29 Apr

The Peculiar Insanity of the Contemporary Public Square

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/29/07

Contemporary society considers religion a private matter that individuals practice (or don't) at their discretion; it does not consider it a legitimate conversation partner for shaping the body politic. In "Religion and the Common Good," Charles J. Chaput, the archbishop of Denver, explains that the absence of religious discourse in the public square is a consequence of the idea articulated by Nietzsche that God is dead. He also attends to what the French Catholic author Georges Bernanos (1888-1948) wrote about the spiritual sickness that helped to produce, and was made manifest in, Nietzsche's belief. Bernanos discussed the de-spiritualization of society and the need to practice the Christian virtue of hope in a series of lectures he gave in the late 1940s, Chaput summarizes the themes of those lectures in his article. He writes: "The common good is what best serves human happiness in the light of what is real and true. That's the heart of the matter: What is real and true? If God exists, then the more man flees from God, the less true and real man becomes. If God exists, then a society that refuses to acknowledge or publicly talk about God is suffering from a peculiar kind of insanity."

Chaput's article, which is published on the First Things blog, resonates with many interviews featured on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. Visit the Religion and Society topic page for a list of related conversations. J. C. Whitehouse discusses the literature of Bernanos on volume 55. [Posted April 2007, ALG]