confidence and with purpose. Chaput is an erudite writer, and his work includes a wide array of quotations and allusions. His observations on Western culture are keen, and while secular-minded readers will find plenty to argue with, his writing will appeal to a wide Christian audience.
An optimistic account of the church’s future in the midst of a secular age.