October 15, 2005


“Give to Caesar What Is Caesar's” (Fr. Paul de Ladurantaye, 10/15/05, Catholic Exchange)

They hope to discredit Him in the eyes of the people by laying a trap for Him with their question, "Is it lawful to pay tax to the emperor or not?" At a time when the emperor was worshipped as a god, many believed that payment of taxes amounted to idolatry. If Jesus said it was lawful to pay the tax, He would seem to be allowing insult to God. If Jesus said it was not lawful to pay the tax, He would be reported to the Roman officials for treason.

Christ, however, gives His opponents a profound response, which goes far beyond a simple yes or no. He tells them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s." What our Lord is reminding us is that, as citizens, we have an obligation to render to the state whatever material and personal services are required for the common good of society. Christians are called upon to obey the just laws of the state, to vote for those who seek public office, to participate as well as we can in the political and social life of the community.

At the same time, the Lord makes it clear that we are citizens not only of the state but also of the Kingdom of God ("give to God what is God’s"). The state does not enjoy absolute power and dominion. Civil authorities are obliged to act with justice in the distribution of goods and services. They must serve the common good without looking for personal gain. They have to legislate and govern with the greatest respect for the natural law and the rights of people. This includes the protection of life from the moment of conception until natural death, the defense of marriage and the family, ensuring religious liberty, and safeguarding the rights of parents regarding the education of their children.

Jesus recognized the rights that the civil power enjoys but He also stated that we have to respect the rights of God. Human activity cannot be reduced to strictly social and political spheres of action. Every individual has a profound religious dimension to his or her life. Whenever we engage in public affairs, we cannot behave as if this religious dimension were reserved only for church on Sunday. Christians, on the contrary, are challenged to be light and salt in the midst of the world. We are called to transform the environments in which we live so as to make them more human.

As Noah Feldman writes in his book Divided by God, the American Republic was premised on a "nonsectarian solution" to the interplay of religion and politics:
...the claim that there were moral principles share in common by all Christian sects, independent of their particular theological beliefs. Nonsectarianism would turn out to be among the most powerful--and controversial--ideas in American public life in the nineteenth century and beyond, an idea whose resonances are still felt in our own contemporary debates over religion and values. It promised to unite Americans behind common, identifiable moral commitments, transcending their religious differences and engendering unity of purpose. It also seemed to have a basis in observed social reality. Visiting America in 1830, Alexis de Tocqueville put the point this way: "There is an innumerable multitude of sects in the United States. All differ in the worship one must render to the Creator, but all agree on the duties of man toward one another. Each sect therefore adores God in its manner, but all sects preach the same morality in the name of God."

But secularists have tried to drive religion completely out of the public square:
American secularism, as it eventually emerged in the 1870s and '80s was...a gradually growing development in educated circles embracing rationalism and science over traditional religious belief. The true aim of this strong secularism was the full replacement of religion by reason, both in the realm of belief and in the political sphere. The intellectual side of the secularist equation sought to convince Americans to form their beliefs on the basis of scientific evidence, not revelation; religious dogma (what its adherents would call faith) must be abandoned in favor of the conclusions reached by the scientific community. The political side of secularism demanded, in the words of one of its leading exponents, "that our entire political system shall be founded and administered on a purely secular basis."

In its attempt to undermine the very basis of the Founding, this latter is not just anti-religious but literally un-American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 15, 2005 9:15 AM

How's the roundup going?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at October 15, 2005 11:34 AM

The ones that slipped through the public school system were supposed to be re-educated in the indoctrination camps. But that damn McChimp-HitlerBurton in the White House is throwing off the schedule.

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at October 15, 2005 4:40 PM

The deLaudurantaye article omitted our principal duty to the state, which is to draw the sword when Caesar calls us, for he does not bear the sword in vain.

The book, "Divided by God," contains a good description of how anti-Roman Christianity snookered itself by setting up a "public" school system to freeze the Catholics out, only to see the system turned against them in the mid-Twentieth century by the secularists.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 15, 2005 7:01 PM


That's not what he says the public schools were for nor what the anti-Catholic legislation was about. Vouchers are certainly a less good alternative than just returning to the nonsectarian solution that the secularists successfully attacked via the legal system.

Posted by: oj at October 15, 2005 8:26 PM

If faith-based businesses paid their fair share of property and other government taxes like the rest of us, they would get more respect.

Posted by: oldkayaker at October 15, 2005 9:01 PM


What makes you imagine they want your respect or that the concerted attack on them in the courts isn't a form of respect?

Posted by: oj at October 15, 2005 9:04 PM

oj: The problem was that the "nonsectarian solution" very much pitted the Protestant sect against the Roman, with the sect of the god of this world picking up the pieces. Feldman does not state this in haec verba, but he described the process.

The fight against godless public education, rammed down the people's throats by the power to coerce and destroy, is a direct legacy of the Blaine Amendment days.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 15, 2005 9:54 PM

Vouchers are certainly a less good alternative than just returning to the nonsectarian solution that the secularists successfully attacked via the legal system.

What makes you think that you won't run into the same problems which forced the Blaine amendments in the first place?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at October 15, 2005 10:26 PM

Robert: Because the Protestant and Roman sects are on the same side now. More of us now agree that the grip of the sect of the god of this world must be loosened from the necks of our children.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 15, 2005 11:32 PM


No, the problem was that Catholics wanted public money for specifically Catholic schools. The proper response was to try and keep the kids in the nonsectarian public schools. It would be best to make public schools nonsectarian again, but universal vouchers may be the only alternative legal secularism left us for now.

Posted by: oj at October 16, 2005 9:42 AM

That's a big assumption Lou. You may be on the same side, as you say, but sectarian differences still define religion and worship. Catholics are not Protestants are not Jews.

How many churches has the "God of this world" closed in your neighborhood? How does the public school promote the worship of this God? So, any time your children aren't spending praying to Christ is time spent worshipping the world? They can't take any time out to learn to read and write and do math? That is what public schools are for, you know, they aren't there to teach religion. You can manage that on your own.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at October 16, 2005 10:33 AM


Yes they are the same in terms of the nonsectarian moral teachings that the Republic depends on. We Reformed the Catholics and Jews.

Posted by: oj at October 16, 2005 10:38 AM

...to learn to read and write and do math?
That is what public schools are for...

Well, public schools do that, incidentally, but if that was what they were for, they wouldn't graduate people who do it poorly.

The core functions of public schools are to socialize and warehouse kids.

That's not to say that kids can't get a very good education in public schools, as some do, but that's more of a means to an end.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 16, 2005 1:48 PM

Not socialize nor warehouse but to prepare for republican citizenship.

Posted by: oj at October 16, 2005 4:24 PM

Faith-based folks don't have any better hold on morality then neo-cons thinking they have a hold on patriotism.

Secular humanists are just as moral if not more so then faith pushers.

Posted by: oldkayaker at October 18, 2005 9:17 PM