Friday, September 28, 2007

Neuhaus on politics and religion (and more...lots more...)

First Things is one of the gems of my blogroll. Time permitting, whenever "Neuhaus" appears in the aggregator pane I click to the original and chill for a moment as I read. It's like pulling a cold beer on a hot afternoon. He reminds me of the farming side of my family. Men who spend their days in barnyards can walk a straight line through a minefield of cattle, horse and pig droppings without stepping in any. Fr. Neuhaus does that with current events.

Today's column would be a good one to introduce this man to anyone who has preconceived notions about piety and how we get there. Who could guess that this most impressive and insightful scholarly priest was once a young buck who had many of the same life experiences as anyone else?

I left Canada at age 14. Today it sounds like something close to child neglect, but in our family, as in many others of the time, it was assumed that by about age 14 or 15 you were old enough to get on with your life more or less on your own. More or less, since I went to a church-related school in Nebraska, where my oldest sister, Mildred, was married to a faculty member. That was for the third year of high school.

Toward the end of the year, the president of the school—whom I would later meet as president of the seminary I attended, Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis—suggested that I might be happier somewhere else. I had organized beer parties in the dormitory and a panty raid on the girls’ residence. (When did panty raids go out of campus fashion? That surely is a historical marker worthy of scholarly attention.) Only a little to my surprise, I discovered that the school viewed such activities with distinct disapproval.

After wrapping a friendly rhetorical arm around fellow Canadian immigrant David Frum, he takes gentle issue with him for his characterization of the American Civil War as depicted by Ken Burns' PBS narrative. Eventually he gets to the gentle punch line...

" purpose is simply to register a complaint to the Society of Canadian Transplants (if there is such a thing) against David Frum’s letting the side down by failing to demonstrate the wisdom that is supposed to accompany our perspectival distance from the puzzlement and wonder that is the United States.

Turning next to politics, he points to two items of note, Katha Pollitt's Onward, Secular Soldiers writing in The Nation, and Can She Reach Religious Voters? by Michael Gerson in the Washington Post.

Excuse me, but my PC just decided to download something important (everything is now in slow motion) and I have to take a shower and go to work. I wanted to grab a couple more great lines from Neuhaus but you'll have to find them yourself. I feel like someone putting a box of chocolates back without getting just one more. But it's time to stop.

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