The United States was founded on a commitment to religious tolerance. Based on this commitment, it has become one of the most religiously diverse and religiously observant liberal democracies in the world. Inherent in this political reality is the question, "What is the appropriate relationship between religious beliefs and public life?" This is not a new question, but in contemporary US politics it has become a particularly insistent one. In this intelligent, wide-ranging book, Kristin Heyer provides new and nuanced answers. Prophetic and Public employs the discourse of public theology to consider what constitutes appropriate religio-political engagement. According to Heyer, public theology connects religious faith, concepts, and practices to their public relevance for the wider society. Her use of public theology concepts to address the appropriate possibilities and limits for religio-political engagement in the United States is both useful and enlightening. Heyer approaches the relationship between public morality and religious commitment through the example of the Catholic Church.
She looks at two prominent Catholics-Michael Baxter and Bryan Hehir-as a way of discussing norms for practice of public theology. Heyer also analyzes case studies of three US Catholic advocacy groups: The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, NETWORK, and Pax Christi USA. Through her analysis she shows the various ways that the organizations' Catholic identity impacts their social and political efforts. From her investigations come norms that define possibilities and limits for political actions based on religious conviction. This deeply thoughtful book examines what is truly fundamental and inescapable about public life and private religious belief in the United States. In doing so, it makes skillful use of the tools of theology, philosophy, law, and advocacy to demonstrate that the Catholic Church reveals great diversity in its public theology, providing legitimate options for a faithful response to urgent political issues.
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Kristin E. Heyer is Bernard J. Hanley Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University.
AcknowledgementsAbbreviations and Acronyms Introduction 1. Public Theology in Contemporary U.S. Civil SocietyPhilosophical Perspectives on Religion as a Legitimate and Postitive Force in Public LifeSociological Perspectives on Religion as a Legitimate and Positive Force in Public LifeNotes 2. Catholic Foundations of Public Theology and Political ParticipationTroeltschian Types and Theological Tensions The Legacy of Vatican II for the Church's Social MissionPope John Paul II's Legacy for Public EngagementPublic Theology in the U.S. Context: Diverse Forms and ModesNotes 3. Divergences within American Catholic Social Ethics: J. Bryan Hehir and Michael Baxter, CSC Rev. J. Bryan Hehir and the Public Church Michael J. Baxter and Catholic Radicalism Critical Analysis of Hehir and Baxter The Models of Hehir and Baxter: Beyond Coexistence Notes 4. Catholic Political Advocacy in the Contemporary U.S. ContextNETWORKPax Christi USAUnited States Conference of Catholic BishopsComparative Analysis of OrganizationsNotes 5. Catholic Public Theology for the 21st CenturyTheory and PraxisConclusions on Public Theology and Political Advocacy Methodological DirectivesTheoretical ImplicationsConclusionsNotes Bibliography of Primary Sources Index
[Heyer's] scholarship, precision, and fairness deserve praise. This is an important book, one that despite U.S. focus would be very useful in other contexts... In addition, it is pleasant (and all too rare with academic studies) to find that the book is well written and could be read profitably and without difficulty by nonacademics. Theological Studies
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