Indivisible: Jay Richards on Personal Holiness and Public Witness

We’re commanded to speak the truth in love.

Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before it's too LateCongratulations to last week’s giveaway winner Marsha Johnson!

Enter to win a your own copy of Indivisible! Simply leave a comment here. Next Wednesday, August 8, we will randomly select this week’s winner. Giveaway sponsored by The Maximus Group. You also can buy Indivisible from Ignatius Press (with Voting Guidelines for Catholics bonus CD).

This is the fifth installment from our interview with Dr. Jay Richards; click the links below to read the previous ones:

  1. Law, Liberty, and Freedom (July 4)
  2. Morality and Economics (July 11)
  3. Natural Law and Reason (July 18)
  4. Right to Life and Social Justice (July 25)

When we dialog about the issues that divide us, making the right argument is only part of the equation. Today, we publish an excerpt from our conversation with Dr. Richards in which he discussed the importance of personal holiness in giving a credible public witness.

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The Practicing Catholic: What are your thoughts on the role of public witness in the “naked public square” in what’s rapidly becoming a post-Christian culture? How can we do that better?

Dr. Jay Richards: This is the importance of the argument on personal holiness. My office is in downtown Seattle, so I know just how “naked” the public square can be.

Dr. Jay RichardsThe good thing about the so-called “Religious Right” around 1980 is it brought millions of Christians into these policy debates, especially among Evangelicals, many of whom were more or less separatists. They just thought that politics should be avoided because it can soil us. Many people got concerned, and it really has made a difference, especially with the pro-life movement.

The problem is that the Religious Right movement was a purely political movement. It wasn’t an outpouring of an underlying, richer spiritual renewal among Christians, and we think that was certainly a missing component, and why it hasn’t had more staying power.

If you look at the really effective political movements historically, they’re almost always spillover from a wider spiritual movement. On the one hand we might say, “If we just evangelize, then everything will be great.” Evangelism alone doesn’t help people learn how to apply their faith in public issues.

On the other hand, we can’t just discard that spiritual component of sanctity and holiness, because sometimes in a secular environment, people are more attracted by the joy and the love they see in us than any arguments we make. That often will allow them to be more open to arguments than if we’re trying to argue for the value of marriage. If it looks like we’re not very nice to our wives, for instance, it’s very difficult to be persuasive that way.

The Practicing Catholic: St. Teresa of Avila said, “Lord, save us from sour-faced saints.” You argue just living a joyful life will help our efforts tremendously.

Dr. Jay Richards: It’s a hard lesson. We’re commanded to speak the truth in love. For many of us who are involved in these debates, speaking the truth seems to be easier than doing it with love. I say these things, and I always feel like I’m preaching to myself.

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