Archbishop Chaput on the ‘Divorce’ of Christian and Enlightenment Culture—but isn’t it rather an annulment?

There is much insight in Archbishop Chaput’s Erasmus Lecture. Take these words on liberal democracy, which for an American bishop are extraordinarily strong:

In a liberal democracy, the source of political legitimacy is the will of the sovereign individual, which is expressed through elected representatives. Anything that places obligations on the individual—except for the government itself, which embodies the will of the majority of individuals—becomes the target of suspicion. To protect the sovereignty of individuals, democracy separates them. It isolates them from each other, and it inevitably seeks to break down or dominate anything that stands in the way. That includes every kind of mediating institution, from community organizations, to synagogues and churches, to the family itself.

Chaput sees that the alliance between the Biblical element and the Enlightenment element in American culture has ended, and he describes this as a divorce:

In practice, America has always been a mixed marriage of biblical and Enlightenment ideas. It was a fertile arrangement that worked well for a long time. But the hard news for religious believers is that the mom and dad of the family—the two bodies of thought that gave birth to this country—are getting a divorce. And we won’t like the new rules of the house.

But I think it would be better to describe it as an annulment; there was never any valid marriage between those conflicting bodies of thought; those who thought there was were living an illusion.

Image: Herr Aegidius, Can. Reg.

2 thoughts on “Archbishop Chaput on the ‘Divorce’ of Christian and Enlightenment Culture—but isn’t it rather an annulment?

  1. I think it’s interesting that the Archbishop reminded his listeners at one point that Christianity must be considered true in itself if it is to be useful in moderating democracy. Truth is just what seems to fall through the cracks in a situation where the government is left to regulate a vast number of “free” religious claims based on utilitarian concerns. And the attempt to discern a “biblical” stream in American religion doesn’t entirely seem to solve the issue. Although, maybe it does point to the fact that insofar as an individual or group is pursuing truth and open to truth, they are more likely to make a real contribution to the common good.

    Liked by 1 person

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