Thursday, March 9, 2017

What I'm Reading: Strangers in a Strange Land by Charles J. Chaput

Or, as I've begun calling it around here, the anti-Benedict Option book. So I just thought I'd give y'all a heads up.

Strangers in a Strange Land: 
Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World
by Charles J. Chaput
A vivid critique of American life today and a guide to how Christians—and particularly Catholics--can live their faith vigorously, and even with hope, in a post-Christian public square.
A kind Happy Catholic reader gave me this book. It only took reading the introduction and first chapter to make it clear that this is the anti-"Benedict Option" book:
But we can't simply withdraw from public affairs. Saint Benedict could retreat to the Italian countryside, but Augustine was a bishop intimately tied to his people and their society. For Augustine, the classic civic virtues named by Cicero — prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance—can be renewed and elevated, to the benefit of all citizens, by the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity.
Gauntlet thrown. Interesting-er and interesting-er. I'm really looking forward to reading this.


UPDATE - chapter 2 brings the third mention of not hiding away:
All of which underscores a simple fact: The surest way to transform a culture is from the inside out. And the surest path to doing it isn't through reasoned debate (too tedious) or violence (too costly) but by colonizing and reshaping the culture's appetites and behaviors.


  1. Midwest Liz3/9/17, 2:53 PM

    Hmm. I'd say infiltration is one way to try to change the culture...if indeed that is the goal.

    But is it? Preaching the gospel to the whole world ≠ changing the culture.

    At best, I'd say infiltration couldn't hurt anything, as long as those doing the infiltration are not the ones who are changed and moved toward the prevailing secular culture. And as long as those whose natural bent is to 'infiltrate' do so armed with the mind of Christ and not a ramrod, because the latter is the definition of counterproductive.

    What if we simply live our lives next door to the culture, and live those lives well, joyously, peacefully, valiantly in the face of adversity--in other words, very *differently* from the culture around us? Might not those who saw our light 'so shining' before them be drawn toward Christ through the example of our 'separate' lives? Unless we retreat to the desert, we're "in the world" whether we like it or not. It's not like we're invisible, we're just not all that better-different-looking!

    Ultimately, we each get to figure out where we best fit into the Mark 16:15 plan.

    I look forward to hearing what else Chaput has to say, and your take on it.

    Love the blog. Thanks for all you do.

    Midwest Liz

    1. I answered and then rethought. (Story of my life.) So a new comment in response. :-)

      I'd highly recommend a book that I recently read and have been meaning to review. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods. What this book shows is that the Church, by preaching the gospel, changed the world's cultures. Not their basic overlay of culture such as favorite foods maybe, but what changed were the cultural values by which they lived. We now have universities because the Church valued truth so much. We have the form of international law that we do because the Church looked so deeply into how to treat others who are very different from us. Our arguments over the value of human life come from the fact that the Church infiltrated those long ago pagan cultures with their idea that life is sacred and it all should be valued for itself alone. Honestly, you come away realizing that "preaching the gospel to the whole world" (as Christ himself ordered) = changing the culture.

      And the way to do that is by living among the culture, being part of the culture, while being vibrantly Christian.

      Now, I haven't gotten far enough in the book to see what Chaput does with this. These are my feelings after having read the Woods book. And also because I tend to be a fan of Gregory the Great who took the bull by the horns, jumped in, and filled a moral vacuum (among other things). :-)

  2. Chaput is one shepherd in whom I put my trust. M. Liz, what you say is precisely what Absp. means. We can't shove faith or culture down anyone's throat. We witness best when we live the faith faithfully in the midst of a faithless culture.

    Julie, you're still one of my daily stops. Keep doing what you're doing. Grace and peace to you.

    1. Hi Bill! Thank you so much! :-)

      I think that what Chaput would say is that we must live among them, not "beside" them. After all the Amish have been in this country since the early 1700s, showing a sterling example and living beside us. Everyone can agree that they are wonderful but they are generally considered a curiosity by mainstream society, not something to emulate. Jesus called Matthew to follow him and then joined him in the big banquet he threw for his fellow tax collectors. Jesus got in there and mixed it up with everyone. And we are called to follow his example. :-)

      I'm halfway through the book, just to where Chaput has gotten done summing up what's gone wrong and why it ain't a changin' back. I believe he's going to go into the Beatitudes and our lives next.