Saturday, September 26, 2015

Richard John Neuhaus (Book Review)

I chose to read this biography because I wanted to learn more about who influenced President George W. Bush on issues of faith while he was campaigning and in the White House. I learned that and more.

I knew nothing about Neuhaus before reading this book. I'd read quotes here and there but that's all. 

In this excellent biography by Randy Boyagoda, you not only learn that Neuhaus was incredibly influential all his life. You learn about a man who was his own man. What stood out to me beyond his influence was that he defied stereotype. That doesn't mean people didn't try to paint him in broad strokes. He was a complicated man who was not afraid to say and write what he thought about religion, politics and the culture.

He started out as a fairly liberal man by most accounts in the 60's. This was seen in his activist activities around the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. As the liberal movement became more visible to him, however, he saw what was lacking in the thinking behind their actions, policies and rhetoric. As a result, he ultimately swung right religiously and politically as he continued to be a vocal part of the nation's conversation regarding all things religious, political and cultural. By the 80's he was advising President George W. Bush and Pope John Paul II. 

While Neuhaus clearly had great self-confidence (at times, egotistical), he seemed driven by a love for people and the cultural systems our lives are lived out through. His tireless efforts influenced many influencers and so extended his ability to shape the American conversation about important matters around religion, politics and the American culture. 

At the end of the day, his legacy is clearly one of great positive influence on our national conversations even today. Boyagoda does a terrific job of sharing this. 

While I found myself, at times, impatient to get to the 80's, I found myself growing in appreciation for someone who so persistently sought to influence the most important cultural conversations--from his pulpit to his magazine First Things.

I also found myself inspired by his voracious appetite for reading and writing. He seemed to work tirelessly as if driven with a great sense of urgency. 

Boyagoda has served us well with this biography. Neuhaus served us well with his life. 

I'd also like to note that I really enjoyed Boyagoda's conversation with modern-day cultural warrior Eric Metaxas on his radio show The Eric Metaxas Show. When I got bogged down in reading the book I found myself inspired to finish it by this interview. I highly recommend both that conversation and that radio program. I listen to it as a podcast via the Apple Podcast app. 

In my personal efforts to counter our culture as it drifts further and further away from God's ideal, I am left inspired and challenged by Richard John Neuhaus. Thank you Randy Boyagoda for this important work. 

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.