Archbishop Chaput then clarified that although “John Kennedy didn’t create the trends in American life that I’ve described,” his speech “clearly fed them.”
In light of this separation of religion from the public sphere, “What would a proper Christian approach to politics look like?” the archbishop queried.
Drawing on St. Augustine and several theologians, Archbishop Chaput answered, “Christianity is not mainly – or even significantly – about politics. It's about living and sharing the love of God. And Christian political engagement, when it happens, is never mainly the task of the clergy.”
“That work belongs to lay believers who live most intensely in the world,” he asserted.
“Christian faith is not a set of ethics or doctrines. It's not a group of theories about social and economic justice. All these things have their place. All of them can be important. But a Christian life begins in a relationship with Jesus Christ; and it bears fruit in the justice, mercy and love we show to others because of that relationship.” This fundamental relationship then informs how we involve ourselves in public life, he explained.
“As I was preparing these comments for tonight,” he added, “I listed all the urgent issues that demand our attention as believers: abortion; immigration; our obligations to the poor, the elderly and the disabled; questions of war and peace; our national confusion about sexual identity and human nature, and the attacks on marriage and family life that flow from this confusion; the growing disconnection of our science and technology from real moral reflection; the erosion of freedom of conscience in our national health-care debates; the content and quality of the schools that form our children.”
Because of the immensity of these issues, the Denver archbishop stressed that Christians need to united in their societal involvement. “The vocation of Christians in American public life does not have a Baptist or Catholic or Greek Orthodox or any other brand-specific label. Our job is to love God, preach Jesus Christ, serve and defend God’s people, and sanctify the world as his agents. To do that work, we need to be one. Not 'one' in pious words or good intentions, but really one, perfectly one, in mind and heart and action, as Christ intended,” he said.
Archbishop Chaput concluded his remarks by saying that “We live in a country that was once – despite its sins and flaws – deeply shaped by Christian faith. It can be so again. But we will do that together, or we won’t do it at all.”
“We need to remember the words of St. Hilary from so long ago: Unum sunt, qui invicem sunt. 'They are one, who are wholly for each other.' May God grant us the grace to love each other, support each other and live wholly for each other in Jesus Christ – so that we might work together in renewing the nation that has served human freedom so well.”
The full text of Archbishop Chaput's speech can be read at http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/3489.