cover image Things Worth Dying For: Thoughts on a Life Worth Living

Things Worth Dying For: Thoughts on a Life Worth Living

Charles J. Chaput. Holt, $25.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-23978-5

Chaput (Strangers in a Strange Land), former Roman Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia, draws on his memories and the works of classic writers in this erudite if rambling reflection on “things worth dying for... [which are] things worth living for, the things that give life beauty and meaning.” Chief among these, for Chaput, is love and service of God, and he also praises family, friends, and both secular and religious communities. He takes inspiration from a line from J.R.R. Tolkien stating that great tales never end, but rather “the people in them come and go as their part’s ended,” in his contemplation of his role in the “drama of the Christian story” at age 75 and Cicero’s argument that death is not an evil but “deliverance from the burdens of the material world.” The strongest section digs into the tension in Christian thought that holds death as both desirable (because it brings union with God) and terrible (as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin in Eden). A weaker portion is his simplistic critique of contemporary culture, which Chaput sees as full of yearning for transcendence. The book also suffers from dubious assertions about the similarities between Jewish and Christian theology, such as his claim that both religions hold the story of Moses and the burning bush as God’s first self-revelation in the Hebrew Bible. While fans of Chaput’s homilies or previous works will enjoy this, it’s unlikely to win new ones. (Mar.)