Skip to comments.Public Life and Godly Mission: What Are the First Things Today?
Posted on 08/23/2013 7:16:53 PM PDT by RBStealth
There is a good deal of soul searching going on over at First Things. In the August/September issue, editor R. R. Reno explores The Challenges We Face and three other contributors respondthe Catholic George Weigel (Fighting on New Terrain), the Evangelical Ephraim Radner (The Primacy of Witness) and the Jew Eric Cohen (Passion and Prudence). The result is a symposium on the future of the magazine which ought to resonate among all serious Catholics in the United States, and even in many ways throughout what is left of the West.
The problem of First Things sense of direction is certainly unique in some ways, but even the unique aspects of it relate to the larger issues we all face. The magazine was founded twenty-five years ago by Richard John Neuhaus, a convert to Catholicism from Lutheranism. From the first its writers sought to seize what its editors surmised to be the Catholic moment. The old mainline Protestantism, which had implanted considerable public virtue in what we might call the American soul, had disintegrated, and the people at First Things thought they saw an opportunity for Catholicism to fill the void. Hence the Catholic moment.
At the same time, Neuhaus and his collaborators recognized that the United States was, in one of Neuhaus pithy phrases, only a confusedly Christian nation, and that progress in the public life of the United States required a coalition of groups with common moral values, drawn from those of all faiths who actually still take God seriously. These values and interests could, they believed, gain traction in our public life through a revitalized conservatism with deep religious roots. Thus were born the unique conservative and ecumenical interests of a magazine which has always had a distinctively Catholic impetus.
(Excerpt) Read more at catholicculture.org ...
I subscribed to First Things for years, beginning with the first issue. I had great admiration for Father Richard John Neuhaus, and for many of the other regular writers.
I agreed that we somehow needed to see a return to religion in the public square, and also that Catholics needed to cooperate with Evangelicals, religious Jews, and anyone else willing to help fight the problem of increasing secularism.
Frankly, I also thought that such a movement could not succeed unless God chose to bring about a religious revival, like some of the great revivals of the past. But God does work with people, so we should certainly do whatever we can to try to help move things in the right direction.
That still is true. But, frankly, I ceased to subscribe to First Things a year or two after Fr. Neuhaus died. It just wasn’t the same without his guidance and his wonderful, often humorous, way of writing.
I’m not trying to knock it. Perhaps First Things can return to its former greatness. But I wonder whether anyone can really fill the gap that Fr. Neuhaus left when he died.
I’ve read Neuhaus “The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America” book with its advocacy of the religious minded having our influence in the public square. Since that time (1980’s) Christianity as a group has devolved into an accomodation to the culture. Ross Douthats book “Bad Religion” is the timely replacement to “The Naked Public Square” a sort of “Beyond the Naked Public Square” in that although religious participation is about the same as the 80s, most of our religion and/or participants has been watered down and diluted of its moral values and consequence to the culture.
to read later
So we should retreat to the catacombs then?
The left started with nothing and through sheer will gained the country, or at least its institutions. Unlike the early left we actually have something, not nothing, but we're supposed to give up?
Why not be willful?
The funny thing about this old world of ours is how responsive it is to human will. Apparently God made it that way, probably for a reason. The left is the perfect object lesson. They are very wrong, but they are also very willful, and therefore they have been able to advance their agenda.
I just think the left is out-hustling us. I don't see the same tenacity on our side, and I don't think attitudes like that expressed in article help the situation.
There are still plenty of real Christians. Catholics, Evangelicals, and even the Mainline churches. I know a few in places like the Episcopal Church.
There have been bad times before. England in the eighteenth century was almost completely secular. Then there was a great revival, led by John Wesley, which led to the Methodist Church, and recovery of Baptist churches, and which also flowed back into the Church of England. Under Queen Victoria the English were mostly religious again, and Christian values were widespread, after almost having vanished earlier.
There was a great revival in America in the late 19th century. And over the centuries, there have been many such in the Catholic Church.
God can certainly bring conversions. But He doesn’t force them on anyone, and people can refuse to listen.
In any case, we still need to do whatever we can.