Latter-day Liberty: A Gospel Approach to Government and Politics

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We forget that we actually declared war on Mormons for a while, in , I think it was. And so-. Richard Reinsch : An extermination order was issued against the Mormons, I think. I told this nice story from Tocqueville earlier. You have that famous split that occurs over a period of 10 years between what I mention we call the fundamentalists and the mainline or liberal Protestants.

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And, once the fundamentalists go their separate ways, starting their own institutions, in some cases, denominations, that left mainline Protestants able to reach out to other organizations that maybe they shared cities with or they shared common interests with. There is a real urgency to this in the s, and the ironic outcome is no sooner do mainline Protestants began this kind of outreach to American Catholics and Jews, is that the leadership of the Judeo-Christian consensus is immediately under contest.

So, one of the first people who really is able to marshal a kind of national audience that could describe themselves as Jews, Protestants and Catholics was not a mainline Protestant minister, but rather, Monseigneur Fulton J. What Sheen was able to accomplish was in two stages, that proves that American Catholics were patriots, that they loved their country, and to do that required both illustrating that the common enemy that Protestants identified that is the Catholic church, was actually a friend, and at the same time, that there was an actual common enemy to all people, and that enemy was Communism.

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He was born in , I forget the exact year, and was always a star student. He ended up just finishing his graduate work at the University of Louvain, where he received a degree of the highest honors. He was one of the most accomplished academic theologians ever in the history of the church up to that point. When he took to the airwaves in , he was bringing with him the kind of full force of this neo-Thomistic revival that Louvain had been leading, and was bringing it to of all places, the living rooms of the American people all with their radios on.

And so, Sheen saw that it was necessary for him to go on the air and explain Catholicism. He did so on the radio show called the Catholic hour. And, the argument that he made was that the common good in the United States was spiritual happiness. So, everybody is pursuing some kind of spiritual growth and a necessary condition for that pursuit is political liberty.

And for the establishment of political liberty, you had to revere the elements of the American regime that were most responsible for it. So, he was adamant in defending the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as instruments of liberties for the pursuit of spiritual happiness. And, he calls it Americanism, which is a fraught term for American Catholicism, and it was strange is that he went for that term. I get into this in the chapter Americanism with selected Protestant hegemony called the true message of the American Constitution, which repudiated Catholicism, and it was also a term that has been more or less condemned by Pope Leo XIII in the practices of some churches in the United States.

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Sheen goes right for this term. It was absolutely no punishment, instead, tremendous support from the Vatican in the process of using it, and the idea here is that when you look at the way that the church operates in America, it is constantly operating in a way that affirms the need for spiritual happiness and the liberty to pursue it.

And, the real target for American opposition should be Communist countries that are responsible for the closure of all different kinds of religious institutions and the persecution of believers because Communism was, in his regard, what he called the mystical body of the anti-Christ that had its own Scriptures. It had its own saints, and he would make fun of the fact that Lenin had to be embalmed in order to look like he had immortality or eternal life. So, these were all hideous simulacra is another term he uses. It revealed the true evil in the heart of Communism that all Jews, Protestants and Catholics could agree, was truly evil and needed to be opposed.

Richard Reinsch : Well, the Americanism he wants to correct is a Protestant use of that term against Catholics and against other dissenting groups as they see them. He wants to use Americanism because the Vatican has condemned it, without full information and he wants ultimately to vindicate maybe a deeper understanding of liberty, but run it through the American Constitution, through the foundations of constitutional order in this country and defend liberty in that manner.

And, the consequence of this was overwhelmingly successful, not just owing to the message, but also the messenger. Fulton Sheen was a man of incredible oratorical gifts.

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I think the episodes are available on YouTube. But, he would write down some of the best lines of the show and use them in his own sermon. Yeah, he did have this ability to draw in audiences and that made him have a pretty strong platform to speak to public figures as well. He was showing up at the Eisenhower White House somewhat frequently, for example.

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Richard Reinsch : We started off and you started off in your book talking about Tocqueville and the particular place, important place religion has in America and as a public philosophy. And then, we talked about the problems with that, the challenges, the violence, the refusals, at first to admit certain groups. How do you see Sheen and how do you see his Catholic intervention into Protestant hegemony. Is that working out Tocqueville, or does that challenge what Tocqueville says?

Bromley Oxnam who was a Methodist bishop. And so, the reason why Sheen had to deal with this was also because of the prevailing anti-Catholicism among many of the American Protestants, despite the kind of efforts of some mainline Protestants to start a new consensus, a new Judeo-Christian consensus. And, the way that he was able to affirm to the contrary, was constantly to talk about America in these terms that established constitutional democracy as a regime, that not only Catholics could tolerate what internalized as part of belonging to their country that they followed themselves.

And so, these individual points, especially early in his career, were the kinds of examples where he had to make the rubber meet the road. He has this great message. How is he going to prove that he actually means it. And, another way that he often did this, was in the form of conversion, so he was responsible for bringing Communists into the Roman Catholic church. And then, no sooner would they make this conversion and they would enter into the church, he would immediately send them to the FBI for debriefing or the CIA for debriefing where they would then be given some degree of federal protection.

One of which was the blond spy queen, Elizabeth Bentley, and also Louis Budenz, who worked with Chambers, and Chambers refers to him several times in Witness. I wondered if Sheen or Chambers ever interacted. They had to have at some level, I would think, but-. James Patterson : Sheen on civil rights, he was strongly in favor of civil rights, but by the time he was speaking on this, he was on television shows that were not getting renewed and he was more or less becoming a marginal figure in political life.

James Patterson : Yeah, at that point, he was living in a one bedroom apartment in New York, because he was on the outs with Cardinal Spellman, but read the book if you want to know more about that. James Patterson : And, King actually makes some references to Sheen early in his career. He actually criticizes one of his books, Piece of Soul as being insufficiently concerned with the ordinary lives of suffering in African Americans in the segregated south. So, there are these odd connections we find between the three cases. And, his understanding was that these are all people of conscience who should not be adjusted, a term he likes to use.

They should not be adjusted to segregation. You have to convert yourself to this change in the heart. Turn towards the cross and see that white supremacists need to surrender the unearned privilege they have in the segregation code, and in order for that to happen, African Americans and also whites, sympathetic white activists, have to demonstrate their willingness to love them, these segregationists, these white supremacists, by putting their bodies on the line to save their souls.

Latter-Day Liberty: A Gospel Approach to Government and Politics

The hope was that this would draw in attention and propagate a movement in which this openness to the cross would lead to a purification of racial hatred in the form of internal conversion among the enemies of King, and would ultimately introduce them into that same beloved community that he wishes to realize. At the core of this … oh go ahead.

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Richard Reinsch : Talk about King and what he thinks is the proper foundation of constitutionalism in America. The church is supposed to bear witness and give this prophetic voice, but that tradition he has is one that he ties to the Jewish prophet, the famous line about let justice roll down like a mighty stream, comes from the book of Amos , and he would also speak to specific faith traditions when speaking to them.

This is all forms of recognition. He would quote Aquinas and then maybe he might quote John Bunyan. Normally, those two figures he would single out are Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, and co author Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln served as a kind of martyr to the political implementation of the Hebraic Christian tradition in the form of freeing the slaves. So, he gets harder and harder on them over the course of his life as it gets harder and harder for him to push forth anymore racial justice.

You have the person who gives the Declaration of Independence and the person who defends it while defending the Constitution. You talk about this, that the non-violent resistance, if one were to be violent, and who does he rule out?