If you follow the current controversy surrounding the role of religion in American society, you might conclude that the country faces but two options: throwback theocracy or take-no-prisoners secularism. The following lines sum up an admirably clear and concise understanding of faith and politics:

The state is not the whole of human existence and does not embrace the whole of human hope. Men and women and their hopes extend beyond the thing that is the state and beyond the sphere of political activity. This does not only apply to a state that is Babylon but to any and every state. The state is not the totality: that takes the load off the politician’s shoulders and at the same time opens up for him or her the path of rational politics.

For man, the political animal, these may be hard words. For man made in the image and likeness of God, these words recognize the commands made on us that find their source in ultimate truths. The author of the lines quoted above had more to say on the subject of faith and politics. Read a homily written by Pope Benedict XVI delivered in 1981 in Bonn, Germany, at a service for Catholic members of the Bundestag in the church of St. Wynfrith (Boniface).