I’ve often linked to pieces by Richard John Neuhaus. Among other factors, his book “Death on a Friday Afternoon” was a formative influence on me in terms of clearing away stumbling blocks and noise which had made a stronger faith in Christ difficult for me personally to attain. You don’t need to intellectually understand Christianity in order to have faith (or else most of us would be lost); however, the very human yearning to intellectually understand it can ironically create its own obstacles to faith. And so it is that thinkers and writers like Richard John Neuhaus (of which there are very few but perhaps just enough) can through God’s grace provide just the right solution to the cerebral static that would otherwise be impossible for many of us to overcome. At least such is my opinion.
That book of his has nothing to do with politics. In other venues, a chief concern of his is the sometimes-disputed place of religion in public life. His article today in On the Square on the First Things website is typically brilliant, exploring the implications of being a follower of Christ in a fallen world and more specifically within the culture of the United States in the early 21st century, and bringing things right up-to-date in terms of what appears to be an imminent moment of definition prompted by the expected policies of the incoming presidential administration. Though not overly long, the piece really defies excerpting, so I recommend reading it all: The Coming Kulturkampf. Here however is the first paragraph:
Many who do not embrace the Christian faith nonetheless have a high appreciation of the importance of Christianity to the cultural and social order. Theirs is an instrumental view of religion. Edward Gibbon caught the idea nicely, and in his usual caustic manner, when describing the religious cults of the Roman Empire. He says the common people viewed them as true, the philosophers viewed them as false, and the rulers viewed them as useful. Today’s political class in America has in recent decades undergone a conversion, so to speak, to the usefulness of religion.