Chaput Among The Baptists

Scroll down here to the text of Archbishop Chaput's address at Houston Baptist University. Some snips of interest:
Catholics and Protestants have different memories of American history. The historian Paul Johnson once wrote that America was “born Protestant” (1). That's clearly true. Whatever America is today or may become tomorrow, its origin was deeply shaped by a Protestant Christian spirit, and the fruit of that spirit has been, on the balance, a great blessing for humanity. But it's also true that, while Catholics have always thrived in the United States, they lived through two centuries of discrimination, religious bigotry and occasional violence. Protestants of course will remember things quite differently. They will remember Catholic persecution of dissenters in Europe, the entanglements of the Roman Church and state power, and papal suspicion of democracy and religious liberty. 
Then, skipping wildly: JFK gave his infamous separation of church and state speech before a group of Protestant ministers in Houston, so it amused me that Chaput in a sense told the Protestants the state of our culture is all their fault for demanding he in essence repudiate his faith.

the kind of secularity pushed by the Houston speech “represented a near total privatization of religious belief – so much a privatization that religious observers from both sides of the Catholic/Protestant fence commented on its remarkable atheistic implications for public life and discourse.” And the irony – again as told by Massa – is that some of the same people who worried publicly about Kennedy’s Catholic faith got a result very different from the one they expected. In effect, “the raising of the [Catholic] issue itself went a considerable way toward ‘secularizing’ the American public square by privatizing personal belief. The very effort to ‘safeguard’ the [essentially Protestant] religious aura of the presidency... contributed in significant ways to its secularization.”
That was the moment America started its long decline into France --when we unwittingly imported "laicite" (add your own diacritical marks).

Later in the address, having given a history of the problem, he gets to a point that interests me most because it seems to me many of my co-religionists --at least those who take their faith most seriously-- don't fully understand it.
John Courtney Murray, the Jesuit scholar who spoke so forcefully about the dignity of American democracy and religious freedom, once wrote: “The Holy Spirit does not descend into the City of Man in the form of a dove. He comes only in the endlessly energetic spirit of justice and love that dwells in the man of the City, the layman.”
We are all more or less infected by Kant's categorical imperative and seek more to keep our own personal hands clean than truly engage issues at the risk of not coming up with a perfect answer. It is difficult to find a Christian man of action, and when one miraculously emerges, it sometimes seems the Christian community spends most of its time lying in wait to denounce him for not being a real Christian if ever he has a tactical or policy difference with them rather than rolling up their own sleeves.  (Yes, I am in danger of going off onto my semi-annual "prudence" rant, but will forebear.)
Chaput summarizes the City of God:
Augustine never really offers a political theory, and there's a reason. He doesn't believe human beings can know or create perfect justice in this world. Our judgment is always flawed by our sinfulness. Therefore, the right starting point for any Christian politics is humility, modesty and a very sober realism.

Second, no political order, no matter how seemingly good, can ever constitute a just society. Errors in moral judgment can't be avoided. These errors also grow exponentially in their complexity as they move from lower to higher levels of society and governance. Therefore the Christian needs to be loyal to her nation and obedient to its legitimate rulers. But he also needs to cultivate a critical vigilance about both.

Third, despite these concerns, Christians still have a duty to take part in public life according to their God-given abilities, even when their faith brings them into conflict with public authority. We can’t simply ignore or withdraw from civic affairs. The reason is simple. The classic civic virtues named by Cicero – prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance – can be renewed and elevated, to the benefit of all citizens, by the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity. Therefore, political engagement is a worthy Christian task, and public office is an honorable Christian vocation.

Fourth, in governing as best they can, while conforming their lives and their judgment to the content of the Gospel, Christian leaders in public life can accomplish real good, and they can make a difference. Their success will always be limited and mixed. It will never be ideal. But with the help of God they can improve the moral quality of society, which makes the effort invaluable.
You have to be in it to win it, as is said. It strikes me that the "sober realism" Augustine counsels is distinct from apocalyptic pessimism, ironic distance or prudish disdain --all of which are temptations for those of us who take our faith seriously, and all of which are inducements to think oneself  "above" politics or, worse, above one's fellow-citizens. But none of them is Christian.