Archbishop Chaput is back with a timely and painfully honest critique of American society and the Church. It’s clear from the manuscript that he has spent decades thinking deeply about the relationship between the Catholic Church and society writ large. Chaput’s insights invite the reader to take a break from the incessant drama and outrage to contemplate where we are as a nation and what the individual can and should do to improve the health of our culture.
The book is divided into two parts. The first part deals with the historical America. Chaput lays out, with extensive quoting and cross-references, the political philosophy and religious thinking that was baked into American’s founding. He provides deep background on individual founders and the intellectual traditions that they came from. Through this lens, we can see why America is special in its creation, and how those religious influences played into the creation of the American State. From that basis, Chaput levels an honest, but stinging indictment against the most recent generations of Americans for abandoning our intellectual roots. He laments the lack of curiosity and fear that discourages us from reading, thinking, and sharing our ideas.
In the second part, Chaput applies the intellectual tradition of Catholicism to our current state of affairs. He draws heavily from the early Christian experience in the Roman Empire, and points out how we can influence our culture for the better, while being prepared for the inevitable rejection of our peers. Much of this part of the book is dedicated to naming the false gods of modern society. Archbishop Chaput then demonstrates how the antidote to the emptiness and brokenness that these false gods leave in their wake are the theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.
To be sure, this is a heavy book that should only be undertaken by a serious reader. I came away at times downtrodden and at other times, inspired. The fact remains that while Catholicism is relatively comfortable and established in America, there has been no time in history when it was without persecution. At the end of the day, my faith tells me two things: there is truth and this is not my home. We are strangers in a strange land, but it presents me the unique opportunity to witness to the truth and love that I have found, and to share it by the example of my life.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★