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The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America [Paperback]

By Richard John Neuhaus (Author)
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Item description for The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America by Richard John Neuhaus...

The Naked Public Square is a book about religious politics and political religion. Politics and religion are different enterprises, and it is understandable that many people would like to keep them as separate as possible. But they are constantly coupling and getting quite mixed up with one another. There is nothing new about this. It seems likely that it has always been the case in all societies. This is a large-minded book, and its sophistication and intelligence advance our understanding of the religion/politics issue far beyond the confusions and incomprehensions that dominate most discussions of the subject.

Publishers Description
Underlying the many crises in American life, writes Richard John Neuhaus, is a crisis of faith. It is not enough that more people should believe or that those who believe should believe more strongly. Rather, the faith of persons and communities must be more compellingly related to the public arena. "The naked public square" --which results from the exclusion of popular values from the public forum --will almost certainly result in the death of democracy. The great challenge, says Neuhaus, is the reconstruction of a public philosophy that can undergird American life and America's ambiguous place in the world. To be truly democratic and to endure, such a public philosophy must be grounded in values that are based on Judeo-Christian religion. The remedy begins with recognizing that democratic theory and practice, which have in the past often been indifferent or hostile to religion, must now be legitimated in terms compatible with biblical faith. Neuhaus explores the strengths and weaknesses of various sectors of American religion in pursuing this task of critical legitimation. Arguing that America is now engaged in an historic moment of testing, he draws upon Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish thinkers who have in other moments of testing seen that the stakes are very high --for America, for the promise of democratic freedom elsewhere, and possibly for God's purpose in the world. An honest analysis of the situation, says Neuhaus, shatters false polarizations between left and right, liberal and conservative. In a democratic culture, the believer's respect for nonbelievers is not a compromise but a requirement of the believer's faith. Similarly, the democratic rights of those outside the communities of religious faith can be assured only by the inclusion of religiously-grounded values in the common life. The Naked Public Square does not offer yet another partisan program for political of social change. Rather, it offers a deeply disturbing, but finally hopeful, examination of Abraham Lincoln's century-old question --whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America by Richard John Neuhaus has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Christian Century - 10/16/2007 page 41
  • Newsweek - 01/19/2009 page 47

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   292
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 6.08" Height: 0.72"
Weight:   0.99 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 9, 1988
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Edition  Reprinted  
ISBN  0802800807  
ISBN13  9780802800800  

Availability  95 units.
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More About Richard John Neuhaus

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Richard John Neuhaus, one of the foremost authorities on religion in the contemporary world and president of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, is the editor-in-chief of "First Things." He was named one of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America by "Time" Magazine. His many books include "Freedom for Ministry," "Death on a Friday Afternoon," and "As I Lay Dying." He is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and lives in Manhattan."

Richard John Neuhaus currently resides in New York City, in the state of New York.

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America?

Naked: without overarching belief, consensus, personal morality, or real, organized religion  Nov 16, 2006

Richard Neuhaus' The Naked Public Square can be summed up no better than the quote that is on the front of the book: "The book from which further debate about church-state relations should begin."

The book's contents are not for the young or those with short attention spans: however, his point is excellent, and twenty years after the writing of this book, Richard Neuhaus appears to have hit the nail square on the head.

The primary purpose of The Naked Public Square is to alert the reader to the coming of a new era in the United States. The era is not good or new: instead it is an evil that, here, now, sweeps across portions of the world. Europe, Russia and China seem to have already fallen victim to it, and the United States is the last great world power to meet it.

The terror is, of course, this naked public square. It is naked because it is without overarching belief, consensus, personal morality, or real, organized religion. It's a place where God cannot be mentioned, where vicious revenge is taken on any individual or group that may attempt to bring their religion or worldview into the mainstream. It's a place where the law needs only the justification of power to hold it's place, where the authority of the Bible, the church, God, and all other things that lay claim to authority not of this world are scorned as "intolerant." This naked public square indoctrinates every man to believe everything spiritual is relative, and that it is wrong, pointless, rude or all three to convince another individual to think his way. Religion is prevented from becoming solidly organized as a force that could challenge the moral legitimacy of the government or the culture-forming, powerful elite of society. Neuhaus says it would be enforced by the least likely of people: libertarian judges.

Though all of this seems rather depressing, Neuhaus reminds us that this naked public square is not unavoidable. This is a time of turmoil and a time when this country can choose a direction, and we must choose before someone else chooses for us.

The Naked Public Square is thought provoking, deep, interesting, and packing a huge dose of truth. I would recommend that every American or European read it to enlighten themselves and to remember its message every time they go to the polls.
One of Chip's Top Ten (  Sep 11, 2005
This book put my faith to the test: Can I be in the world, but not of it? Neuhaus' "naked public square" refers to the public spaces in American life, which are naked or empty because religion and religious values have been systematically excluded from the public arena and from determination of public policy. This book should be given to every politician-does anyone have a few hundred thousand dollars so we can do that? Get the book and learn how you can clothe the naked public square.
Interesting, but ultimately flawed and propagandistic  Jun 10, 2004
John Richard Neuhaus is one of the leading intellectuals in the United States today, specially concerning issues of religion and state. The argument he makes in this book is the one he has been defending since the 90's in the journal he edits, First Things. This argument has become the mainstream in the agenda of the neoconservative movement and the Republican Party, as much as it has been adopted by the religious right.

That argument can be synthesized as it follows: the secular state has pushed religion out of the public square, depraving it of the only element capable of giving meaning and morality to what he calls "the American experiment". While the founders of the nation were for this separation between religion and politics, Neuhaus contends, they also expected that government role was limited, and that religion itself could work to provide that sense of morality (or what is called the "republican virtue"). But since the state has grown and invaded spheres where it had no jurisdiction initially (like education or courts), to promote a secular view of morality - which Neuhaus claims is incompatible with the will of most of the American people-, it is necessary to rethink the state of things concerning the debate of Church and State in the US. This new "civic religion" based on pure secular principles not only goes against the will of the people, not also is an attempt to purge religions from the public square (living it "naked"), but at the end will push the state to become totalitarian (since Neuhaus claims that the essence of totalitarism, resides in the absolute power of the state, which is the result of removing religion out of the competing powers in a society, and creating a government based on pure utilitarian reason, without the support of transcendent based morality).

In this context, the appearance of the new religious right in the US must not surprise us. Only certain aspects of the secular elite - the media, the academia and the politicians- can be surprised with this, because they have become elitist and learned to despise the importance of popular movements. Nor the furious rhetoric of the religious right should scare us: it may have horrible anti-intellectual anti democratic tone but the essence of their demands is what we should look. And that is, the demand that religion is included back into the discussion in the public square, that religion is part of citizens more cherished convictions and that it cannot be ignored by the elites that rule the country; it is anti democratic. To illustrate his point, Neuhaus uses the cases of slavery, civil rights and abortion. All of this disputes that are political, are disputes about distinct moral positions that require the discussion of religious values mixed in the debates. In this sense, Neuhaus call is not only a criticism of the "secularists" that want to imagine a country is a secular country when it is not, but also of the members of the religious right, who have voiced their demands in a language that is essentially private, when those demands demand that they are made in a language that must be public (since they are made in the public square).

The criticism of Neuhaus in this instance is very sharp, since it goes around to see the way the church has assumed church and state relations. It finds that many churches have decided to simply go into exile to show their repulsion of the world, or when they try to participate in politics, they do it with the conviction of imposing their own view of Christianity to others (theocracy). Nuehaus calls for a more "modest" approach, based on an amillenialist understanding of the coming back of the kingdom of God. The idea is that while it is true that Christians now for a fact that the kingdom of God will be set on earth, and thus a Christian order of the world, Christians don't know when this is going to happen; and not only they don't know, but the imperfection of the church prior to the advent of the Kingdom of God, sure make em more humble. They know the truth, but they should not have the right to impose it on others. For that reason Neuhaus calls to Christians to participate in the political world, in the sense of compromise with the "American experiment", which was initially a Christian intend to create a new community of believers. For this Nuehaus revises Christian thought on the matter, and finds that while it is true that Christians are right to be suspicious of the state - it was the state that killed Jesus- and there are biblical references to the state as a source of evil - Revelations 13-, there is also a tradition of Christian thinking that gives legitimacy to the "terrene powers". From Paul (Romans 13) to Origins and Eusebius, there is a line of thought to the church to compromise with earthly affairs.

My main objection to Neuhaus is, as an atheist, the validity of his claim that "moral claims require the existence of God in which to base them". If this premise does not hold water, and thinkers since Plato (see the Eutrypho) don't think it holds, the whole building of the argument father Neuhaus is making crumbles. That is the main problem, but there are others. If it is true that the church makes authoritive claims about the world, which are believed to be true, then there is no true space for the compromise a democracy demands. True cannot be negotiated: it is or it is not. Despise all the efforts of Neuhaus, I don't see how he can resolve this problem. Finally, one of the things that bothers me most, is the way Neuhaus tries to excuse the rhetoric of the religious right, that is not simply offensive or not polite, but simply it's a call for aggression with anybody who disagrees with their agenda.

Strong Medicine  Sep 30, 2003
I do not agree with everything that Neuhaus says, but when you read what he writes you will see his perspective laid out clearly and can make up your own mind.
Buyer Beware  Nov 26, 2002
Neuhaus is the ideological equivalent of a Pat Buckhanan, or a Jesse Helms.
It's unfortunate that such personages attain perpetually sponsored platforms to make comfortable careers perched on soapboxes pontificating arrogant, narrow, bigoted, disrespectful, negative commentary on those they choose to target--and are afforded with consistent respect and never personally challenged all the while.

Buyer beware: Neuhaus is not a benevolent, spiritual personage. He is calculated social mover aligned with various neo-conservative organizations. He leads a think tank which which serves as a ruthless pro-Vatican (and anti-anyone-else-who-should-happen-to-cross-my-path) propaganda machine. He routinely publishes rabidly hompohobic articles, and demonstrates little respect or toleration for religious or human diversity.

This isn't the work of a wise, gratious spiritual person, or a great intellectual: It's neo-conservative agenda pushing. Just be aware of this before buying...


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