The Taser's Edge

Not an Obituary

The picture above is clearly Martin Luther King, Jr., and that’s Andrew Young to the left, but who is the young man in the clerical collar beside King (separated by a newspaper crease, not inserted into the picture)?  Richard John Neuhaus.  Before he died last Thursday, I knew very little about him:

  1. He converted to Roman Catholicism from Lutheranism and at least some LCMSers that I have known still wanted to claim him and his accomplishments based on his heritage.
  2. He founded First Things.  (And while I did know this fact, I still know next-to-nothing about the periodical.)
  3. He wrote an amazing book on practical ministry called Freedom for Ministry, which contains some great material.  For instance, “The pursuit of holiness is not so much the observance of limits as the exercise of freedom.”  I think that sentiment well describes my own experience of vocational discovery during my time at Duke these past three years.

What I didn’t realize was how polarizing his politics were.  Thanks to my friend, Nick, I have begun to get a glimpse.  He directed me to an article on Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish blog for The Atlantic, which in turn directed me to an article on Damon Linker’s blog for The New Republic, which names among Neuhaus’ “Protestant friends” Pat Robertson, Chuck Colson, James Dobson, and Ralph Reed.  Certainly, as far as I know, “friends” is a politically loaded statement rather than a description of warm and personal relationships among these men, but that’s a heck of a crowd for a highly respected theologian to hang out with, especially considering that Neuhaus marched with MLK in Selma and later protested the Vietnam War.  Just goes to show how little we can know about the lives of people whose ideas in one realm (theology) we truly love and whose ideas in another realm (politics) we can find ourselves despising.  Of course, the idea of separating theology and politics into two separate realms may be again showing how unfamiliar I am with any of Neuhaus’ work, but my thought is that he is quite willing and able to forgive the slight (and especially willing since last Thursday, being in Heaven and all).  But I’ll also try to remedy my unfamiliarity with his work.  But I just now typed his name into that 11.5-page single-spaced document I keep, called “Books to Find” (almost long enough to start italicizing the title rather than putting it in quotes),  so there’s certainly the possibility that he and I might meet before I get to it.

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