A brilliant assessment of where we are. (HT: American Orthodox Institute Observer).
Subject to the governor of the universe: The American experience and global religious liberty
March 1, 2011 – Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Denver, addressed the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University.
A friend once said – I think shrewdly — that if people want to understand the United States, they need to read two documents. Neither one is the Declaration of Independence. Neither one is the Constitution. In fact, neither one has anything obviously to do with politics. The first document is John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. The second is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Celestial Railroad.
Bunyan’s book is one of history’s great religious allegories. It’s also deeply Christian. It embodies the Puritan, Protestant hunger for God that drove America’s first colonists and shaped the roots of our country.
Hawthorne’s short story, of course, is a very different piece. It’s one of the great satires of American literature. A descendant of Puritans himself, Hawthorne takes Bunyan’s allegory – man’s difficult journey toward heaven – and retells it through the lens of American hypocrisy: our appetite for comfort, easy answers, quick fixes, material success and phony religious piety.
Bunyan and Hawthorne lived on different continents 200 years apart. But the two men did share one thing. Both men – the believer and the skeptic — lived in a world profoundly shaped by Christian thought, faith and language; the same moral space that incubated the United States. And that has implications for our discussion today.
In his World Day of Peace message earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI voiced his concern over the worldwide prevalence of “persecution, discrimination, terrible acts of violence and religious intolerance.”i In reality, we now face a global crisis in religious liberty. As a Catholic bishop, I have a natural concern that Christian minorities in Africa and Asia bear the brunt of today’s religious discrimination and violence. Benedict noted this same fact in his own remarks.