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American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile [Hardcover]

By Richard John Neuhaus (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   288
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.48" Width: 5.74" Height: 1.04"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Mar 17, 2009
Publisher   Basic Books
ISBN  0465013678  
EAN  9780465013678  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Christians are by their nature a people out of place. Their true home is with God; in civic life, they are alien citizens "in but not of the world." Here, eminent theologian Richard John Neuhaus examines the particular truth of that ambiguity for Catholics in America today. Neuhaus addresses the essential quandaries of Catholic life--assessing how Catholics can keep their heads above water in the sea of immorality that confronts them in the world, how they can be patriotic even though their true country is not in this world, and how they might reconcile their duties as citizens with their commitment to God.--From publisher description.

Publishers Description
Christians are by their nature a people out of place. Their true home is with God; in civic life, they are alien citizens “in but not of the world.” In American Babylon, eminent theologian Richard John Neuhaus examines the particular truth of that ambiguity for Catholics in America today.

Neuhaus addresses the essential quandaries of Catholic life—assessing how Catholics can keep their heads above water in the sea of immorality that confronts them in the world, how they can be patriotic even though their true country is not in this world, and how they might reconcile their duties as citizens with their commitment to God. Deeply learned, frequently combative, and always eloquent, American Babylon is Neuhaus's magnum opus—and will be essential reading for all Christians.

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More About Richard John Neuhaus

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Richard John Neuhaus, one of the foremost authorities on religion in the contemporary world and president of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, is the editor-in-chief of First Things. He was named one of the "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America" by Time Magazine. His many books include Freedom for Ministry, Death on a Friday Afternoon, and As I Lay Dying. He is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and lives in Manhattan.

Richard John Neuhaus currently resides in New York City, in the state of New York.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
America as Babylon  Feb 10, 2010
The Catholic theologians last book is a great one. He explains the difficulty of Christians living between two worlds--the kingdom of God and the Babylon that is America. He describes us as having our passports in heaven,but a visa for our temporary sojourn on earth. We need to remember where our true home is, but not write off or check out of our current "digs." A thought provoking and challenge to anyone who feels the tension between living out the Gospel in the modern Babylon that is America'
His final thoughts  Nov 17, 2009
This is Father Neuhaus' final book. It is an informal essay describing life in America as a Catholic. The tone is quite relaxed and laid back. Fr. Neuhaus discusses many facets of what it is like to be a Catholic in America in this day and age. Some topics that he addresses include the (false) notion of separation of Church and State, whether or not an atheist can be a good citizen, and the writings of Richard Rorty. I learned a lot from the chapter devoted to Rorty. I didn't know who he was before reading the book, but I learned that he is a huge name in what I might call "American skeptical intellectualism" but what he called "ironism." The book is an easy and relaxed read, one which should appeal to all traditional Christians and Jews alike.
Last Things  Sep 3, 2009
Non-fiction books tend to be collections of essays. This one never says that's what it is, but that's what it seems. Having avidly followed RJN's lively column in First Things, "The Public Square", I eagerly looked forward to reading this book.

"Babylon" in the title does not stand for all things bad or all tyrannical empires. It's a metaphor, drawn from the literal experience of the ancient Jews, of exile. The proof text is from the book of Jeremiah, in which the prophet counsels the Jewish people, "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." This haunting passage is presented in chapter one, which seems like an introduction, and is itself a tightly reasoned, lightly written essay. In chapter five, "An Age of Irony," he writes, "We have no alternative to this moment of time that is Babylon." The question then remains, to quote Francis Schaeffer's evocative title, "How shall we then live?" How shall we conduct ourselves during our time of exile?

At this point, one may expect a brief dissertation on the spiritual way of life, or the precepts of the Bible. One does not get it. What one does get in this chapter is a discussion of "liberal irony" and Richard Rorty, which led one reviewer to remark that the book is somewhat Rorty-heavy. It's actually only one chapter, but does seem out of place. Why is it there? Because, notes RJN, this is one view of how to conduct our time in exile. This view led to, or influenced, postmodernism and deconstructionism, and proved widely influential among people who wouldn't use those words and have only a passing acquaintance with the theory. Many would class it as a breed of nihilism.

The first chapter presents this interesting take on Babylon. The second,"Babylon Then and Now", looks at the Jews' historic exile, and St. Augustine's idea of the two cities, and draws evocative comparisons with both the present day, and the American founding. Then you'd expect a bit more on that last topic, which is the subject of chapter three. The framers of the Constitution, he says, were consciously making a nation for citizens with "dual loyalties": to both God and the nation. Chapter four is RJN at his best, and suggests an extended and probing "Public Square" essay. Chapter Six, "Salvation is from the Jews", is again a tight, thoughtful, engaging essay that manages to tie together topics touched on elsewhere in the book, while remaining classic RJN.

Chapter seven, "Politics for the Time Being", is actually a brief, informative, and insightful essay on bioethics. The last chapter, "Hope and Hopelessness" sums up, in the manner of an essay, by repeating earlier, salient points. The book has by this time ranged widely over RJN's favorite topics, however, and as such forms his treatise of last thoughts, too lively and ungainly to be so summarily tied up. Read as a collection of diverse essays, American Babylon spans the breadth and depth of the late RJN, one of the liveliest and most thoughtful minds of our generation, from the first to the last things.

A wonderful farewell  Aug 13, 2009
Father Richard John Neuhaus was one of the founders and a longtime editor-in-chief of the journal of religion, culture and politics "First Things." He was a giant of the promotion of religious discourse in the public sphere, and an unprecedented writer and public intellectual. His passing away in the early 2009 is a great loss to all of his many fans, as well as the readers of the First Things.

The "American Babylon" is his last book, and it was published posthumously. It touches on all of the major themes from his long and prolific opus: the role of religion in public discourse, the position and the role of religious people in an open and democratic society, the attitude that Christians should have towards the secular order in general and towards America in particular. He touches upon two main models of conceptualizing America in the light of Christian view of history: America as a new Babylon (that is, as a new exile for the People of God), and America as a New Jerusalem (i.e., the new Promised Land and a beacon upon a hill for all the other nations). Both of these models have seen their popularity rise and fall over the centuries, and Father Neuhaus does not endorse either one of them wholeheartedly. However, from the title of this book, you can guess in which direction he was leaning towards the end of his life.

This is a wonderful book by one of my favorite authors. Over the years I have learned a lot from him and am saddened that there won't be any more opportunities for him to put his invaluable insights into a written form. On the other hand, I cherish all that he had written that much more.
Believers in Babylon  Jul 19, 2009
When Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009) died of cancer, America lost one of its most public (and conservative) Christian intellectuals. The arc of his life had the look and feel of providence. Born in Canada, he became a naturalized American. A high school drop out, he advised George W. Bush. Ordained in the conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, in the sixties he joined forces with Daniel Berrigan to engage civil rights issues as a pastor to a Brooklyn congregation of blacks and Hispanics. After Roe v. Wade in 1973, he began to turn rightward. In 1990 he converted to Latin Rite Catholicism, was ordained a priest, and founded the Institute on Religion and Public Life, and its journal First Things, whose mission statement is "to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society."

You don't have to agree with Neuhaus's unapologetic neo-conservatism to appreciate the vigor with which he engaged Christian identity in the public square. Yes, he denied communion to Catholic politicians whom he considered insufficiently pro-life. He refers to Pope John Paul "The Great" (74, 209). He vigorously defended natural law theory ("those things that we cannot not know"). He warmed up to Lincoln's notion of America as the world's "last best hope" and defended democratic capitalism. But there he is engaging Peter Singer's advocacy of infanticide and eugenics, or Richard Rorty's "liberal ironism" (this chapter alone is worth the whole book). He wonders aloud about the "new atheism" and whether atheists can be good citizens. He circles back to Augustine and Aquinas, Jefferson and Madison, then forward to Alasdair MacIntyre, Derrida, Newman and the Niebuhrs.

Drawing upon the theme of exile in Babylon, Neuhaus considers how believers must be very much in the world but not a worldly people, and how we must, as Jeremiah told the ancient Jews, "seek the welfare of the city" where God has placed us, and "pray to the Lord on its behalf." His "controlling argument" is that Christians live in hope between the Already of the kingdom inaugurated and the Not Yet of its consummation, rejecting both despair and presumption.

Despite his conservative boosterism, Neuhaus advises a "disciplined skepticism" about politics. He admits that Christian hope is "painfully provisional," and that theodicy admits to no "intellectually satisfying answer." Christians of both the mainline left and the conservative right, he says, have contributed to "the political corruption of Christian faith and the religious corruption of authentic politics." Faithfulness in exile can take many different forms. And whether believers have tried co-existence or accommodation with Babylon, separation, subversion, or even insurrection, Neuhaus credits all with good faith efforts, even though none of us have found ultimately satisfying solutions. And so we live in faith for what we have not and cannot see.

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