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“Citizens of Two Kingdoms”

7/6/2003 - 07:45 AM PST

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Faith and Culture

Deacon Keith A Fournier
( c ) Third Millennium, LLC

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“Do not cause God to lose His coin among you.” St. Augustine

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The Fall election campaigns will soon be upon us in full throttle. Having served as an advisor in a presidential campaign last time around, I understand the planned momentum that has already begun. So much of it is orchestrated, building in momentum as the primaries begin. The consultants are “advising”, the pollsters are pontificating, the strategists strategizing.

This coming election cycle bears serious examination by Catholics, other Christians, and all people of faith and good will. Among the questions we should ponder is an ancient one. As citizens of two kingdoms, what is our role in the temporal one and how do we fulfill it?

Our involvement as Catholic Christians in the entire political process was questioned during the last election cycle. In particular, many of the reports questioned how we participated, why we participated, and what we accomplished (or didn’t accomplish). Additionally, the enigmatic and elusive concept of a “Catholic Vote” became endless fodder for the pundits and the prognosticators who fill the Sunday Morning talk shows. It will once again, by both major parties.

I still remember feeling that it was rather ironic (or providential) that the Gospel reading for the Catholic Liturgy on “Super Tuesday” in the last Presidential campaign was the classical passage historically used to explain Christian citizenship. (Mark 12:13-17) It contains the oft-quoted line “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” It actually reveals within its disarming simplicity a fundamental truth that we always need to consider as citizens of two kingdoms. The struggle between Caesar and Christ is a metaphor for our own unique vocational mission in the political order.

The challenge of both understanding and applying this passage has plagued us for centuries. It is particularly important this year, given the challenges we face as Christians in a contemporary American culture that has lost its moral foundation. The recent Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v Texas, eroding, as it will, the foundation for the family as the first vital cell of society, now takes its place in the hall of shame with its cousin, Roe v Wade.

The “inalienable right to life,” enshrined by the American founders in the “Declaration of Independence” has become a victim of a counterfeit notion of freedom, a “freedom” to do whatever one chooses, including the taking of innocent pre-born human life in the womb. This is now called a “choice.” In fact, this “right” to choose to do whatever one wants, is worshipped at the altar of some versions of political freedom and has birthed a political strategy.


Now, also hidden in the same “penumbra” of privacy”, the new arbiters of what constitutes “freedom” (un-elected judges) have discovered another “right” that certainly was not within the American founders’ notion of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One more “freedom” has gone too far in a culture rapidly substituting license for liberty. The language of the Lawrence opinion, though feigning to be “narrow” in application, tracks the trajectory of Roe and will lead to more carefully orchestrated cases and legislative initiatives all geared toward refashioning the very definition of family.

The truth is that some “choices,” even if temporarily “legal,” (like the taking of innocent unborn life in the first home of the whole human race, the womb) are simply wrong! This counterfeit understanding of “freedom” as a raw power over those who are vulnerable or have no voice or defense is a far cry from the concept of “ordered liberty” which informed our Western tradition. Similarly, giving legal equivalency to homosexual relationships is simply an effort to undermine the family and portends poorly for our future as a truly free people.

It is the Christian conviction that authentic human freedom entails personal responsibility for others - particularly the weak, poor and vulnerable. The Christian understanding of freedom requires as well that it be exercised within a moral constitution precisely because this exercise must always be bounded by objective moral truth. It carries with its exercise, the obligation to do the good and to promote the common good. It entails an obligation of solidarity - we simply are our brothers’ keepers—even when their cry cannot be heard. Our neighbor, no matter how small, must be treated as another self.

Though there are many issues that involve the exercise of prudential judgment in the arena of what is called the “political”, ...

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