Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, 1936-2009
At All Saints we emphasize speaking the truth in love. We want to love those around us and so we present the truth, but we do not assume that it is love to water down the truth either. Simply put, we try to get out of the way of the Gospel as we present it to our society.
One of the exemplars of this way of relating the truth was Father Richard John Neuhaus, who passed away yesterday, January 8th, after decades of Christian service. It's hard to overstate how important his journal, First Things, is for becoming a thoughtful Christian. Despite the breadth of the journal's coverage – literature, film, politics, ethics, philosophy, theology, etc. – it has remained quite matter-of-fact about life and faith and has always been accessible, no doubt through Neuhaus' skillful guidance as the journal's editor-in-chief.
Neuhaus also worked with numerous Protestants to achieve goals and defend Christianity in the public square. In addition to his role at First Things, he was also a devoted Priest and thoughtful writer. Christians everywhere are already writing their reflections on the man, and how he set an example for all of us hoping to speak truth in love.
His article "Born Toward Dying" has been republished online by First Things, and is available here.
My first real introduction to the work of Father Neuhaus (then Reverend Neuhaus)came in 1986 with the publication of his book The Naked Public Square:Religion and Democracy in America. I had been born-and-raised a pietist, convinced that faith and public policy were like oil and water: at best an unstable mixture doomed to separate. Neuhaus helped convince me that this isn’t so, that in order for democracy to flourish, the Christian church must, too.
The tricky question, of course, is how does faith bestow its blessings in public life? The public square, “naked” in that it embraces no single ideology, welcomes pragmatic arguments that all can embrace regardless of their personal views, but brands conviction borne of faith as “intolerant”. The glory and tragedy of Neuhaus’ work was his paradoxical attempt to speak into the naked square as one who is deeply, personally committed to the orthodox Christian faith. For this he will be vilified and missed.