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American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile Hardcover – March 17, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Neuhaus, who died in early 2009, moved along the theological continuum during his life from liberal Protestant to conservative Catholic. Along the way, the Catholic priest who was editor-in-chief of the journal First Things never shied from controversy and continually offered provocative theological insights on the nature of American religion and politics. In some ways, his last book picks up where his early book, The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America, left off. In this sometimes repetitious but always challenging look at American Christianity, Neuhaus argues that Christians live in exile in a foreign land, for they always live with the hope of returning to the Kingdom of God. Neuhaus maps out the territory in which Christians find themselves, shaped by the liberal irony—and its shortcomings—of the late philosopher Richard Rorty as well as by the many shallow spiritualities of the self proffered by New Age religions. The final pages of this book poignantly afford a glimpse of Neuhaus's own embrace of hope as he made his final journey toward the New Jerusalem. (Mar.)
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New York Times Book Review
American Babylon displays Neuhaus in all his virtues – elegantly argued and written, fair-minded and with a formidable range of reference – making the important point that politics without an anchor in a public morality can quickly slip away in dark directions.”

National Review
“In word and deed alike, Neuhaus provided as much ‘spiritual energy for existing goals of change’ as any figure of his era. But it’s a testament to his own capaciousness that we will be able to turn to him for guidance and inspiration even in eras vastly different from his own.”

The Weekly Standard
“A final, uniquely Christian reflection on making one’s way in America…. American Babylon remains an important book at a critical moment in history.”

The American Spectator
“[A] short, dense meditation on what it means to live ‘our awkward duality of citizenship,’ as both Christians and Americans, with integrity…. American Babylon can be read as a kind of valedictory or summation of many of the intellectual arguments that have preoccupied Father Neuhaus in his previous writings.”


Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity
“This book, written with all the characteristic wit and insight of Neuhaus at his best, is an extended reflection on, and examination of, what it means to be a Christian in America…. We who miss [Neuhaus] can find him again, with all his engaging wit, erudition, and commitment to justice and Christian truth, in the pages of this, his final book.”



Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Printing edition (March 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465013678
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465013678
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #834,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Joseph M. Hennessey on April 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
this book for Amazon.

I hope i am not assuming incorrectly that most of the readers of this review are familiar to a greater or lesser to degree, with the thinking and works of Richard John Neuhaus. Most of those who like/love him will enjoy this book; most of those who don't, will not like this book. Fr. Neuhaus's oevre is massive; I can only refer you to his journal First Things, for a more comprehesive understanding of his thought.

although this book must have been in the works for months, it takes special poignancy in the light of the passing of its author on January 8, 2009. Neuhaus takes special care over the book's title, discussing what it means for a Christian to be in exile in America in 2009. He takes great care to compare this with Jews in exile in Babylon in the 6th century before Christ.

The theme of the book is for Christians to take hope, that as bad as things might seem now, for the triumph of the [Judaeo] Christian Messiah and his family the Church, things have been worse. Hope is probably the single most central theme of the book, which is different from an effervescent optimism, but is anchored on the guaranteed truth of the death and resurrection of Christ.

The book is more of an homilitic exhortation than a reasoned thesis. I think the author wasted too many pages on the thought of Richard Rorty, but they can straighten that out at their respective destinations. For Fr. Neuhaus, to despair is to believe that the exile Christians now feel is permanent; for progressives, it is to to think that the utopian thoughts/feelings we have had are permanent.
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Fr.Neuhaus died Jan. 8, 2009. This is his last book and it read like a warning voice from the great beyond.. The "Babylon" of the title is not the "whore of Babylon" of excitable discussion but the place of Jewish exile from their home in Jerusalem. Fr. Neuhaus rolls his intellect over the question of how we should live as good citizens in exile from our true and promised home with our creator. You will find no better reflections on this question.

Especially enlightening is the chapter devoted to examining the philosophy of Richard Rorty. For those, like myself, who haven't been able to unravel the obtuse philosopher this chapter will be extremely rewarding in helping you see into the moral and philosophical confusion that so dominates our age.
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Format: Hardcover
When Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009) died of cancer, America lost one of its most public (and conservative) Christian intellectuals. The arc of his life had the look and feel of providence. Born in Canada, he became a naturalized American. A high school drop out, he advised George W. Bush. Ordained in the conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, in the sixties he joined forces with Daniel Berrigan to engage civil rights issues as a pastor to a Brooklyn congregation of blacks and Hispanics. After Roe v. Wade in 1973, he began to turn rightward. In 1990 he converted to Latin Rite Catholicism, was ordained a priest, and founded the Institute on Religion and Public Life, and its journal First Things, whose mission statement is "to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society."

You don't have to agree with Neuhaus's unapologetic neo-conservatism to appreciate the vigor with which he engaged Christian identity in the public square. Yes, he denied communion to Catholic politicians whom he considered insufficiently pro-life. He refers to Pope John Paul "The Great" (74, 209). He vigorously defended natural law theory ("those things that we cannot not know"). He warmed up to Lincoln's notion of America as the world's "last best hope" and defended democratic capitalism. But there he is engaging Peter Singer's advocacy of infanticide and eugenics, or Richard Rorty's "liberal ironism" (this chapter alone is worth the whole book). He wonders aloud about the "new atheism" and whether atheists can be good citizens. He circles back to Augustine and Aquinas, Jefferson and Madison, then forward to Alasdair MacIntyre, Derrida, Newman and the Niebuhrs.
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Early in the book, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus wrote: "When I meet God, I expect to meet him as an American." When Fr. Neuhaus died in January of 2009, I expect that he did. As was evident from his writings, he was a good citizen of both the City of Man and the City of God.

AMERICAN BABYLON addresses this question of how to live as a Christian in an increasingly secularized society. Fr. Neuhause draws several parallels: the Israelites during the Babylonian captivity and the early Christians in pagan Rome--to name just a couple. Throughout the book runs the theme that we are "aliens and exiles" in this "eartly city" while on pilgrimage to our true, and heavenly, home. The author quotes the letter to Diognetus, written by a 1st century Christian to a pagan who was curious about how Christians perceived their place in the world. "Though they are residents at home in their own countries," it says, "their behavior is more that of transients; they take their full part as citizens, but they also submit to anything and everything as if they were aliens. For them, any foreign country is a homeland, and any homeland is a foreign country...The soul is captive to the body, yet it holds the body together. So Christians are held captive to the world, and yet they hold the world together."

Fr. Neuhaus also addresses the very real difficulties Christians face in today's American culture. He delves deeply into how certain modern philosophies have shaped a culture that is antipathetic to Christianity, yet holds out hope that--no matter what our current circumstances--the outcome has already been determined in our favor if we remain faithful. One example he gives is that of St.
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