5

Rendering Unto God and Caesar

The Pharisees went off
and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.
They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion,
for you do not regard a person’s status.
Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
Knowing their malice, Jesus said,
“Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”
They replied, “Caesar’s.”
At that he said to them,
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”

Matthew 22: 15-21

 

While He was present on Earth, Jesus gave us God’s view of our mortal condition, and it often startled those who heard of it.  Typical was the trap lain for him involving paying tribute to Caesar.  If Christ had said pay no tribute, he would swiftly have been arrested by the Romans and condemned as a rebel.  Tell the people to pay the tribute, and He would have been regarded as a collaborator, one of those Jews who sided with the hated Roman rulers.  I assume whoever thought up this trap regarded it as foolproof and perhaps, in human terms, it was.  Jesus however demolished it with contemptuous ease.  He asked to see a Roman denarius, which had the face of Emperor Tiberius.  No doubt this made many Jews in the crowd squirm.  They hated the Romans, but Roman coins were in common usage.  Pious Jews would have hated handling the denarius because it blasphemously asserted that Tiberius was the son of the Divine Augustus, the Senate having proclaimed him a God.  (Ironically Tiberius was personally uneasy with the idea of being a God and the Senate did not proclaim his divinity after his death.)

One can imagine the anticipation with which the crowd awaited what was about to happen.  Christ had said almost nothing about the Roman occupation, as if it did not exist, or was simply too inconsequential for Him to notice.  Now He was being forced to take a stand on the central political issue of Jewish life.

Jesus inquires whose face is on the coin.  No doubt his interlocutor thought He was playing for time:  “Caesar.”

The words that Christ then spoke are obscured by our familiarity with them.  Israel had no tradition of separating religion from secular rule.  The rulers of Israel were judged as good or bad depending upon whether they had adhered to the worship of Yahweh.  The Kings of Israel and Judah had often been in severe conflict with prophets sent by God.  The Maccabees  were leaders of a religious revolt against the Seleucid Empire.  Herod had been condemned for his many atrocities and impieties.  The Jews longed for a Messiah to free them from the rule of Rome and bring about a Jewish utopia where God would rule His people.

Thus when Christ told the crowd to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar and unto God the things that are God, he presented them with the stunning idea that there was a sphere of life which was a secular ruler’s, outside of the sphere of existence that was God’s.  We have been working out the implications of this divine revolutionary idea ever since.

16

Fortnight For Freedom: Getting in Bed With Caesar

tiberius

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.

Sam Adams, August 1, 1776

(This is a repeat from last year.  I can’t improve upon it, except for minor changes that I have made.)

The American Catholic is proud to participate in this year’s Fortnight For Freedom.  The Fortnights were started in 2012 by the bishops of this country in response to the unprecedented assault on religious liberty posed by the Obama administration, to remind Catholics of the preciousness of their inheritance of freedom as Americans and Catholics and the necessity of standing up to threats to it.  All well and good, and a very worthy cause indeed.  However, the leadership of the Church appears to be schizophrenic on this subject.  While Caesar seeks to limit the freedom of the Church, too many ecclesiastics respond by wanting to get into bed with Caesar.

The examples of this are legion.

It was the policy of the Church to aid the Obama administration in flouting the immigration laws of this country, acting as a virtual arm of the State in sheltering illegal aliens.  Thank heavens that administration is now one with Nineveh and Tyre.

The Church was all in favor of Obamacare, until the Obama administration targeted the Church with the contraceptive mandate.

The Green Encyclical, Laudato Si, released in 2015, is one long demand for Caesar to engage in an immense power grab, and regulate business and citizens to fight a mythical global warming threat.

The Vatican is a cheerleader of UN activities that spell a mortal danger to economic freedom in the West.

The Church through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development funds hundreds of left wing pressure groups to call for ever bigger government, and, inevitably, further restrictions on freedom.

Welfare States require huge amounts of tax money and huge amounts of government power.  The default position of the Church today when confronting any need traditionally filled by private or Church charity, is to scream for Caesar to come fix things.  This bastardized parody of the social teachings of the Church inevitably comes back to bite the Church as Caesar will always exact a price for his favors and under the Obama administration that price was for the Church to bend the knee to contraception, abortion and gay marriage.  For all too many of our shepherds that was a small price to pay to keep the government largess flowing.  There is a reason why Christ whipped the money changers from the Temple and why He uttered the phrase to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.   These days the Church too often seems willing to bow the knee to Caesar, no matter what Caesar demands, so long as the funds from Caesar keep flowing. Continue Reading

2

Fortnight For Freedom: Getting in Bed With Caesar

fortnight for freedom 2016

tiberius

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.

Sam Adams, August 1, 1776

(This is a repeat from last year.  I can’t improve upon it, except for minor changes that I have made.)

The American Catholic is proud to participate in this year’s Fortnight For Freedom.  The Fortnights were started in 2012 by the bishops of this country in response to the unprecedented assault on religious liberty posed by the Obama administration, to remind Catholics of the preciousness of their inheritance of freedom as Americans and Catholics and the necessity of standing up to threats to it.  All well and good, and a very worthy cause indeed.  However, the leadership of the Church appears to be schizophrenic on this subject.  While Caesar seeks to limit the freedom of the Church, too many ecclesiastics respond by wanting to get into bed with Caesar.

The examples of this are legion.

It is the policy of the Church to aid the Obama administration in flouting the immigration laws of this country, acting as a virtual arm of the State in sheltering illegal aliens.

The Church was all in favor of Obamacare, until the Obama administration targeted the Church with the contraceptive mandate.

The Green Encyclical, Laudato Si, released last year, is one long demand for Caesar to engage in an immense power grab, and regulate business and citizens to fight a mythical global warming threat.

The Vatican is supportive of UN activities that spell a mortal danger to economic freedom in the West.

The Church through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development funds hundreds of left wing pressure groups to call for ever bigger government, and, inevitably, further restrictions on freedom.

Welfare States require huge amounts of tax money and huge amounts of government power.  The default position of the Church today when confronting any need traditionally filled by private or Church charity, is to scream for Caesar to come fix things.  This bastardized parody of the social teachings of the Church inevitably comes back to bite the Church as Caesar will always exact a price for his favors and under the Obama administration that price is for the Church to bend the knee to contraception, abortion and gay marriage.  For all too many of our shepherds that is a small price to pay to keep the government largesse flowing.  There is a reason why Christ whipped the money changers from the Temple and why He uttered the phrase to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.   These days the Church too often seems willing to bow the knee to Caesar, no matter what Caesar demands, so long as the funds from Caesar keep flowing. Continue Reading

19

Archbishop Chaput on Caesar

archbishop-chaput1

Archbishop Chaput gave a remarkable address in Toronto on Monday.  Here is the address with comments by me interspersed:

I want to do three things with my time tonight. First, Father Rosica asked me to talk about some of the themes from my book, “Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life.” I’m happy to do that. Second, I want to talk about some of the lessons we can draw from the recent U.S. election. And third, I want to talk about the meaning of hope.

Continue Reading