Church +/- State (Part 1)

The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America

In writing The Naked Public Square, Richard John Neuhaus, a Lutheran pastor, was undoubtedly conscious of Lutheranism's potentially central role in mediating the religious-moral battles now so conspicuous on the American scene. Liturgical and dogmatic, yet firmly evangelical, mainstream in some of its American manifestations and quasi-sectarian in others, running the gamut from the most sophisticated theology to simple pietism, Lutheranism perhaps holds within itself the possibility of refereeing the conflicting claims of Catholics and Evangelicals, liberals and fundamentalists.

Although Neuhaus suggests Lutheranism's possible role briefly and tentatively towards the end of the book, there is a sense that he also realizes that it is unlikely. His church's modest numbers may themselves deny it such a role, along with its concentration in a relatively few geographical areas. Its tradition is not one of vigorous action in the public realm, nor of far-reaching thought about the relationship of religion and the state.

Before alluding to the potential of his own denomination, Neuhaus discusses the "Catholic moment" which he says by rights should now have come in America. For, although Catholicism suffers from the obvious disabilities of the Reformation legacy, especially the lingering sense that it is an alien faith in a Protestant land,...

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