May 13, 2007
The God Solution: When it comes to religion in the public sphere, Columbia's Father knows best. (Andrew Flynn, The Bwog)
Richard John Neuhaus is Columbia's intellectual superstar you've never heard of. You've never written a paper for him, you've never checked his CULPA reviews, and you've certainly never shown up late to one of his classes. This is because Neuhaus's lectures are delivered not from a Hamilton Hall lectern, but from the pulpit in St. Paul's Chapel. Every Sunday for the past four spring semesters, Father Neuhaus has made his way uptown from his parish on 14th Street to say the 5 PM Mass at Columbia.Posted by Orrin Judd at May 13, 2007 6:44 PM
"Lecture" is a loose way of describing what Neuhaus does — but not that loose. The Catholic priest is an orator of Roman proportions — with a stentorian voice, perfect sense of tming, and a knack for rhetorical flourish. The sermons themselves are peppered through with references to great works of theology, philosophy, and literature—classic and contemporary. All are variations on a theme: "the attractiveness of the high adventure of Catholic faithfulness," as he puts it. They are recorded and archived on the Columbia Catholic Ministry's web site for the greater listening public.
Neuhaus's relationship with Columbia is also a variation on a theme: his status as a maverick intellectual. When New York Magazine named the top five intellectual movers and shakers in Manhattan, they grouped Father Neuhaus with Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia physics professor Brian Greene, NYU law professor Noah Feldman, and CUNY philosopher Saul Kripke; Neuhaus is the only one who does not teach at a university. Neuhaus is famous not only as speaker, but as the Editor-in-Chief of First Things, which is — as the New York Times put it, and First Things re-put it on their subscription cards — "the spiritual nerve center of the new conservatism." The monthly magazine of religion, politics, and culture is indeed the place to find top-notch conservative thought presented for a general reading audience. This is the work of impresario-Neuhaus. Once a far left-wing Lutheran minister, he re-emerged in the 1990s as a conservative Catholic priest and founder of First Things.
Both inside and outside its pages, he has mounted a paradigm attack against secularism in politics.