American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile by Richard John Neuhaus

By Richard John Neuhaus

Christians are through their nature a humans misplaced. Their precise house is with God; in civic existence, they're alien voters “in yet no longer of the world.” In American Babylon, eminent theologian Richard John Neuhaus examines the actual fact of that ambiguity for Catholics in the US today.Neuhaus addresses the fundamental quandaries of Catholic life—assessing how Catholics can continue their heads above water within the sea of immorality that confronts them on the earth, how they are often patriotic even if their real nation isn't really during this international, and the way they may reconcile their tasks as voters with their dedication to God. Deeply discovered, usually combative, and constantly eloquent, American Babylon is Neuhaus’s magnum opus—and should be crucial analyzing for all Christians.

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The final end, the eschatological end, of history is the promised Kingdom of God. Far short of the Kingdom as we are, that final end is, in present time, anticipated in the life of the Church, especially in the Eucharist of the Church, which is the foretaste of the Feast of the Lamb depicted in the Book of Revelation. qxd 1/9/09 1:15 PM Page 52 American Babylon Along the way to the Kingdom, Murray proposed that politics—the deliberation of how we ought to order our life together—is to be guided by natural law.

Once again, the note was struck that America is not only a nation with the soul of a church, but is the Church. This self-understanding was soon to be shattered by the fundamentalist-modernist clash of the first part of the twentieth century, giving rise to the conviction that theology, so rife with conflict and divisiveness, must give way to something like a public philosophy. Here the most notable figure is John Dewey, who died in 1952 at age ninety-two, having presided for six decades as perhaps the most influential public intellectual in American life.

That allegiance, said Madison, is prior in both time and importance. qxd 1/9/09 1:15 PM Page 51 Meeting God as an American others, however, that allegiance was not embodied and anchored in a community that claimed priority to the political community. Thus, again, America itself became by default a de facto church. Indeed, the fundamental complaint of anti-Catholics in American history is that Catholicism requires a “dual loyalty”—an allegiance to America and a prior allegiance to the Church. That was and is exactly right.

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