Born in the U.S.A.
Recently there was an earthquake on the religio-political Right as Lutheran pastor Richard John Neuhaus was unceremoniously ousted from the Rockford Institute — in particular, from his positions as Director of the Center on Religion & Society, Editor of The Religion & Society Report, and Editor-in-Chief of This World. Neuhaus is such an able writer and illustrious figure that one cannot assume that his is the greater loss.
The trembler was partly a matter of money and personalities, and we have no desire to take sides in the spectacle — but insofar as it was also in part about ideas we think it worthy of comment.
The shifting of the tectonic plates can be understood in terms of an underlying fault line separating neoconservatives like Neuhaus from old-guard conservatives such as those who control the Rockford Institute. In particular, it is said that the Neuhaus forces indicted the Rockford forces of anti-Semitism and immigrant-bashing (we have not seen the relevant documents, so cannot comment), and the Rockford forces, headquartered in the Midwest, have been uneasy with the conservative credentials of sophisticated, East Coast ex-leftists such as Neuhaus.
While the NOR has been critical of some of Neuhaus’s writings and has frequently been skeptical of the neoconservative worldview generally, we have never had any truck with anti-Semitism or anti-immigrant nativism, and so we could conceivably find ourselves sympathizing with the neoconservative camp in this case. America is not a Christian nation and Jews are not intruders (and even if America were a Christian nation, anti-Semitism would have no place), and America has historically welcomed immigrants with open arms and should continue to.
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Neuhaus’s plea for the restoration of religious values in the public sphere and for the believing community to act there on the basis of its beliefs is proper and necessary.
The Church is now seen in the eyes of the modern world as a major impediment to the ascendancy of a culture completely based on human rights.
Let us not love America inordinately or unrealistically. It is enough to be Americans without also being vainglorious Americanists.