"A Heart on Fire" – Review
The Heart on Fire eBook debuts tomorrow (3/27) but you can pre-order it now on Kindle or Nook for just $0.99. Also, this Friday's giveaway will feature three digital copies of A Heart on Fire so be sure to come back and enter!
A Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness and the Next America
Archbishop Charles Chaput
In the last few years, Archbishop Charles Chaput has established himself as a leading voice on the role of faith in public life. His 2008 book Render Unto Caesar (Doubleday, hardcover, 258 pages) prepared Catholics for the presidential election season by encouraging them to live out their faith vigorously in the public square—not simply as good citizens but as bold heralds of the Gospel.
With another presidential election around the corner, the new Archbishop of Philadelphia is back again, this time with a shorter, more urgent call to action. A Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness and the Next America (Image, eBook, 19 pages) is more essay than book. At just 19 pages it's a succinct manifesto on perhaps the greatest religious issue of today: religious persecution and the associated threats to freedom.
The book begins by exploring the forces behind this opposition. Archbishop Chaput first takes aim at the modern media, accusing them of promoting an Orwellian "new orthodoxy". This dangerous, yet accepted worldview harbors and promotes assumptions about the purpose of government, the meaning of marriage, and the role of family and sexuality, all of which diverge sharply from past American thought.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the media’s treatment of religion. In past centuries, religion was seen as the bedrock of American society and the media treated it as such. Yet today coverage of religion is “often marked by poor reporting skills, ignorance of the subject matter, and an undercurrent of distaste for religious believers and their convictions.”
Archbishop Chaput believes that this has contributed to an unprecedented global crisis in religious liberty:
"Christian minorities in Africa and Asia bear the brunt of the religious violence. But Christians are not the only victims. Nearly 70 percent of the world’s people now live in nations where religious freedom is gravely restricted. And even in developed democracies, religious freedom is increasingly under pressure."
Unfortunately, among governments, the media, academia, and the wider culture, many leaders no longer regard religious faith as a healthy force. Threatened by both encroaching secularism and vigilant atheism, religion is quickly bring squeezed out of the public forum.
"The America emerging in the next several decades is likely to be much less friendly to Christian faith than anything in our country’s past. And that poses a challenge for all of us as Catholics. It’s not a question of when or if it might happen. It’s happening today."
So then what’s the answer? What can Catholics do to turn this ship around? According to Archbishop Chaput the solution is twofold: a stronger devotion to the Gospel and a recovery of Catholic identity. First, as Pope Benedict has noted through his New Evangelization, much of the world is nominally Christian, empty of any serious commitment to the way of Christ. As the Archbishop explains:
"Too many people who claim to be Christian simply don’t know Jesus Christ. They don’t really believe in the Gospel. They feel embarrassed by their religion and vaguely out of step with the times. They may keep their religion for comfort value. Or they may adjust it to it their doubts. But it doesn’t reshape their lives because it isn’t real."
This is perhaps most clear among young people. Citing research from the Barna Group, Archbishop Chaput says that "the Christian image [has] shifted substantially downward, fueled in part by a growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people."
Therefore the way toward healing this religious atrophy in America is for people, especially young people, to encounter anew the transformative fire of the Gospel. Movements of young people like FOCUS, Communion and Liberation, the Neocatechumenal Way, the Christian Life Movement, and a host of other Catholic apostolates are key in this regard.
Second, Catholics “need the kind of leadership and the kind of education that radiates confidence in the Word of God, fidelity to the Catholic faith, and a missionary zeal to make all things new in Jesus Christ.” In other words, they need a strong Catholic identity.
To this end, the Archbishop focuses on Catholic universities, many of which have eased away from their Catholic roots, disregarding both dogma and faith. When this happens, the Archbishop says, “it steals a treasury of wisdom, imagination, and hope from emerging Catholic leaders.”
The purging of religious values from Catholic universities teaches young people that religion doesn't have a place in serious intellectual life. It thereby enables religious intolerance and grooms a new generation of leaders who in turn dismiss the role of religion themselves. If rising Catholic leaders are imbued with a strong sense of Catholic identity, they will be prepared to buck the "new orthodoxy" so rampant today.
With the recent HHS mandate, proposals to redefine marriage, and the government deciding what constitutes religious practice, our country is at a critical tipping point. Which makes Archbishop Chaput’s book so apropos. Though succinct, its timeliness, clarity, and prophetic nature make it one of this year's most important texts.
A Heart on Fire should be in the hands of every American Catholic especially as we move into the upcoming presidential election. And at $0.99 and an accessible 19 pages, there’s no reason it can’t.
"[A genuinely Catholic life] is the kind of witness that sets fire to the human heart. It starts the only kind of revolution that really changes anything: a revolution of love. Jesus said, I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled. Our task is to start that blaze and then help it grow."
– Archbishop Charles Chaput
Remember, this Friday's giveaway will feature three eBook copies of A Heart on Fire so be sure to come back and enter!