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    Current rating: 4.6 (17 ratings)

    Fr. Barron comments on Ross Douthat's "Bad Religion"

John Brown
Good, I've been waiting for your comments since I read this book. And exactly in time for Independence Day!

I've often been troubled with the conflation of American exceptionalism and the Biblical Chosen People, and Douthat did a great job connecting many dots on this front for me. There is often a religiosity in nationalist displays, which I expect to see much of tomorrow. Personally, I remember how similar it was to be trained as an altar server and a color guard member in the Boy Scouts (you must do it this way, don't let the flag touch the ground, always bow here, that kind of thing). For a child, it's perhaps difficult to distinguish the profound reverence due to God as present in the Eucharist and respect which is legitimately afforded to our national symbols (flag, etc.) But I think many people forget this difference even as adults (in practice, not necessarily belief). I just hope we don't sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" during mass tomorrow. There's a recent and insightful blog post by Daniel Horan, OFM, on this subject

On a related note, it has concerned me that the "Fortnight for Freedom" has been timed to take advantage of this nationalist pride (ending as it does on July 4). If you examine the symbols associated with the campaign, there are a lot of flags and crosses being placed together. (Not on the official USCCB site per se, more at the local level) Even the word "fortnight," with its archaic and (presumably 18th century colonial) connotations makes this fight take on the proportions of a revolutionary struggle. I think we should consider carefully how we yoke ourselves to this sort of fervor. It need not be mentioned that the most recent political movement to evoke themes of the American Revolution was the Tea Party (pushed by Glenn Beck et. al.). I don't want to sound conspiratorial, so I want to be clear I'm not suggesting there are formal ties between these groups. However, messaging is important, and when it's done in such a way that seems to tap into the same sentiment as the Tea Party, I get worried.

But I suppose I'm oversensitive to these things. I even think the Divine Mercy painting with the red, white, and blue rays of light is troublesome for Americans if they don't know the original meaning of those colors. It is a Polish Icon imported into our context, where those colors in that combination signify differently.
7/3/2012 10:42:09 PM
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Juanita Fenley
God does not need America. America needs God. God is in persuit of our own happiness and longs to free us from the slavery of our sinfulness. Our country is a gift of God not of man.
7/3/2012 10:46:22 PM
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I have often been troubled by the sort of American exceptionalism of which Father Barron (and Mr. Douthat) speaks. Justifiable and appropriate pride in the far from inconsequential virtues and accomplishments of our country so often morph into an American idolatry.
7/3/2012 11:54:56 PM
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Hello Fr Barron,

Pl would you be able to speak on the God Particle discovery.
It will be very encouraging...
7/4/2012 10:24:04 AM
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vito benigno
Thank you Father for your much needed response to this great observation of what the people of our country tend to value or perceive.I find it interesting that people like joel olsteen never focus on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that we are all called to act upon.The only evangelical preacher that have ever heard speak of the Nativity of our LORD JESUS and the fact GOD came to earth born of the BLESSED VIRGIN MARY was Pastor Hageee .IT seems that we are valued in this country by our wealth,status,our education.When we take that big jump one day into eternity and stand before Jesus himself in the judgement, will we not answer to him for the way we lived our life? All of my Jewish RABBI friends including other JEWISH friends of mine keep Holy the SABBATH.I think something went seriously wrong in this country when DEOS DOMINUS became just another day. God is totally put aside,e ven turned away from.Iam sorry if you cant get your groceries in 5 OR 6 days that is your problem.this effected this country in a profoundly negative way.When i hear these tele evangelist speak, they act as though you are doing something wrong if you are not among the elitist.I wonder if they have ever even read the BEATITUDES?MI IMMACULATA
7/4/2012 11:21:10 AM
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Point of fact: Beck, Maher, George Clooney are reported to be former Catholics. Secondly, Beck and others tend to interpret world events through a reading of the Book of Revelation. This is not new, of course. But the political rhetoric obsesses over the Iranian 12th immam as an anti-Christ second coming. Obama is perceived as a Manchurian candidate for Islam or socialism. The "City upon a Hill" is always besieged by conspiracies, including the Federal Government.
7/4/2012 12:13:40 PM
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The extent to which the temporal world, or in this case, America, reflects the Kingdom of God is a measure of how well the laity is evangelizing and sanctifying the temporal world. Therefore, it appears to me that by criticizing America Fr. Barron is really criticizing American Catholics. I don't find this in good taste. It would be like the laity saying they didn’t receive very good advice from the Priest in Confession, or if the laity criticized the Sermon given at Mass. As Catholics we should respect the work each Catholic, lay person or cleric, has been called to do and to contribute to each other.

Considering all the good that America has done in the world and the fact that it is the first democracy in modern times we should give Independence Day three cheers. America has sarcificed much for its ctizens and the rest of the world.

To criticize American exceptionalism is a failure in your duty as Catholics to be just. It represents a failure to recognize just systems of government in our temporal lives.
7/4/2012 12:41:46 PM
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vito benigno
TYLER,with all due respect i think you have missed the point of what Father Barron is saying.The founders themselves said that the gov and i mean little gov w a small g was intended to be just that small gov.The founders themselves who wrote the first ammendment stated"the gov is not to interfere in the affairs of the Church.we are now being forced as country to pay for ins contrary to the very teachings of CHRIST.these are in fact intrinsic evils our gov want us to not only pay for but embrace.Father Barron has simply stated the facts!THIS is not what is relative to you or me but what is in fact taking place right now in our country.MI IMMACULATA
7/4/2012 1:25:37 PM
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Bill Praxenburger
Barron notes Iraq was not ready for Democracy. It should be noted however it was ready for Facism. After the attempted annexation of two neighboring countries and nearly 450 thousand bodies underground, the world could have looked forward to Uday and Qusay as successors to Saddam.
One hopes Barron's brand of non violence was not the kind which brought us the 12 years of sanctions which brought us the U.N. Oil for Food Scandal or the draining of the Arab Marshes.
I agree woth Barron with regard to America's attitude as God's chosen people but he should be careful so as not to make clumsy statements because he detests violence. Most do and should but to long Wilson and G.W.busg is facile. Our globe is much more interconnected now than in Wilson's time.
Sometimes we see nonviolence work as we did with the demise of the Soviet Union. But here again we get the tired sophistry from Barron there also. It was JP2's trip to Poland. Forget Reagan's defense policy which drowned the Soviets politically or NATO/America's nukes aimed at the U.S.S.R. Which enabled JP2 to travel to Poland. Lech Walesa,Vaclav Havel and Margaret Thatcher also had roles.
The words "impose" and "liberate" are interchanged in this video as though they are the same. The soldiers in planes enforcing Saddam's "no fly zone" rule to prevent further genocide may feel differently given they were shot at by Iraqi forces daily.
7/4/2012 3:57:10 PM
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To Swapna

Here is a link which may be of some use, though not directly related
7/4/2012 11:39:17 PM
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Bill, it is too late in the evening to engage you re the readiness of the Iraqi people for democracy, or the wisdom of the invasion of Iraq. I will, however, point out to you that we do not address or refer to priests by their last name. The proper address to use is "Father Barron."
7/4/2012 11:52:05 PM
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I think Fr. Barron should warn the laity about the dangers of the Left media and the Left movement that conflates social justice with the false "independence" he identifies in the video. It is the Left that prmotes this false independence/liberty. Those on the left fail to constrain their more vulgar appetitites in their personal lives and encourage others to be free of all such moral constraints as well. In addition, those on the left seek a government that wishes to be "independent" of its fiscal reality. Those on the left seek a government that is unconstrained in its ability to tax its citizens and "independent" of the majority's wishes.
7/5/2012 8:46:37 AM
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I have spent 3 months in a study at a church called "The Truth Project" by Dr Del Tackett
I am a catholic school graduate and was so enlightened by this:
7/5/2012 4:09:56 PM
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America is known to be a nation based upon freedom. Free will is Gods law of giving us a choice to do His will. With free will, we are obligated to live, love and serve God, while criticizing ourselves in order to serve God and other, according to God's will.
Scrutiny will always be necessary for proper discernment.
I recently had a long talk with a soldier who just came back from Afghanistan. Not only is the middle east not ready for us, but we are not ready to serve the middle east. This soldier was so saddened by the waste of US funds that are being indescriminately poured into re-building infrastructure, that it is creating the ugliest of dependencies. Anytime you have soldiers who don't believe in what they are doing is right, just, hepful and healing, then it's time to scrutinize once again, and say honestly "it's not the right time."
7/6/2012 1:28:58 PM
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Just as GW Bush of our age, so did the Popes/Kings of the Medieval Ages who paralleled the biblical ideals with political ideals giving reason for men to join the Crusades. That said, I admire Ross Douthat's courage to write such a book, but it's not his first. Today, I just happened to find one of his books, in the library where I live, entitled "Privilege" an insider view of what it means to attend Harvard. I have also been following aricles in the magazine "Commonweal". One of the articles, from a couple of months ago, was about this subject as well but expands on the topic by describing how humanities has slowly been replaced by a more scientific/technological based curriculum. How sad, and perhaps this is why I struggled while attending college, that students nowadays do not enroll in college to help form their character but rather to learn about one particular subject specifically with the goal to get a job/career.
7/6/2012 1:34:17 PM
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Please do more on this subject, Fr. Barron, and thank-you so much for stepping up to the plate! Hallalulia!
You are going to step on a lot of toes with this on, and Praise God for your recognition of who we belong to, and whose cause we take: "Lord I am Yours, and I must belong to no one but You. My soul is yours, and must live only for You, My will is Yours, and must love only for You, I must love You as my first cause...." St. Francis de Sales
I don't believe confusion comes from God. We can not serve two masters. God Speed!
7/6/2012 5:32:01 PM
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Father Barron I am a bit disturbed that you believe GWB went into Iraq to "force our Democracy" onto a people that were not ready for it. There were several reasons our military were dispatched into that country of which one of them may have been to liberate the Iraqi people form a form of government that was tyrannical and dangerous to its neighbors and America. Saddam Hussein (SH) used poison gas in a war that he began with the Iranians and on his own people to stop an uprising. He tried to take over Kuwait. He financially rewarded families of suicide bombers. So as you can see, GWB had many legitimate reasons for going to the Middle East. GWB wasn’t trying to launch a Democratic jihad but believed a Democratic government would protect the freedom of the Iraqi people.
During WW2, America went to war with Hitler and other Axis countries not to impose Democracy but to halt their aggressions and to liberate the people. Once the Axis powers were defeated, Democracies were put into place of their defeated fascist governments to prevent them from falling into fascism again.
Our civil liberties and Democracy are rooted in GOD and Christianity. Our civil liberties and freedom come from GOD. The Constitution was designed to limit the government from encroaching on those civil liberties and freedoms. GOD is essential to our government. We are the only western country right now that acknowledges the Christian GOD and we will end up the like the Europeans, who largely ignore their Christian heritage, if we don’t keep up the speeches which promote and acknowledge we are a Christian nation.
7/6/2012 7:46:09 PM
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Dan Tracy
There is an aspect of "American exceptionalism" that I appreciate. I live in a largely immigrant community and have heard some wonderful stories from my neighbors, immigrants of being able to build a new life free of corruption, oppression, and violence.

With warts, short-comings and all, I think our melting pot can be celebrated.

Yes, this is far short of the Kingdom of God and true brotherhood, though perhaps a glimpse of it (an almost chosen people.)
7/6/2012 11:47:33 PM
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Given that the Kingdom/Grace of God will exist on the earth to one degree or another, American style democracy, of all the modern political systems, is the ground most fertile for the flourishing and growth of the Kingdom of God on earth; the other modern political systems are either too rocky or too full of thorns.
7/7/2012 11:19:14 PM
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John Tuturice
Regarding Ellen's comments about "The Truth Project", I went to their website and have a couple thoughts on this:

1) Be careful.

2) Why be careful? As a Catholic, we have access to the fullness of Divinely revealed truth and ... the greatest philosophical tradition in the world. The program, though containing much truth, is still composed from an Evangelical Protestant mindset. Therefore, there will be errors in logic and revelation that are either explicitly communicated in the videos or that is ommited. That doesn't mean that one can not derive benefit from the videos. What that means is ... be careful that you are not so absorbed in the videos that you take it as gospel to the detriment of a fuller communication of the truth already present in the Catholic Church.

3) I wish someone(s) in the Catholic Church would start making programs like this. Whatever its shortcomings may be, the fact that people took the time to put this together in such a systematic and professional way is to be admired. The "Catholicism" video series is a good example of how this can be done within the Church, but it is not enough. We need a whole smorgasborg of intelligent, coherant and PROFESSIONALLY put together programs that communicate the fullness of truth, be it philosophical or divinely revealed, to the masses. Fr. Barron and the Word on Fire team have the right idea on this front. Let us hope and pray that more take up the call and follow suit.
7/8/2012 11:38:50 AM
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Douthat's book is a very serious issue that we should all be aware of at this time. Speaking of time: analysis, reflection, and comments about this book are coming out right after the Fortnight of Freedom in which the Church did a marvelous job expressing the 'good part' of the American experiment without falling prey to this type of 'eschatalogical' Americanism or patriotic Jingoism. I would encourage the Church to continue to point out the goodness of America because it is the only governmental system that ATTEMPTS to capture the virtue reflected in Christianity. This is a tremendously important experiment for the world and for the Church. To ignore it or downplay it in the wrong way and at the wrong time is bad or negligence.

Fr. Barron did briefly mention that the American system is benign enough and can be celebrated. This may not have been enough, at this critical time, to appreciate what America has provided for the world. In order to free ourselves from this patriotic jingoism, we should not fall into the trap of down playing America's goodness to the point that children's liberal history texts do or totally changing the subject after the Fortnight of Freedom and forgetting about it.

Some of the people mentioned that have fallen pray to this eschatology try to be virtuous people and engage in mature civil discourse. The opposite is being done AT THIS VERY TIME by our administration who wants to shut down this civil discourse and take away our God-given rights and destroy our founding documents. The seriousness of this could have been mentioned here too just by pointing out there is no good reason for others to hate America either. America is suffering because she is trying to keep the goodness that she has and, as a Christian, I help those who are suffering.

Nobody wants to hurt the Liberals feelings but they don't think twice about hurting our feelings. Something is happening here that the Church needs to continue to speak out against at this time. It can be done and we would still be a humble people.

"Eschatalogical Americanism' is exactly what this administration wants to hear. This would have been a great opportunity to add something that discredits their hatred for America. I'm not saying that this needs to be done constantly but AT CRITICAL TIMES of suffering. American hearts are breaking with this administration at this time. Please reach out to them.
7/8/2012 8:43:31 PM
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vito benigno
IAM in agreement with you to be cautious to any teachings outside the majesterium of HOLY MOTHER CHURCH.I would encourage all people to purchase the Catholicism series by Father Barron. It is worth every penny!It illustrates the fact that as Catholics have the full Deposit of FAITH.Father Barron has done an magnificent job in showing the Richness of HOLY MOTHER CHURCH.I would also encourage all to view EWTN founded by Mother Angelica.We named our little girl after Mother some 16yrs ago.Our daughter Angelica Clare Benigno.Mother Angelica has left a profound impact on my life.EWTN is the only tv that i would consider par excellence.MI IMMACULATA
7/8/2012 9:08:13 PM
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vito benigno
Also,the Saints that came from HOLY MOTHER CHURCH over the last 2000 yrs.There lives all differnt and ordinary people like you and me.God does the extraordinary with them.Along with the fact the Saints suffered a great deal,they all loved our BLESSED MOTHER MARY.I would like to see more movies done on these Servants of GOD.MI IMMACULATA
7/8/2012 9:39:34 PM
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Very well spoken, there is always a danger that [insert country here] exceptionalism can lead to problems of faith and spirituality. Martin Luther King Jr himself said "Don't ever let anybody let you think that God chose America to be his messianic force to be, a kind of policeman of the whole world". With risk of being overly political (and I am not even American!) the main advocate for increasing the sort of standards that come with being the "City on the Hill" seems to be Ron Paul.
7/8/2012 10:29:28 PM
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Sir Robert
Do your best, and God will do the rest. That's my view on American exceptionalism. It does not exist. If anyone thinks that the USA could not fall like any other nation due to our own (or another country's) doings needs to wake up! History did not move in the direction of finding America. History is made up of trillions of choices that were made in the past that create the present. The way your life is right now is the result of your choice (even if simply by how you respond to events deemed outside your control). The fact of free will is a horribly frightening and amazingly wonderful concept. I means I am responsible for the state of my life and soul right now for good or for bad.
7/9/2012 12:08:45 AM
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Sir Robert
P.S. Christ promised he would remain with his Church until the end of time...he never mentioned a particular country, culture, or people (other than the people of God).
7/9/2012 12:09:57 AM
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Is America or Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia a better representation of the Kingdom of God that Christ insituted after resurrection? For those who can't tell the difference between these political systems I suggest you read a history book.

Christ disintinguished between good and evil, and He asked us to do the same. It is only those on the Left that reiterate the platitude that America is not the Kingdom of Heaven. This anti_American platitude was promoted by the Left so that the American people would be more open to a statist manadated radical social agenda.
7/9/2012 9:31:20 AM
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Eileen Miller
Everyone seems be pinpointing American exceptionalism and policing activity. I hope you are referring to Fr. Barron's comments and not mine. Just making sure - because I am also trying to avoid this.
7/9/2012 9:47:07 AM
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Great book which I've been praying for. I pray that genuine Christianity will Re-emerge very soon. Jesus died for us that we many have life and have it in abundance.

I pray I would be able to get that book soon!
7/11/2012 9:08:22 PM
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I have often wondered about your opinion of Glenn Beck and his faith-based freedom movement. I attended his Restoring Love event in Dallas this last week. With great humility, I must say that I think you may be missing some key points about his message. Viewed through the lens of "heresy" how would one possibly bring together all Judeo-Christian God-fearing people without creating dissension. What may appear to Douthat and yourself as "least common denominator" heresy is simply an attempt to motivate folks on what we can agree on during this time of crisis for our country. It seems to me that calling Beck a heretic is counterproductive to the overall cause of bringing our lost brothers and sisters back to God through whatever path is most efficient. As Beck says often, America is great because Americans are good. That's the real exceptionalism and it will be gone the moment the definition no longer fits.
8/5/2012 9:21:49 PM
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