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Acton Institute speaker: Christianity limits the state

November 19, 2015
Valerie Schmalz

What is the relationship between Catholics and the state?

Acton Institute research fellow Michael Matheson Miller addressed the age-old issue of how to apply Catholic values to politics in a talk at the Knights of Columbus Hall in San Anselmo.

“What does Christianity bring to the table? How do Christians think about government?” Miller asked those gathered for his talk Oct. 24.

“Christianity does not give us policy prescriptions. It does give us a way of thinking,” Miller said. “I’m not saying that to think like a Christian everyone will think alike.”

“It is important if we are going to think like Christians that we not attach a political agenda to Jesus,” said Miller. “Christians can be on the left and Christians can be on the right and be good Christians.”

But Christians believe truth and human rights, including free will and the right to life, come from God, and that is a threat to any state that aims for absolute control, he said. However, Miller said, “There is no Christian form of government.”

He noted Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI – who experienced the Nazi state – wrote: “The church by definition limits the state.”

Miller was invited to Marin County by Marin Catholic High School theology teacher Joe Tassone. Miller is the producer of “Poverty, Inc.” a film sponsored by the Acton Institute that challenges many accepted approaches to combating poverty. A number of Marin Catholic students attended a film showing Oct. 25.

Miller critiqued a “social engineering” approach to poverty that objectifies people who are poor rather than creating an environment where they are the navigators of their own destiny.

The Acton Institute’s mission is “to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.” Its website is acton.org.

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