I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge here the death of Father Richard John Neuhaus: public theologian, editor of First Things, and advocate of all things Catholic. I did not always agree with Neuhaus’s views, but I did not always disagree either. Whatever the case, I always respected him as a thoughtful public theologian rooted in the Christian tradition. Many accused him of trying to secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) work toward an American theocracy, but I never read him this way. I always found First Things to be an intellectual feast and will surely miss his “Public Square” commentary at the end of each issue.
From the perspective of a historian of American religion, Neuhaus’s The Naked Public Square not only served as a springboard for the infusion of religion into American Democracy that we witnessed from the Christian Right over the last two decades, but he also, to some extent, reflected the relationship between religion and the public good that many of the so-called “Founding Fathers” embraced. And speaking of the Christian Right, Neuhaus, through his initiative “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” brokered a relationship between evangelicals and Catholics that has led to their common participation in moral politics. Granted, this was a relationship between conservative evangelicals and conservative Catholics, but it was historic nonetheless.