Tuesday, August 25, 2015
I enjoyed this review , by David Paul Deavel, of Randy Boyagoda's new book on Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Although I appreciate the insights, and the force of some of the critiques -- especially in light of recent events, such as the firestorm surrounding Indiana's religious-freedom law -- of the so-called "radical traditionalists" like my friend and colleague Patrick Deneen, I continue to think that Fr. Neuhaus's basic stance and approach are attractive and compelling:
Today, many young conservatives of a religious bent seem inclined to view as a mirage Neuhaus’ mediating position between theocracy and secular domination. Most of them are more than ready to damn an America that is simply and without remainder a product of an unadulterated Enlightenment liberalism. They’ve taken to heart Neuhaus’s more radical and despairing laments over Babylon while rejecting his optimism and balanced assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of American institutions and culture. We need more reflection on Neuhaus’s thought, but we also wait for another—doubtless different—Neuhaus, who loves his flawed country enough to fight for it and expects to meet God as an American.
The Neuhaus / First Things project is sometimes caricatured and (I think unfairly) criticized for being insufficiently critical of American actions, laws, culture, premises, etc. And, to be sure, it's not hard to find Christian "conservatives" who engage in cringe-inducing cheerleading for various things that don't deserve it. Still -- there are "strengths and weaknesses" and among the strengths is a (bruised and vulnerable) tradition of religious freedom, ordered liberty, and the common good under and through the rule of law.