This is What It Really Means to Speak Truth to Power
Enthroned last September as the archbishop of Phildelphia, Charles Chaput has for a year now found himself forced to deal with the continuing child abuse scandal, with a crisis in church finances, with declining enrollments in parochial schools, and with an intensely hostile local press. He has done so calmly--even serenely--competently, and unflinchingly. And in the midst of these duties, he has somehow found time to speak out on religious freedom.
From "We Have No King but Caesar," a talk Archbishop Chaput delivered earlier this month:
[O]ne of the key assumptions of the modern secular state – in effect, secularism’s creation myth -- is that religion is naturally prone to violence because it’s irrational and divisive. Secular, non-religious authority, on the other hand, is allegedly rational and unitive. Therefore the job of secular authority is peacemaking; in other words, to keep religious fanatics from killing each other and everybody else.
The problem with that line of thought is this: It’s an Enlightenment fantasy....
[A]s scholars like Brad Gregory and William Cavanaugh have shown, based on the historical record, there’s no persuasive evidence that religious belief is any more prone to provoking violence than secular politics and ideologies....Cavanaugh notes that even in the so-called Wars of Religion in the 16th Century, “For the main instigators of the carnage, doctrinal loyalties were at best secondary to their stake in the rise or defeat of the centralized state...." [T]he rise of the sovereign state was a cause, not the solution, of Europe’s religious wars....
What’s really going on in much of today’s hand-wringing about religious extremism and looming theocracy is a pretty straightforward push by America’s secular leadership classes to get religion out of the way. God is a competitor in forming the public will. So God needs to go.
The secular state, engaged in a crude power grab--and a bishop with the courage to say so.