Ancient Civilizations

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

By Richard John Neuhaus

Christians are by way of their nature a humans misplaced. Their actual house is with God; in civic existence, they're alien voters “in yet now not of the world.” In American Babylon, eminent theologian Richard John Neuhaus examines the actual fact of that ambiguity for Catholics in the United States today.Neuhaus addresses the basic quandaries of Catholic life—assessing how Catholics can maintain their heads above water within the sea of immorality that confronts them on the earth, how they are often patriotic even if their actual state isn't really during this global, and the way they could reconcile their tasks as voters with their dedication to God. Deeply realized, often combative, and consistently eloquent, American Babylon is Neuhaus’s magnum opus—and may be crucial interpreting for all Christians.

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Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time. So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary.

For these purposes and others, any identity is better than none. One’s identity is, as often as not, a work in progress. And it is not entirely a matter of choice. One cannot make it up out of whole cloth. qxd 1/9/09 1:15 PM Page 29 Meeting God as an American other circumstances that shape one’s opportunities and expectations. Being an American is among the more important of those circumstances. Needless to say, our identity, who we think we are, is formed in large part by who other people think we are.

Witness the fate of what used to be called “liberal religion” in the form of Unitarian-Universalism, or visit the shelves upon shelves in the “spirituality” section of your local Barnes and Noble. One can agree with Harold Bloom that gnosticism is the right word for it, if there can be a gnosticism of the masses. At the same time, there were other American Christians who, remembering the words of Jesus that the servant is not above his master, did not aspire to rise above their model. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, when almost all Protestants called themselves evangelicals, the nation witnessed the impressive construction of the “Benevolent Empire” in what is commonly designated the third great awakening.

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