+JMJ+ Sometime around 2008 I was searching for a book in a local Barnes & Noble. (Wow, that seems like a lifetime ago now.) The author I was looking for was Plato, the book, The Republic. Another customer standing nearby asked me what I was looking for and for which class did I have to read it. I told him I’m a Catholic and read somewhere that Plato saw religion as a public, not private, thing and necessary for society. Turns out this customer was a teacher of philosophy at a nearby college (Baptist, I think) and he offered to help me choose a good translation because he, too, thought I should read it.
I knew by the tone of his voice, his body language, and the look on his face that he was mocking me. (I’m used to it. Sadly, it happens to Catholics a lot here in the Bible belt, not only from Baptists and Protestants–of which group, by the way, Baptists do not consider themselves to be a part–but also more and more from those who are not any kind of Christian at all.) And if he’d really wanted to help, he could have pointed me toward Cicero’s De officiis (On Duties), as Hahn and McGinley do in their book. But maybe he didn’t know. I didn’t know it until just now, minutes before deciding to write this post which kicks off our new Catholic Book of the Month series. Ta-daaaaa!
While we often speak of the “Judeo-Christian” values of Western civilization, some of the best thinking about moral duties took place outside of that tradition and was later baptized into it. We might think first of the “big three” of Ancient Greece: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the last of whom was given pride of place in Catholic thought by St. Thomas Aquinas. But on questions of natural religion and its relationship with society and the civil order, the preeminent thinker was the Roman politician Cicero.Hahn, Scott; McGinley, Brandon. It Is Right and Just: Why the Future of Civilization Depends on True Religion. Kindle Edition, Location 303.
In the video below, “Dr. Grazie Christie speaks with Dr. Scott Hahn about his new book, It Is Right and Just: Why the Future of Civilization Depends on True Religion, and calls on all Catholics to be courageous in living out our faith loudly within the public square.” Yeah! Let the dogma live loudly within you!
Video, Dr. Scott Hahn on Inside the Pages with Kris McGregor of Discerning Hearts, talks about his new book. (And don’t miss the other interviews and talks there. They have scads and scads of great interviews, lectures, lives of the saints, apologetics, etc. I’ve been listening to them for years. Good stuff!)
Is religion a right given to us by the state? Is it an opium for the masses? Is it private opinion with no role in the public sphere?
In It Is Right and Just, bestselling author Scott Hahn and Brandon McGinley challenge our idea of religion and its role in society. Hahn and McGinley argue that to answer questions over religious liberty, justice, and peace, we must first reject the insidious lie perpetuated by secular-liberal culture: that religion is a private matter.
Contrary to what political commentators and activists say, religion is not only relevant to justice and law, but is necessary for civilization to thrive. Recover the public nature of true religion, It Is Right and Just argues, and watch as a revolution unfolds.Ibid., from the description.
(By the way, I did get The Republic and I did read it, and The Laws by Plato, too. What can I tell you about it now? Not much. Except that his writing style (no matter which translation I’ve tried) gets on my last nerve. Dialogues, indeed. If by dialogue you mean Plato talks on and on and on and the other person in the “dialogue” gets to say wildly witty things like, “But—“ or “Yes, but—“, or “Really?” or “Tell me more.” And that’s just about all they get to say. Volume after volume of dialogue that ain’t nothing but a monologue, very thinly and very badly disguised. I prefer reading what other people write about Plato than reading Plato himself. Oh, well, I’m sure he doesn’t give a hoot about what I think of his writing.)
Thank you for visiting and reading. I hope you’ll join me again. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, and do whatever you do with this aim in mind: that, united with Christ, you may become a SAINT. May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Catholic Book of the Month for February 2021 — It Is Right and Just: Why the Future of Civilization Depends on True Religion, by Scott Hahn and Brandon McGinley. Paperback, Kindle. (Amazon affiliate links, see Full Disclosure for more.)
Notes and Links
- The Republic, by Plato (list of search results). I don’t know enough about this and the two following titles to recommend translations or editions.
- The Laws, by Plato (list of search results).
- De officiis (On Duties), by Cicero (list of search results)
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